Penned by noted author and co-editor of the Place Branding and Public Diplomacy journal, there are many fascinating things to learn in Robert Govers’ fine non-fiction tome IMAGINATIVE COMMUNITIES: Admired Cities, Regions and Countries. “According to the United Nations, the number of persons living in a country other than where they were born reached 244 million in 2015 for the world as a whole, a 41% increased compared to 2000.” With such international fluidity, it is easy for planet Earth to seem like a big melting pot instead of individual countries and nationalities with specific qualities all their own. Is America (still?) the land of the free, home of the brave where all are created equal? Does Amsterdam (still?) role model how a free-thinking, tolerant city works?
With an ever-increasing flow of shared resources, technology, and mass communication (visual, audio, print, internet) connecting all continents, it is becoming increasingly challenging for locations and cultures to maintain individual identities unless they make it a point to do so. Bhutan, for example, a Buddhist kingdom in the Himalayan mountains, preserves the joy quotient its country has been known for by institutionalizing a model of ‘gross national happiness’ rather than Gross National Product. Based on guiding principles of sustainable development, preserving the ecosystem, low-impact tourism, promoting cultural values, and maintaining good governance, one practical manifestation of tending these values is evident in how visitors from abroad are regulated to subsidize the country rather than the country subsidizing sightseers. A Sustainable Development Fee has been built directly into mandated minimum daily tour packages in order to have tourists help pay for the country’s free education, free heath care, and putting an end to Bhutanese poverty. What an imaginative win-win. Just like this well-researched book.
In order to entice the widest possible audience, content could be presented a bit more engagingly in spots where interesting and important information are sometimes presented rather a bit too dryly factual. And some unique spellings of words can appear to be errors, distracting from a smooth reading flow (‘globalisation’ vs ‘globalization’ for instance). Also, extensive descriptive chapter/section titles plus the Table of Contents could be laid out in a more concise, appealing, eye-friendly manner. But on the whole, this valuable project delves into various forms of how people are living and have lived the concept of ‘community’ worldwide, making it quite the timely read as civilization heads into the year 2020 and beyond.
IMAGINATIVE COMMUNITIES: Admired Cities, Regions and Countries by Robert Govers is a feat of informative facts and fancies to set the imagination soaring.
~C.S. Holmes for IndieReader