Geography by definition is the science that examines relationships between people and various lands or environment . The world is vast place of different physical structures and diverse people. Its importance to history is significant. It explains why certain nations are in conflict and developed a particular type of economy. Crops or mineral resources appear in certain areas which alter the considerations regarding geopolitical action. The earliest geographers were not studying for the sake of knowledge, but for a profit motive. The proto-geographers were explorers who were employed by Kings of Europe to go and find new trade routes. The Age of Exploration led to the colonization of the New World, Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, and the rise of modern imperialism. The geographers of the present period are more concerned with academic matters. They may be involved in planning the layout of cities, teaching, cartography, and the management of natural resources. Geography can also be interdisciplinary as an academic field which employs elements of geology, biology, and anthropology. It is critical that an individual have a general grasp of the world, because it is rapidly changing. There are basic elements of geography that must be understood.
Physical geography refers to the examination of the natural landscapes of Earth. This section of geography indirectly uncovered Earth’s long history. Earth’s continents were not always separated. Alfred Wegener through spatial analysis came to the conclusion that there was once a large super landmass known as Pangaea. What caused the landmass to break apart was continental drift. Geologists then took Wegener’s hypothesis and investigated further. They proposed a theory of tectonic plates which shifted slabs of crust.
With this change in plates it gave way to the concept of subduction. The collision of plates causes lighter ones to ride up over larger ones. These collisions explain why there are mountain ranges , earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions. The most noticeable aspect about Earth is its continents. It is the main division of land. There are a total of seven continents which include : Asia, Africa, North America, South America, Antarctica, Europe, and Australia. While this definition has a specific meaning, there are cultural connotations attached to it. Europe is small relative to other continents and it is questionable whether it can by itself be considered a continent. Europe and Asia do occupy the same landmass and therefore could be referred to as Eurasia. However through a perspective of culture Asians have little in common with Europeans. Geographers use the Ural Mountains as the cut off between Europe and Asia. This strange classification or criteria may be explained by geographers who struggled to categorize the land. The other explanation is based on racist beliefs. Separating Europe culturally and politically from the rest of Asia, reveals that the West does not want to be associated with the East. The total landmass of the continents is equal to 148 million square kilometers. The ocean covers approximately three fourths of the Earth.
Geography is more than just locations and maps, it examines characteristics of climate, natural landscape, people, and elements of economy. Climate varies around the world. It is the long term aggregate of common weather conditions. Climate can effect the economy and how people live. Desrtification can cause displacement of populations in areas that were suitable for farming. There are major climatic regions on Earth. Humid equatorial regions are have high temperatures (most of the year) and enormous rainfall. This can commonly be referred to as tropical climate. The Af subtype rain comes every month. Rainforest is more likely to develop in such regions. The Am subtype have periods of monsoon climate. These would be areas like sections of South East Asia, coastal West Africa, and peninsular India. The third type is Aw or savanna. The rainfall has a seasonal distribution. The temperature range is larger both annually and daily. The Earth also has dry climates. These conditions can be found at lower and higher latitudes. This climate has the subtypes of true desert (BW) and semiarid steppe (BS). The difference between them is the amount of precipitation annually. The difference in moisture is about 10 inches (25 cm). Humid temperate climates tend to be moist and can range to dry conditions. This type of climate does not have extremes in range. Humid clod climates are present in interior landmasses ( Eurasia or North America). Winters are cold, but the summers are relatively cool. These areas normally have great productive soil for agriculture. The other climate zones of Earth are cold polar and highland climates. The distinction can be seen in icecap formations in which snow and ice will halt the growth of vegetation. Tundra has temperatures above freezing, which allows for a low level of trees or vegetation.
The Earth is filled with oceans, seas, lakes, mountains, and deserts. They tell of a long geological history. Petrology reveals a story of rock formations and its age. The scientific study of rocks has major importance not only to geographers, but to astrophysicists, astronomers, and biologists.
Another critical aspect of geography is defining realms and regions. Examination of these attributes utilize spatial perspective. Geographical realms have certain characteristics. This includes both cultural and physical elements for an area to be considered to be a geographical realm. They can also be the product of various interactions between human societies. It must demonstrate that it represents a cluster of humankind functioning in an environment. The major geographic realms include Europe, Russia, North America, Middle America, South America, Subsaharan Africa, North Africa plus Southwest Asia, South Asia, Southeast Asia, Austral Realm, and Pacific Realm. These major realms are divided by transition zones.Realms are not constant, They change over a period of time. These changes have to do with historical and political circumstances. The Age of Exploration was the end of the empires of the New World and ushered in modern imperialism.The map of the world was changed to represent the French, Spanish, British, Portuguese, Dutch, Italian, and German empires. New states emerged after the process of decolonization during the 1950s and 1960s. The end of the Cold War saw the emergence of of independent Central Asian states and Baltic states. The youngest country currently is South Sudan and there is a possibility more will emerge with a rapidly changing political landscape.
Spatial concept requires the emphasis on regional concept. A region is an area with a common unifying characteristic. Regions contain boundaries. These can be both physical structure attributes and sometimes ideological. Generally, there is an understanding of location. There is a feature or area that makes that region unique. Absolute location provides a description of a region by its latitude and longitude. Relative location is not as specific, but described in relation to other regions. Regions do have a level of homogeneity, but this is not always the rule. Formal regions do have a level of similarity on an internal scale. Regions are not just noted for their similar attributes, but their functional integration. Regions are part of spatial systems. They can be connected by networks of functional regions. This system has a core from which it operates and a periphery. An urban center is an example of this only on a smaller scale. The core-periphery theme has become a pivotal focus in geography. These themes also appear in world history seeing as geography has an effect on the development of civilization and warfare.
Human geography analyzes humanity’s activity and how it influenced by the Earth’s surface. Humanity has built cities, created technology, and formed civilizations. It is only a matter of time before humanity takes another leap into colonizing outer space. There is also some negative consequences. Environmental destruction and pollution threaten the world. Food security becomes an issue with climate change. Drought and arid lands are becoming prevalent which jeopardizes human security. How these challenges will be confronted is still yet to be known. Humanity leaves an imprint on Earth represented by the cultural landscape. This concept was developed by Carl Ortwin Sauer in the 1920s. As he stated cultural landscape is ” the forms superimposed on the physical landscape by man.” Cities, towns, and hamlets are products of cultural landscape. It should be noted culture is not the same as ethnicity. People of various ethnic groups can share the same culture. Islam has many followers around the world and most are of different ethnic groups from Africa, Asia, North America, and the Middle East. They all ascribe to a Muslim culture. As communication becomes easier through technology , the world becomes a smaller place. Globalization has caused more cross cultural exchanges and economic integration. While this can cause conflict and disagreement it is clear its another stage in human history. Geography can contribute to the understanding of current conflicts and people of the world.
Muller, Peter. Regions. Hoboken: John Wiley and Son inc, 2005.
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