North Carolina: People and Environments Reviews

Molly Corbett Broad, President, The University of North Carolina

'This is a wonderful source of information on North Carolina geography'


Ran Coble, Executive Director, North Carolina Center for Public Policy Research, Inc.

'I am extremely impressed with the way you have captured the regions of North Carolina and the pictures and graphics accompanying those regions . . . . (The book) is beautifully done, and it will be a valuable source of information for years to come.'


Michael F. Easley, Governor, State of North Carolina

'(this) book examines a myriad of social, economic and environmental issues, covering examples of the conditions of employment, health care, education, voting behavior, and many other issues of interest here in North Carolina. The book . . has a compilation of data that would be very useful on matters relating to the state's geography from environmental hazards such as floods, water shortages, hurricanes, etc.'


William Friday, President Emeritus, The University of North Carolina

' . . . a highly useful volume. It is a book worthy of people interested in the future of the state.'


Patrick Vernon, Social Studies Teacher, reviewed in the North Carolina Geographic Alliance Newsletter, Volume 14, No. 1 (Spring, 2003), p. 8

'As a North Carolina native I was eager to peruse the geography text on my home state... North Carolina: People and Environments is an excellent resource for teachers wanting background information about the Tar Heel state. The charts, photos, and diagrams do an excellent job of exposing the reader to information. The text is written in an easy to follow style; one for which eighth grade teachers might offer the text to proficient readers in their classes to further explore topics not addressed in the middle schoolers' book. As an individual from Caswell County, I explored the book to see if less developed counties like my own got a fair representation... I was not disappointed by the information I obtained, especially considering that most of the information was from the 2000 Census. I would imagine that as other readers give the text their own "county test," they will be pleasantly surprised and impressed by the author's thoroughness in covering the 100 counties. In my opinion, the best part of North Carolina: People and Environments is its extensive collection of maps. The detail contained within the road maps is proof enough that time and care was taken to provide accurate pieces of information, and, because regions of our state are broken down into subregions, readers can get a better look at all the microcosms that join together to make our state a great place to live and an interesting subject to learn more about.'


Elizabeth Hines, Professor of Geography, University of North Carolina at Wilmington; reviewed in the Southeastern Geographer, Vol. XXXXIII, No. 1, May 2003, pp. 151-153

'Geographers would love to have a volume like this for every state. The authors have created a reference work for North Carolina that is monumental in scope and detail. An abbreviated first edition of this work appeared in 1986. After North Carolina's population mushroomed from 6.6 million (in 1990) to nearly 8.2 million in 2001, an increase of 21%, the authors expanded and updated their earlier work, producing a much improved version. The Preface acknowledges that the second edition has doubled in size and grown
exponentially in detail. They have visualized "state environments on all geographic levels" by including over 800 illustrative maps and photographs, many in full color. The volume is intended not only for use as a textbook, which role it serves admirably, but as a subregional reference work for any one interested in "understanding all aspects of land, life, and livelihood".

The authors have structured the book to "provide an analytic framework that allows citizens of the state to see where current public policy needs fine tuning, if not changing" as a way of improving statewide and local quality
of life and protecting North Carolina's fragile natural heritage. . . . North Carolina's physical environments are considered in thick detail in the book's first section. Climate, weather, hazards such as hurricanes, which
have weighed heavy on the state in the last decades, are considered in easily grasped global and temporal contexts. The geology, geomorphology, soil, hydrology, flora, and fauna follow in similar vein, each in turn
well-illustrated with excellent maps, photographs, data tables, diagrams, and enrichment boxes, such as one on El Nino. In addition to the copious illustrations that accompany the text in the first three chapters, pages 61 to 76 include numerous color plates of maps and photographs that further illustrate the concepts and provide a sense of place.

North Carolina's human geography is considered next. Included are chapters on demography, again with copious illustrations that place the state's population context across time and space. For example, the state's age and
gender characteristics from 1980 to 1990 are compared to the national data in a two-page layout (pp. 94-95). The next chapters consider North Carolina's primary economic activities of agriculture, fishing, and forestry (mining
is considered with geology in the first section). Each topic is well illustrated with maps, photographs, and data, so that anyone requiring detailed information on poultry or sweet potatoes can find it by browsing. . . .
The section on primary economic activities is also followed by 18 pages of excellent color plates, which include photographs, data graphs, maps, and boxes.

