512 pages ISBN: 9781589480414
Review by Jeff Thurston
Few would deny that land holds a special place in the hearts and minds of people around the world. It can be beautiful to look at, valuable to own and provides important economic benefits to individuals, communities and nations. Accordingly, the health and wealth of nations is often linked to the land administration structures in place. It is also near impossible to realise sustainability without land administration practices present, they form the basis for beginning to understand the relationship of people to land use.
Authors Ian Williamson, Stig Enemark, Jude Wallace and Abbas Rajabifard suggest from the beginning that land administration includes everything related to land. This includes the land, cadastral information, buildings, administrative policies and even marine environments. This viewpoint is holistic in scope, multi-disciplinary in practice and links to the social interactions of people to the land. As such the book is oriented toward land management as a process. The authors point out that land administration processes are common around the world, but may be implemented in a variety of ways.
Ten land administration principles are outlined. These are oriented toward legal processes and frameworks, people, rights, cadastre, dynamic change, processes, technology, spatial data infrastructure and determination of successes. There is a strong focus on the social nature of land administration within the book. The Millenium Development Goals as adopted by the United Nations are linked to land administration. The authors also discuss how basic services to citizens evolve through land use and management.
An interesting discussion surrounds the reform of land administration systems for those east European countries as the Berlin Wall fell and how those reforms would be re-engaged under a market economy. Indeed, living in east Berlin I know of many properties that are still attempting to resolve land ownership and use issues twenty years since the wall fell - many of which remain completely empty until claims become settled.
The history of land and how people experience their relationship to it is a fascinating topic that is also presented. As stated, "land has both physical and cognitive aspects." Indeed, a study of land through cultural perspectives is currently a highly popular topic across Europe. When we consider the Inuit and native populations in Australia and North America, for example, a unique perspective relating to these peoples identification to the land is present. History of land administration is presented for Australia, Germany, English, European and North America and readers will find this material interesting as it leads to a greater understanding of why and how these places administer and manage land today.
The discussion surround 'cubes of airspace' is interesting as it considers change over time for givens spaces and the rights and regulations that accompany those spaces. Those working in land reclamation will immediately recognise the nature of this topic due to experiences with environmental changes across different owners for particular impacted lands. The global nature of land administration originates from the 1987 Brundtland Commission better known for its 'Our Common Future' report wherein economy, people and environment were linked together interactively. Later Agenda 21 and UN-HABITAT-II contributed toward a more solidified direction that was later supported by the International Federation of Surveyors (FIG).
As we begin to think about land and its administration the processes underlying the connection rise to the surface as Williamson previously indicated. We are (and should be) interested in much more than cadastre alone. This aspect raises particularly interesting questions today as we begin to think of regional and global influences of resources, land use and the joint participation of communities of people across districts and properties. Just this past week at COP15 in Copenhagen we saw a debate between China and the U.S., both of whom are impacting everyones world with carbon emissions, yet, ownership of the processes seems to lie at their own disposal. How do we deal with such factors when the value and interests of non-owners and non-regulators are impacted so greatly? The processes of that grand Copenhagen debate clearly mean a lot to the sinking Maldive Islands and other low lying regions around the world.
Designing land administration to manage land and resources is a highly popular topic today. It is unfortunate that this book has not included the tools of geographic information systems (GIS) and computer-aided design (CAD) directly at the design / planning level, particularly since more professionals using these tools implement them for the creation of design and the communication of strategic guidance and strategic decision making. The more recent of emergence of digital cities whose underlying infrastructure will likely be managed using different techniques is a good example of the principle for a need to understand processes as spatial information is gathered across broad ownership rights and legislation.
The topic of 'design' is about to become a hot topic as viewed through geospatial tools, concepts and sustainability. This book contains a strong understanding of the processes leading to the engagement of land cadastre against land registry, and these arrangements are not the same for all countries. In one diagram the authors describe a 'butterfly' approach to understanding these connections, and place SDI squarely in the mapping agencies domain.
