New islands are being built at an unprecedented rate whether for tourism or territorial ambition, while many islands are disappearing or fragmenting because of rising sea levels. It is a strange planetary spectacle, creating an ever-changing map which even Google Earth struggles to keep pace with.
In The Age of Islands, explorer and geographer Alastair Bonnett takes the reader on a compelling and thought-provoking tour of the world's newest, most fragile and beautiful islands and reveals what, he argues, is one of the great dramas of our time.
From a 'crannog', an ancient artificial island in a Scottish loch, to the militarized artificial islands China is building in the South China Sea; from the disappearing islands that remain the home of native Central Americans to the ritzy new islands of Dubai; from Hong Kong and the Isles of Scilly to islands far away and near: all have urgent stories to tell.
Part One: Rising
1: Why We Build Islands
2: Flevopolder, The Netherlands
3: The World, Dubai
4: Chek Lap Kok, Airport Island, Hong Kong
5: Fiery Cross Reef, South China Sea
6: Phoenix Island, China
7: Ocean Reef, Panama
8: Natural, Overlooked and Accidental: Other New Islands
9: Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai, Tonga
10: The Accidental Islands of Pebble Lake, Hungary
11: Trash Islands
Part Two: Disappearing
12: Disappearing Islands
13: The San Blas Islands of Guna Yala, Panama
14: Tongatapu and Fafa, Tonga
15: The Isles of Scilly, UK
Part Three: Future
16: Future Islands
18: Dogger Bank Power Link Island, North Sea
19: East Lantau Metropolis, Hong Kong
20: Not an Ending
A Professor of Geography at Newcastle University in the UK, Alastair Bonnett loves writing about disconcerting and hidden places. His two most recent books are Beyond the Map, a project that took him to all sorts of overlooked places and New Views, a big book of world maps that shows us how the planet is changing.
"Extraordinary [...] Bonnett writes with an acerbic charm [...] A fascinating and intelligent book. It brings geography to life in a way that felt-tip drawings of Dutch polders never could."
– Sunday Times
"Fascinating [...] Man-made territories provide the most interesting moments in Alastair Bonnett's tour of our planet's many islands."
– Daily Mail
"A knowledgeable world tour of different types of islands, much enhanced by self-deprecating accounts of his own often shoestring visits [...] Bonnett expertly covers the different kinds of islands [...] and rightly points out the ecological consequences of human building projects worldwide."
– James Hamilton-Paterson, Literary Review
"A beguiling, fact-filled account of the world's headlong dash to build artificial islands."
"As well as being a love letter from a geographer to his subject, it serves as a whistle-stop tour of a world in flux and crisis."
– Newcastle Evening Chronicle
"In The Age of Islands, Alastair Bonnett combines a deep knowledge of history and contemporary geopolitics with a seasoned travel writer's eye for the telling detail, as he gives us a tour of our terrifying but often beautiful new world."
– Joshua Keating, author of Invisible Countries: Journeys to the Edge of Nationhood
"Alastair Bonnett's reporting of islands new and ancient: from trash islands to military islands to brand-new, environment-trashing 'ultra-star' islands to approaching-extinction islands is a well-researched and open-handed cautionary tale for our times."
– Dan Boothby, author of Island of Dreams: A Personal History of a Remarkable Place
"An ambitious journey by wing, sail, rubber and road to find the lost, emerging, off-limits and artificial islands of our fast-changing world. Once again, Bonnett respectfully drags geography back to its roots."
– Brad Garrett, author of Bunker: Building for the End Times
"Sheer vulnerability and bold architecture live cheek by jowl in this Age of Islands. If islands did not exist, we would have to invent them. And now we do. This book helps us understand how and why."
– Godfrey Baldacchino, University of Malta; President, International Small Islands Studies Association (ISISA)
"A great primer on the concept of islands in the modern age [...] Engagingly written."
– Library Journal