Cartographies of Danger: Mapping Hazards in America by Mark S. Monmonier.
With chapters titled "Death Tracks," "Ill Winds," and "Nuclear
Nightmares," Mark Monmonier's book Cartographies of
Danger is sure to appeal to anyone interested in natural or manmade disasters. But make no
mistake--this book is not just another attempt to profit off of a scary topic. Mark Monmonier is a
professor of geography at Syracuse University, and Cartographies of Danger is an in-depth look
at the little-known science of hazard-mapping.
As Professor Monmonier demonstrates,
hazard-mapping is as much art as science; detailed seismic-hazard maps of California, for example,
failed to indicate the potential for the disastrous Northridge earthquake of 1994. Yet despite its
imperfection, hazard-mapping is a valuable exercise and one that will undoubtedly improve in the
Cartographies of Danger doesn't restrict itself to natural hazards such as floods, earthquakes, or
volcanoes; Professor Monmonier also covers crime, pollution, and radon using the same principles
of hazard-mapping. His examples of hazard maps demonstrate the relationships among mapping,
scientific understanding of hazards, and the perception of risk. In addition, the book gives practical
advice on how to avoid geographic hazards.
Syracuse University geography professor Monmonier, who brought his subject from grade-school
classrooms to libraries and living rooms with How to Lie with Maps (1994) and Drawing the Line
(1994), takes on the perils and promises of hazard mapping. A relatively new, postwar
phenomenon, highly dependent on the capacity of computers to store and manipulate vast
collections of data and statistical models whose assumptions generate controversy, hazard maps are
ubiquitous, Monmonier urges, because they "afford control, either real or imagined, over fate and
nature." Monmonier devotes full chapters to 12 specific hazards--earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis,
tornadoes, floods, groundwater contamination, air pollution, radon and magnetic fields, nuclear
plants, hazardous chemicals, crime, and disease--and the challenges of mapping them (and of
interpreting their maps). Full of useful information for readers who want to learn how to distinguish
Chicken-Little (or, What, Me Worry?) propaganda from geographic hazard facts. Mary Carroll
Midwest Book Review
What is a hazard zone map, and how does it apply to consumers and any seeking an understanding
of potential American disaster areas? This explores issues of risk management and geographic
knowledge alike, using maps illustrating examples from across the country to explore how mapping
affects both knowledge of risk and actions to reduce it. A truly unique guide which defies
categorization, but which holds broad appeal to students and consumers alike.
No place is perfectly safe, but some places are more dangerous than others. Whether we live on a
floodplain or in "Tornado Alley," near a nuclear facility or in a neighborhood poorly lit at night, we all
co-exist uneasily with natural and man-made hazards. As Mark Monmonier shows in this
entertaining and immensely informative book, maps can tell us a lot about where we can anticipate
certain hazards, but they can also be dangerously misleading.
California, for example, takes earthquakes seriously, with a comprehensive program of seismic
mapping, whereas Washington has been comparatively lax about earthquakes in Puget Sound. But
as the Northridge earthquake in January 1994 demonstrated all too clearly to Californians, even
reliable seismic-hazard maps can deceive anyone who misinterprets "known fault-lines" as the only
places vulnerable to earthquakes.
Important as it is to predict and prepare for catastrophic natural hazards, more subtle and persistent
phenomena such as pollution and crime also pose serious dangers that we have to cope with on a
daily basis. Hazard-zone maps highlight these more insidious hazards and raise awareness about
them among planners, local officials, and the public.
With the help of many maps illustrating examples from all corners of the United States, Monmonier
demonstrates how hazard mapping reflects not just scientific understanding of hazards but also
perceptions of risk and how risk can be reduced. Whether you live on a faultline or a coastline, near
a toxic waste dump or an EMF-generating power line, you ignore this book's plain-language advice
on geographic hazards and how to avoid them at your own peril.
No place is perfectly safe, but some places are more dangerous than others. Maps can tell us a lot
about where we can anticipate certain risks. This book demonstrates how hazard mapping reflects
not just scientific understanding of hazards but also perceptions of risk and how risk can be
The publisher, The University of Chicago Press--www.press.uchicago.edu , February
The Ten Riskiest Places to Live -
In Cartographies of Danger Mark Monmonier looks at how well America maps its natural and
technological hazards as well as social hazards like crime and disease. In conjunction with the
release of this book, the Press asked Mark to give us a list of the country's ten most hazardous
His top ten (or is that bottom ten?) list is only available on the web at:
Information about the book itself is at:
Mark Monmonier is professor of geography at Syracuse University's Maxwell School of Citizenship
and Public Affairs.