The authors ask, "why do land administration systems need SDI?" They explore the evolution of technology and indicate that GIS has made little difference to land administration design historically. This is ironic after leading the reader to the need for greater understanding of the social, environmental and economic triad underpinning sustainability, particularly since GIS is perhaps the only system that can effectively integrate measurement, cognitive information and physical data through time and space. Essentially then, land administration has been operating without proper tools to fully enable its purpose and vision as described within the book - something quite a few GIS professionals realised and who have been attempting to enter the surveyors domain with difficulty. The recent trends toward model based design are also likely to play a larger role.
Luckily the authors pinpoint the reality of the need to change and both GIS professionals and surveyors should pay attention. The book supports the idea of spatial data infrastructure to drive land administration forward. Land cadastre services are integral to the establishment of healthy SDI and administrative systems that meet the needs of people.
Intriguing and informative charts describe the numbers of land parcels within different countries and their status within cities. Readers might be interested to know that only Belgium, Brunei, Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Hungary, South Korea, The Netherlands, Sweden and Switzerland have 100 percent of their land base legally registered and surveyed. Land administration tools are presented and education needs as well.
One of the most difficult subjects to discuss today is land administration. Many people don't have an understanding of land administration in the truest sense as this book describes. And that is a shame and ought to change. It is almost the case today that we find people and organisations working on the pieces of the wider LAS puzzle, but having fewer opportunities to understand how they might fit together in support of sustainable systems. Part of the difficulty (naturally) has been that people live in specific places, and thus, under different land administration systems with different history.
This book opens the door to understanding the differences among people, regions and countries through the evolution of their land administration systems. It explains how the dots can be connected between places and how basic elements of land administration transcend places and are common among all people. Land Administration for Sustainable Development is a must read in my view. It is rich in land administration - sustainability information and knowledge. This book contains valuable information for establishing the land administrations leading toward a sustainable tomorrow.
Jeff Thurston is co-founder and co-editor of V1 Magazine for Vector1 Media. He is based in Berlin.
James E. Meacham
Photography by Gary Tepfer
225 pages ISBN: 9781589482326
Review by Jeff Thurston
A chronology of 15 years of research and documentation in northwest Mongolia, this book spans the 12,000 year history of the region and the cultural heritage of the people that live there. The location borders both the China and Russian border areas and the book is the first of it's kind oriented toward archaeology and culture in the region. At 225 pages the book is filled with a wealth of information and images that few people have previously seen. One can quickly become immersed in the rugged beauty of the Mongolian landscape.
There are eleven chapters included and each covers a unique region of the vast landscape. These include regions such as the Potanin Glacier, Oigor Gol Basin, Tsagaan Gol Basin, Khovd Gol Basin and others. Dr. Esther Jacobson-Tepfer has been working in the Mongolian Altai for 15 years. She is assisted by her husband Gary Tepfer who provides the large number of images within book. James E. Meacham serves as the geographic information system (GIS) professional providing the maps that provide the precise views, context and sitings for the architectural sites, settlements, migratory routes and places of ceremony and worship.
The preface describes how the work began with the author explaining the first invitation in 1989 by Russian scientists. Initial interest lied with the standing stones strewn across the region and the many mounds of cultural significance. Later investigations would include art and artifacts before evolving to include infographics and finally mapping. A website and other materials would later be developed through a grant from the U.S. National Endowment for the Humanities in 2007 with assistance from the University of Oregon.
Individual regions are described along with accompanying maps. Viewsheds are also provided to help orient the pictures for readers understanding. The information is detailed and includeds mountain elevations, landscape forms and event soil characteristics. We learn the highest peaks are 4374 m above sea level with many of the mountains almost as high, lending to the breath taking views and distant views across barren lands in many cases.
Climatic information and graphs are also include in some examples. A large number of different animals traverse the landscape including sheep, camels, bears, goats, wolves, elk and a variety of birds. Landscape cover types are presented for deserts, savannah, highlands, tundra, glaciers and forests.
