Our Place in the World: The Histories of Maps

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Jim Salzman
  • About the Professor

James Salzman ’85

Jim Salzman, Yale College Class of 1985, is the Donald Bren Distinguished Professor of Environmental Law with joint appointments at the UCLA School of Law and at the School of the Environment at UC Santa Barbara. An international expert on drinking water, he frequently appears as a media commentator and has lectured on every continent except Antarctica. He has taught at Yale, Stanford, Duke, and Harvard as well as at universities in Australia, China, Israel, Italy, Portugal, and Sweden. In nine books and more than ninety articles and book chapters, his broad-ranging scholarship has addressed topics ranging from water to wildlife, from climate change to creating markets for ecosystems.

A Note From Jim

Dear All,

Thanks so much for participating in the histories of maps presentation. As much as we covered, there were so many stories I had to leave out. It’s an incredibly rich and fascinating topic. If you are interested in learning more about the field, there is a huge range of resources in print and on the web. I have listed some useful titles that can be found below.

Happy Trails!

Jim Salzman

Reading Material

A History of the World in 12 Maps

A New York Times Bestseller
“Maps allow the armchair traveler to roam the world, the diplomat to argue his points, the ruler to administer his country, the warrior to plan his campaigns and the propagandist to boost his cause… rich and beautiful.” – Wall Street Journal

Purchase the book on Amazon.

Drinking Water Book

When we turn on the tap or twist open a tall plastic bottle, we probably don’t give a second thought about where our drinking water comes from. But how it gets from the ground to the glass is far more convoluted than we might think. In this revised edition of Drinking Water, Duke University professor and environmental policy expert James Salzman shows how drinking water highlights the most pressing issues of our time. He adds eye-opening, contemporary examples about our relationship to and consumption of water, and a new chapter about the atrocities that occurred in Flint, Michigan. Provocative, insightful, and engaging, Drinking Water shows just how complex a simple glass of water can be.

Purchase the book on Amazon.

Bending Lines

Because they seem to show the world how it “really is,” maps produce a powerful sense of trust and belief. But maps and data visualizations can never communicate a truth without any perspective at all. They are social objects whose meaning and power are produced by written and symbolic language and whose authority is determined by the institutions and contexts in which they circulate. This exhibition by the Leventhal Map & Education Center at the Boston Public Library examines the many ways in which maps and data can bend the lines of reality.

View the exhibition.

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