The next chapters explore the state's secondary and tertiary economic activities. For example, the furniture industry, one of the state's most important manufacturing endeavors, is explored from the local to the international levels. Much more is covered, as well, ranging from employment data to the value of international exports, the rural/urban character of the state, and quality of life indices, including income, health, education and crime statistics. Again, the already heavily illustrated section is followed by a large selection of well-captioned color plates. North Carolina's fragile natural environment is considered in Chapter 8 from historical and regulatory viewpoints. The foundation for this section was presented in the first three chapters, which allows the authors to go right to the heart of the state's natural environmental concerns beginning with water quality issues and continuing through atmospheric and land degradation issues.

The final 252 pages consider North Carolina's regional geography in detail from perspectives varying between the primary regions of Mountains, Piedmont, Coastal Plain, and Tidewater to specific economic and regulatory divisions regions such as those of the Department of Transportation, those of the Division of Environment, and the Governmental Planning Agency Regions. The level of illustrative excellence vis á vis maps, photographs, data tables, and graphs and color plates remain consistent throughout this section.

One of the things that I especially admire about this volume as a reference source is its Place Index. For example, there are eighteen pages listed where one can go to find what has been written or displayed on a map or in a table about New Hanover County. The other counties receive similar comprehensive treatment as do the cities, many towns and over 600 other places and features. This gives the book a gazetteer quality that enhances its usefulness as a reference volume.

There are a few minor flaws in the volume. The Subject Index could have been more complete. There are four indices, one for authors, which is of less interest to the student or reference user that a more thorough Subject Index would be. Also included are the People, Agencies, and Organizations Index and the Place Index. However, when I tried to look up all references to sweet potatoes, they were not listed, nor were other subjects that users might need to find quickly. Another flaw is in the printing of Color Plate 1.14. It looks as if the four forest types, marshes and water layers were not included. Aside from these minor complaints, North Carolina: People and Environments, second edition, is a tremendous achievement and an important collection of geographic information about our rapidly changing state. It will make a wonderful text for a North Carolina Geography course, which is, of course, one of the author's intents. If students cannot find just the right bit of information about the state within the 559 pages of text, they can refer to its extensive bibliography.

(Editorial Note: Dr. Hines (and others) may find sweet potato referenced on page 581 in the Subject Index, under agriculture field crops)


Stephen Birdsall,University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, reviewed in The North Carolina Historical Review, Volume LXXXI, number 4, October 2004

'The second edition of North Carolina: People and Environments (2002), by Ole Gade, Arthur B. Rex, and James E. Young, with L. baker Perry, offers a rich and abundant look at the state's many distinctive places and the environmental and regional settings that contribute to these places' character. The book's chapters are organized into three sections - the state's environmental base, its human geography, and North Carolina 's regions. Two transition chapters are used to examine human-environment interactions and to guide readers through the confusion of different regional structures employed across the state before offering the author's own configuration. This edition is much improved over the 1986 first edition. Hundreds of photographs depict the state in scenes travelers would truly encounter. Maps are copious, detailed, clear, and properly illustrative of the text. This is much more than an encyclopedic accumulation or a teaching aid. The book can also be an important resource for those concerned with policy development. The authors suggest, for example, that North Carolina has its own "tornado alley" where these destructive storms are more prevalent. A map series on coyote presence illustrates the recent spread of these adaptive animals. Commuting patterns of the Piedmont Triad hint at pressures on the region's roads and the small communities through which these roads pass. Thirty "problem Boxes" sprinkled throughout offer closer treatment of issues affecting parts or all of the state. Such issues range from earthquakes, barrier island formation and kudzu to AIDS in North Carolina , greenhouse gas emissions, and the Coastal Area management Act. Readers will find much to engage them.


Tom Ross, Professor of Geography, University of North Carolina at Pembroke, has written widely about North Carolina. His publications include: "American Indians in North Carolina ," "An Annotated Bibliography of Carolina Bays," and a chapter in the "North Carolina Atlas.", reviewed in Our state's cultural and natural landscapes, Fayetteville Observer, Sunday, October 5, 2003

'The authors have masterfully depicted North Carolina 's cultural and natural landscapes in 602 pages. North Carolina : People and Environments, Second Edition is a geography book, and as such makes ample use of the primary tool of geographers: maps. More than 250 maps (31 in color) explore the physical, cultural, social, economic and political geography of the state. But the book is much more than maps. Also included are almost 400 photographs, of which 234 are in color, which give an excellent visual portrait of the state's geography.

