Geofusion Book Review

"One would think that geographic space is becoming less and less important in the Information Age. However, the truth is that only a portion of our knowledge, the so-called digitizable knowledge can flow globally with the help of information technology. Beyond this, there is a deeper dimension of knowledge that can only be conveyed –and even created and regenerated – through personal, face-to-face interactions..."

What can the map of the globalized world be like?

We can witness unprecedented industrial, technological and scientific development today. We are living in a century where knowledge and creativity play the largest role and the earlier models, maps and recipes are not functioning any longer. We have achieved breakthroughs in the research into the micro- and macro-world; from particle physics and gene technology through the development of artificial intelligence to the research into gravitational waves. In the use of alternative energy sources and not least in the information and communication technological developments. Thanks to our global economy, capital, workforce, information, talent and knowledge bridge distances to lead the way – Norbert Csizmadia argues in his book Geofusion, released last year. This book aims to give the readers a map and compass and make them familiar with the map of this modern, globalized world. But how does this compass work exactly? Can everything be found on this map? In my book I am seeking the answer to these questions.

Geography and geopolitics play a key role in getting informed, says Csizmadia Norbert, who is a geographer of settlement and territory development by profession. At first glance we could suppose that geopolitics has a priority because of professional and official partiality. However, if you immerse yourself in the international literature of this young discipline that has emerged from the synthesis of geography and political science, you can see that more and more publications examining the world through the glasses of geopolitics are released. And if that was not convincing enough, two other new disciplines, the sisters of geopolitics have also emerged: geo-economics and geostatistics with their more exact toolboxes, with measurable and quantifiable depiction. Something has started, something has changed in the world – all of us can feel this –, but only few of us are aware of what it is exactly…

Many suppose that in the two fundamental worldviews aiming to both depict and qualify the processes of the world, the supporters and the opponents of globalization are contending. Zbigniew Brzezinski compares the world to a chessboard, where history is a never-ending game with countries regarded as key figures and minor characters. George Friedman brings a new perspective in Flashpoints: a key role is given to border areas rather than countries; to revolting and constantly changing areas where the ethnical, linguistic and cultural borders do not coincide with the actual country borders.

Without the above-mentioned authors and theories we can hardly understand Norbert Csizmadia’s work, which gives a complex depiction of the world. One of the advantages of this book is that it highlights the role of both value- and interest-based opposites, and at the same time it is not unequivocally biased in favour of either the supporters or the opponents of globalisation. Nevertheless, like most great paradigm-creators, Geofusion tends to collect the authors, arguments and references underlying and confirming this theory around a well-structured worldview. In the centre of this worldview is geography as an explanatory power. If mathematics is the king of sciences with the sharpest logics, the author argues, then geography is the queen of sciences.

He adds that geography is the best way to get to know the world, it has already stepped out of its isolation and now reacts with various disciplines. Geography has not ceased to exist as Richard O’Brien predicted in his book Global Financial Integration: The End of Geography in the early 1990s, arguing that geography is not considered a remarkable factor any longer in the context of economic development. Norbert Csizmadia argues that location has gained significance owing to the global rearrangement of the world. He refers to Peter Haggett’s classic one-thousand page text, Geography: A Global Synthesis (1972), whose renewed and revised editions have been published from time to time and which has become a decisive work of contemporary geographic science. According to Haggett, geography can be considered the investigation of multi-directional interactions.

The elements of geographic space exert an effect on the various social, economic and demographic phenomena, which means that geography depicts the spatiality and the spatial interaction system of phenomena. Opening to and reacting to other disciplines, geography, however, has limits: it can grab only one geomoment at a time because of working with the spatial rather than the temporal description of phenomena. And now we are only one step away from asking the question: why do we not study the temporality of phenomena? We could say that the elements of the geographical space remain unchanged or change only slightly on a human scale, just think about the drifting of continents, the formation of mountains or the changes in the Earth’s orbital elements.

This picture, however, does not cover the man’s climate or landscape changing work, which has become more and more significant since the Industrial Revolution and starts to become global. Similarly, it does not touch upon the faster and faster, freer and freer movement of capital, people, goods and services encountering fewer and fewer obstacles, or the dynamism characteristic of money markets, the hectically changing exchange rates, the stock exchange and  sentiment indexes.

Geofusion is a complex synthesis that also includes an ecological perspective, and responsible management with natural resources also takes priority. The drivers of economic development, globalisation and growing welfare are exponentially increasing energy consumption and the trust in economic and industrial development, which means that the limits of the Earth’s carrying capacity can be expanded in accordance with the needs of the increasing population. As humanity is headed toward the limits of the Earth’s carrying capacity, the natural resources as well as their spatial location and distribution are becoming more and more significant, just consider the countries in need of drinking water or the oil powers.

The climate change also shows geographical patterns: some insular countries are exposed to the threat of sea level rise, droughts strike numerous developing agricultural societies, while in some other countries the drinking water supply is endangered by droughts or the melting of glaciers, and the maritime trade of other countries is intensified by the melting of the ice in the North Pole. The role of geography and spatiality is becoming more and more important owing to the migration pressure striking more and more countries and the impact of urbanisation, the rising of cities by the creative class, which is considered the source of economic prosperity. Norbert Csizmadia has another important argument for the significant role of geography, which may be surprising at first glance: this is the spread of the Internet.

One would think that geographic space is becoming less and less important in the Information Age. However, the truth is that only a portion of our knowledge, the so-called digitizable knowledge can flow globally with the help of information technology. Beyond this, there is a deeper dimension of knowledge that can only be conveyed –and even created and regenerated – through personal, face-to-face interactions. Mihály Polányi calls this tacit knowledge. This is the real secret of innovation, production technologies and successful economic operation. Metropolises that are cluster points for scientific and innovation centres and human meeting play a significant role in this process. However, we must also add that urbanisation is a process that can generally be attached to the agricultural-industrial transition in the developing countries and brings us closer to the limits of growth.

AUTHOR: Dorottya Szám / KÖVET Association