March 31, 2017

The Grand Canyon. Credit: Bernard Spragg. NZ / Flickr Creative Commons

From the Great Plains to the Mississippi Delta, we’re a country defined by our land. And maybe that’s what brought Robert Kaplan -- who spent most of his career reporting abroad -- home. Kaplan’s most recent book, Earning the Rockies: How Geography Shapes America’s Role in the World, explores the impact of our land on our national character.

Three Takeaways:

  • To research his book, Kaplan took a roadtrip across the US. And instead of directly interviewing people, he sat in local diners and coffee shops, eavesdropping on conversations. One common theme? “I saw a nation united by people’s worries.”
  • Kaplan says we can thank our riverways for our success: “America has more miles of navigable inland waterways than much of the rest of the world combined, and it’s that river system and how it’s laid out across the Midwest that made America a great power originally in the 19th century.”
  • Globalization, says Kaplan, has had a paradoxical effect. “We’re swept up into a world system,” he explains. “Part of our population adapts very well to it… and there’s another part of our population that’s been left behind.” Instead of making America a part of the greater world, it’s divided it.

More Reading:

Sci & Tech, Kara Miller, Robert Kaplan

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