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The Power of Geography

Being someone who compiles and publishes maps, I’d have an interest in many associated aspects including geography & history. Our son gave me a copy of ‘The Power of Geography’ by Tim Marshall for Christmas and I’ve enjoyed reading through it. Notwithstanding that it’s framed from the viewpoint of Western Europe, the author gives a good summary of ten regions, their history and current political & economic situation. All within the context of the essential geography that has contributed to their development, which both enables and constrains their future.

Inevitably the bulk of the ten chapters concern the Middle East and North Africa, as these regions are not only in a current state of flux but also capable of significant impact on our more stable EU states. Oil, gas, civil wars, refugees, climate change – all issues that circulate through the daily news cycle but rarely do we get more than superficial detail before the next story arises. The author also deals with Australia and their double edged relationship with China. Finally space is considered, bandit country with various large powers, both state and commercial, jockeying to establish rights and a position at the table.

Ireland is only mentioned in passing but we would do well as a people to regularly remind ourselves of our own geography, our position as a small island off the west coast of Europe. This basic geography is inescapable, it’s had pros & cons in the past and inevitably will impact on our future. We are reliant of others for supply chains of goods in and out, exposed in terms of oil & gas, never mind that the days of cheap air transport may be fading. North American multinationals provide much employment and tax, on the basis of culture and a position in the EU but could relocate if & when it suits. Things have been good on the whole for the last generation or two, but nothing stays the same forever. Ireland and it’s citizens needs to be like any small business, remembering that no other state owes us a living and we’re only as good as our last customer. The power of our geography dictates that there is no room for complacency.