Maps from Harper's Gazette of 1855 are present as well as other historical mapping such as that gathered from the U.S. War and Navy Department of 1942. There is something exquisite in being able to see the routes of explorers over time as they weave their trails through GIS topographic maps. Then with the turn of a page the wrestler's of the Nadam festival in the upper Sagsay are portrayed or the magnificent depictions of elk from the Late Bronze Age embedded into bedrock are exposed.
We learn about the numbers of features inventoried by the authors through maps charting their locations and numbers including mounds, standing stones, Kirigsuur and Turkic monuments. Rock art including riders on horses, carts and drivers and hunters all detail and reflect certain points in history. Mounds rise on the landscape sometimes indicating burial sites and other times acting as locations for the spirits of specific mountains.
Several remarkable images of Standing Stones are presented within the book. Many of these can be seen from satellite images and those of the Tsagaan Asgat are presented through satellite imagery. The most prominent standing stones being the deer stones which resembled humans. Walking or viewing these standing stones on the landscape causes one to be reminded of people, for that is how they seem to appear. The largest of group of stones, located Tsagaan Asgat includes over eighty of these stones. Individually and collectively these stones serve to provide a description about the people and their relationships to each other geographically and through time.
The petroglyphic image of skier from the Early Iron Age in the Shar Nokhoityn Gol clearly shows skis and poles. The Turkic monuments of the Sogoo valley seem almost as if they were carved yesterday - features visible and readily identifiable. The glacier of the Tavan Bogd rises between gently sloped mountains into the sky, touching the clouds. Meanwhile, an image of a rider on a horse crossing the Rashaan Gol shows pristine grassland that seemingly has not ever been walked on before.
The relationship of these landscapes to people forms the basis for many of their movements across the lands, often in response to animal movements depending upon fresh water, grassland and topography. GIS is used to drape cultural locations upon aerial images in the Zoost Ereg region. These are easily seen to be determined in relation to topography and rock formations.
The authors suggest that these important cultural artifacts are slowly being impacted by human settlement. Roads, ditches and other convenient changes for economic purposes are slowly impacting the region. These events are raising the concern that preservation and conservation of many of these sites needs to be considered before they are more greatly impacted and or lost. This observation should be a call to outsiders and those within Mongolia to help to ensure these important places are preserved.
The reference material section of this book is filled with valuable information including large maps and tables of place names together with their descriptions. Several standing stones and mounds are identified and photographed, sometimes for the first time and will help to act as valuable records.
In summary ESRI Press through this book has provided a valuable and insightful documentation of the Mongolian landscape. The authors provide a thorough description of that country's landscape from both a cultural and archaeological perspective often presenting images, maps and written descriptions that simply are not available elsewhere.
I found myself attracted to the rugged beauty of Mongolia as presented in the many images and descriptions of this book. Beyond that are the many interesting stories the rocks, paintings and cultural events present with their individual reflections as told by the authors.
Archaeology and Landscape in the Mongolian Altai: An Atlas is a comprehensive story about the landscape, culture and archaeology of Mongolia. It contains unique maps, graphics and textual descriptions about the landscape of Mongolia and the people living upon it through time. It is also an educational treasure wherein GIS is used to neatly communicate the relationships between archaeology, landscape and culture. This added richness provides a more comprehensive and understandable perspective to appreciate the beauty and heritage that is Mongolia.
Jeff Thurston is co-founder and co-editor of V1 Magazine for Vector1 Media. He is based in Berlin.
Today the discussion surrounding maps and cartography is growing. The Internet is allowing more people in different places to experience map use digitally through a wide variety of devices. This use is creating questions about maps, mapping and cartography. Editors Martin Dodge, Rob Kitchin and Chris Perkins have gathered togather a collection of contributors, each writing about the changing nature of maps, cartography and their use. The book 'Rethinking Maps - New frontiers in cartographic theory' is not only about mapping today, it describes where mapping might be in the future and provides insightful considerations for thinking about the many changes happening in the pursuit of cartography.
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Italy - INSPIRE 2013: The Green Renaissance
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Italy - International Workshop at the Crossroad of Earth Information, Technology and Social Sciences
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Canada - MultiTemp 2013
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