Sunday, December 05, 2010

Part 5: Living Locally and Globally-Maybe we are more than one nation anyway?

The Nine Nations of North AmericaThe Nine Nations of North America by Joel Garreau

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My boss gave me this book, as we are fascinated at by regional differences. Our friends at RAFT (Renewing America's Food Traditions) did a great map of food regions of America in their recent book, which we often use to show how food and culture can be the sovereign organizing principle rather than the political boundaries drawn by surveyors hundreds of years ago.

This book by Joel Garreau was written long before RAFT came to be and the author has thoroughly mapped out the future possibilities and limitations of each of his chosen nations (read regions) in North America. These areas should and often act as nations in his argument, and as he points out, state lines were in many cases quite arbitrarily drawn and yet seemingly encased in stone tablets somewhere. The inability of America to stretch it's thought process beyond weak city governments, stymied state ones and federal overseers is one of the great puzzles in this land and may yet undue us.
I enjoyed it throughout and will recommend it here as only a regional planning or public market geek can: In annoyingly detailed terms when people just want an easy answer.

Each "nation" (I believe less in nations than in city/states, so I wish he could call them that, but I do know that he could not) is defined by some natural geographical boundaries and also by the author’s very interesting analysis of the identification of the lines between cultures. We can do worse than to examine his map with an open mind. As he says early on, "Studying these nations is certainly more constructive that examining ideas such as Colorado."

He writes very well, finding lovely bites of information and great quotes for each nation. Maps included for better description than I give here.

Let me give you just a tidbit for each and leave it to you to read the entire book on your own. Hopefully, you can read it while traveling on a train between 2 or more of these nations so you can see if the same personality is still clear to you when you step off into bustling or sleepy:

The Breadbasket: Area west of Houston, north of Austin, east of Denver, up to Winnipeg and down to Chicago through St. Louis and Tulsa.
The nation that is most at peace with itself.

The Foundry: From DC to Cincinnati (following Ohio River), east of Indy, up to Milwaukee, Green Bay, north to Ottawa, over to Albany, Trenton and down to southern Connecticut.
The whole point of living here is work.

Dixie: Everything north of Ft. Meyers to Houston, up to St. Louis, down to Kentucky and over to DC, everything south.
Sociologically, climatically, historically. politically, topographically racially it’s a quilt.

New England: New Haven, to Providence, Boston, Burlington, Prince Edward Islands, Nova Scotia to Portsmouth.
(Emerson of Thoreau): “He chose to be rich by making his wants few.”

Mexamaerica: Mexico to California (west of Sierra Nevada range), south of Denver, east to Houston.
Binational, bicultural, bilingual.

The Empty Quarter (portion of Saudi Arabia is called Rub ‘al Khali - Empty Quarter).: West of Sierra Nevada, north to Alaska, and over to Lake Winnipeg and down following the Missouri River.
Where the argument between empire and environment lives.

The Islands: South of Ft. Meyers, Keys. Cuba, Puerto Rico
Smugglers paradise.

Ecotopia: Anchorage to Point Conception to north of Sierra Nevada.
Temperate island surrounded by a sea of envy

The most improbable yet the most undeniable nation.

A wonderful book that I am very glad to have read and more importantly, to share.

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