The book is divided into 13 chapters. The first three are devoted to physical environments: Chapter 1. Physical Environments; Chapter 2. Weather and Climate; Chapter 3. Soils, Natural Vegetation, Soils, and Wildlife. The next four detail human environments. Chapter 4. A Changing Mosaic of People; Chapter 5. Primary Activities (agriculture, forestry and mining); Chapter 6. Secondary and Tertiary Activities: Manufacturing and Services; Chapter 7. Social Capital: Earning Power, Health, Education, and Civic Justices, and Chapter 8. A Fragile Environment.

The final five chapters focus upon the major regions of the state and individual counties. Chapter 9 looks at the emergence and nature of North Carolina 's regions. Chapter 10 provides a detailed inventory of Tidewater region; Chapter 11 surveys the Coastal Plain; while Chapter 12 reviews the Piedmont . The mountains are examined in Chapter 13. The volume also includes about 30 'boxes' that accentuate such topics as barrier islands formation, kudzu, nuclear power, El Nino, and the prison system.

The authors have created a thorough analysis of North Carolina . It seems that no subject is left untouched. If something exists in North Carolina , it is likely to be discussed, or at least mentioned, in this well-documented volume.

Because of its magnitude of coverage, the book could be used in a variety of ways. For the general public, it would make a great reference source; for college and university classes on North Carolina , it would serve well as the principal text. For students in middle and high school, particularly those in advanced classes, the book would make a fine textbook.

Professionals in planning, political organizations and the media would all find an abundance of information that would justify having a copy of this book on their personal bookshelves. And, finally, the volume would also look good as a coffee table book.

Although the book is about North Carolina , it could be used to help understand geography as a field of study because the authors discuss and explain topics and concepts important to geography. In some instances it appears that they have used North Carolina as a case study to help us learn meaningful geographic concepts.

Libraries throughout the state and the country, need to acquire this book for their general collections. It is a gem that has been polished much since the first edition of several years ago.'


Glenn Ellen Starr Stilling, Appalachian State University, reviewed North Carolina Libraries, Spring 2004, Vol 62, No. 1, p. 68

'It is difficult to imagine a book that is at once more enjoyable to browse and more broadly informative than this substantial work. Its portrayal of the state ranges from the origins and characteristics of kudzu to the functions of green buffer zones to a review of the state's major causes of mortality. Practically every page contains one or more illustrations-there are 861 in all. The tables and figures use as much data from the 2000 Census as was available in November 2001. The book's arrangement is designed to facilitate study of the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction's Five Themes of Geography.

The authors are current or retired professors of geography at Appalachian State University. The first edition, published in 1986, was half the size of the current one. A recent work to which this one might be compared is The North Carolina Atlas ( University of North Carolina Press , 2000). Its length is 462 pages (about 25% shorter than the present volume) and its text pages are less dense. The North Carolina Atlas consists of 18 thematic chapters (topics include crime, higher education, and transportation), each focusing on the state as a whole. The present volume begins with several thematic chapters, but almost half is devoted to sections describing the physical, economic, and population geography of the state's four primary regions. This volume, therefore, provides much more information and analysis at the regional, state geographic region, county, and local levels.

The sections on the four primary regions-Tidewater, Coastal Plain, Piedmont , and Mountain-are carefully structured. First, the authors explain the history and nature of development; then they review the important features of the natural landscape and discuss the region's issues regarding the human/natural interface (in the Coastal Plains, for instance, they discuss preservation vs. exploitation of wetlands and rivers). There are concise but detailed accounts of the historical development, current conditions, and demographic profiles of each state geographic region (for the Coastal Plains, these are the Roanoke , Ring city, and Sandhills regions). The section concludes with a summary that projects what the future might hold for the region's land and people.

Numerous boxes explain, with text and diagrams, concepts such as how acid rain is created and deposited on forests in North Carolina's mountains and its effect on soil, water, and humans. The book's reference value is enhanced by an 11-page bibliography and several indices. It should be noted, however, that the text contains several errors in punctuation, spelling, and word usage. These mistakes, while distracting, do not hinder the book's effectiveness. Many of the photographs do not have specific dates, which would have been useful for reference purposes.

The authors have ably and thoroughly achieved their purpose: "assessing the contemporary geography of the state and projecting its future prospects." This important work meets information needs for a variety of readers: public school students and teachers; college students in areas such as geography, recreation management, and social sciences education; people serving on local boards and commissions; those who wish to be informed citizens and voters; and, indeed, all who want to understand more about their home state. Because of its clear arrangement, good indexing, plethora of factual information, and instructional orientation, it belongs in the reference collection of all libraries in the state.'