GIS, Environmental Modeling and Engineering

Second Edition
by
Allan Brimicombe

CRC Press
© 2010 by Taylor and Francis Group, LLC
CRC Press is an imprint of Taylor & Francis Group, an Informa business

International Standard Book Number: 978-1-4398-0870-2 (Hardback)

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Introduction
I wish to begin by explaining why this book has been written. Peter Fleming,
in writing about his travels in Russia and China in 1933, put the need for
such an explanation this way:

With the possible exception of the Equator, everything begins somewhere.
Too many of those who write about their travels plunge straight
in medias res; their opening sentence informs us bluntly and dramatically
that the prow (or bow) of the dhow grated on the sand, and they stepped
lightly ashore. No doubt they did. But why? With what excuse? What
other and anterior steps had they taken? Was it boredom, business, or a
broken heart that drove them so far afield? We have a right to know.

Peter Fleming
One’s Company (1934)

In 2003, I wrote in the first edition of this book: “At the time of writing this
introduction, the President of the United States, George W. Bush, has already
rejected the Kyoto Agreement on the control of greenhouse gas emissions;
European leaders appear to be in a dither and ecowarriors alongside anticapitalists
have again clashed with riot police in the streets.” A key change
since then has been the Stern Review (Stern, 2006) on the economics of climate
change. The likely environmental impact of climate change trajectories—
rising sea levels permanently displacing millions of people, declining
crop yields, more than a third of species facing extinction—had already been
well rehearsed. What had not been adequately quantified and understood
was the likely cost to the global economy (a 1% decline in economic output
and 4% decline in consumption per head for every 1°C rise in average temperature)
and that the cost of stabilizing the situation would cost about 1% of
gross domestic product (GDP). It seemed not too much to pay, but attention
is now firmly focused on the “credit crunch”’ and the 2008 collapse of the
financial sector. In the meantime, annual losses in natural capital worth from
deforestation alone far exceed the losses of the current recession, severe as
it is. Will it take ecological collapse to finally focus our attention on where
it needs to be? This book has been written because, like most of its readers,
I have a concern for the quality of world we live in, the urgent need for its
maintenance and where necessary, its repair. In this book I set out what I
believe is a key approach to problem solving and conflict resolution through
the analysis and modeling of spatial phenomena. Whilst this book alone will

perhaps not safeguard our world, you the reader on finishing this book will
have much to contribute.
The phrase quality of world used above has been left intentionally broad,
even ambiguous. It encompasses:
Our natural environment—climate, soils, oceans, • biological life
(plants, animals, bacteria)—that can both nurture us and be hazards
to us.
• The built environment that we have created to protect and house
ourselves and to provide a modified infrastructure within which we
can prosper.
• The economic environment that sustains our built environment and
allows the organization of the means of production.
• The social, cultural, and legal environments within which we conduct
ourselves and our interactions with others.
These environments are themselves diverse, continually evolving and
having strong interdependence. Each of them varies spatially over the face
of the globe mostly in a transition so that places nearer to each other are
more likely to be similar than those farther apart. Some abrupt changes do,
of course, happen, as, for example, between land and sea. They also change
over time, again mostly gradually, but catastrophic events and revolutions do
happen. Together they form a complex mosaic, the most direct visible manifestation
being land cover and land use—our evolved cultural landscapes.
Furthermore, the interaction of these different aspects of environment gives
enormous complexity to the notion of “quality of life” for our transient
existence on Earth. Globalization may have been a force for uniformity in
business and consumerism, but even so businesses have had to learn to be
spatially adaptive, so-called glocalization. When it comes to managing and
ameliorating our world for a sustainable quality of life, there is no single goal,
no single approach, no theory of it all. Let’s not fight about it. Let us celebrate
our differences and work toward a common language of understanding on
how we (along with the rest of nature) are going to survive and thrive.

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