Saturday, May 10, 2008

Geography 130 - lecture podcast review

Geography is a wide reaching science. When I was in school it used to intrigue and baffle me at the same time. Naturally when geography dove into history, I was content, but I remember it turned to geology and was more like chemistry and physics and I hated it. Berkeley's geography course Geography 130 Natural Resources and Population has this spilling into other disciplines effect no less. It comes with the subject.

In order to understand the world population and its relation to natural resources, you naturally wander into ecology (how does the environmental system work? What are environmental systems?), into history (how did the population came to be as it is and how has it dealt with its resources in history), but also economics and even the logic of science. I should have expected economics, obviously the problems around population and resources are about scarcity and the solution about economic policy, but I did not expect it to be so thoroughly about economy - as if it were an economy course, rather than geography.

One of the first thinkers to point at population growth as a problem was Thomas Robert Malthus and he gets a great deal of attention at the beginning of the course. This is not only pure economics, here we also get a bit of logic of science. Professor Nathan Sayre, the lecturer, begs his students to critically asses Malthus, notice his prejudices, his feeble reasoning (uncritical extrapolation from small-scale examples to macro-economics) and the fact he produces a non-falsifiable theory. Nevertheless, Malthus was ground breaking and laying the foundations of political economy and inspiring thinks such as Marx.

In short, this is a lecture series containing a great intellectual challenge and an intelligent discourse about the subject. A very good podcast therefore, but one marked with the regular defects of lecture podcasts: the listener is not part of class discussion - if you can bare with that, the series is absolutely splendid.

Related articles:
Berkeley Spring 2008 has kicked off,
Descriptive and prescriptive mapping,
Urban Air Pollution - Environmental History Podcast,
A listener's guide to Geography of World Cultures,
Agricultural revolution first - History 5 podcast.

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