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Introduction to Geography


Introduction to Geography Geography has always been important, but I would argue that it is becoming more important because the world is getting increasingly ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Introduction to Geography

Introduction to Geography
What in the World is Geography?
  • Now you have had a chance to read the first
    couple of chapters of the textbook. You may be
    wondering what geography is all about.
  • The word Geography is from Greek (as so many
    other words!). It has two parts
  • Geo the Earth
  • Graph to describe

Describing the earth was for a long time what
geographers did, but they do a lot more today,
and that also makes the whole discipline more fun.
  • Below are two somewhat more formal definitions of
    geography (two ways of looking at it)
  • It studies how things differ between different
    places and why they are different
  • or the why of where
  • It studies human activity, the natural
    environment, and the relationship between the two
  • Geographers may be interested in questions such
  • Why is Manhattan, KS where it is, and why did the
    settlement evolve on this site?
  • Why is the temperature in Manhattan usually lower
    than the surrounding areas?
  • Obviously geographers already know the answers.
    Do you know them?

Speaking of differences, the earth surface is
absolutely fascinating and diverse
  • From big cities like New York,

Manhattan, NY
To rural areas like this farm in the U.S.
Or this rural area in Southwest China
Or picturesque rural India, Things are just
very different!
Then there are somewhat artificial places like
Las Vegas
Or futuristic places like Dubai, the UAE
Geographers are interested in explaining those
differences and why what we see is where it is.
Burj Khalifa - The highest tower in the world Do
you know where it is?
Geographers are also interested in cultural
differences, such as why the Hindus consider the
Ganges (or Ganga) a holy river, and bathe and
bury their dead in it. (see also the textbook
cover photos)
Why different denominations tend to concentrate
in certain areas in North America
Or why people in different parts of the United
States call the same stuff by different names
pop, soda, coke, etc.

Americans are not paying enough attention to
geography. The National Geographical Society did
a survey in 2002
  • Among 18- to 24- year-olds given maps
  • 11 could not find the United States
  • 49 could not find New York
  • 76 could not find Saudi Arabia
  • 83 could not find Afghanistan
  • 87 could not find Iraq
  • This prompted the NGS president to say
  • If our young people cant find places on a map
    and lack awareness of current events, how can
    they understand the worlds cultural, economic
    and natural resource issues that confront us?
  • John Fahey (President of the NGS)

The NGS did basically the same survey again in
2006 to see if things had changed Among 18- to
24- year-olds
  • 6 in 10 couldnt find Iraq or Saudi Arabia on a
    Middle East map
  • 75 couldnt locate Israel
  • 1/3 couldnt find Louisiana on a U.S. map
  • 88 could not find Afghanistan on a map of Asia
  • Geography is Greek to young Americans
  • On the other hand, 7 in 10 correctly located
    China on a map!
  • Shortly after that, a Miss Teen USA contestant
    from South Carolina was asked to comment on this.
    It is not good. You can watch it at

  • In an October 2012 talk at Kansas State
    University, former senator Russ Feingold of
    Wisconsin voiced concern over the lack of
    knowledge that not only the average U.S. citizen,
    but also the average U.S. politician, has of
    other countries.
  • He went so far as to recommend politicians be
    assigned specific regions to study in order to
    understand the culture.
  • Well, he is essentially
  • referring to geography!

Geography Sometimes Can be a Million-Dollar
  • Some years ago, the TV show Who Wants to be a
    Millionaire had this last question
  • Which of the following countries is completely
    surrounded by another country?
  • A. Egypt B. Lesotho
  • C. Austria D. Nepal
  • Which is the correct answer?
  • BTW, the contestant got it right and won a
    million !

  • You can verify your answer on this map!

But geography can also help make better decisions
in more important areas like war and conflict
  • Had the US military considered Iraqs complicated
    ethnic geography, we could have avoided some of
    the problems in the war.

Maybe that is why Prince William majored in
geography in college, not once but twice (BA and
Thats where he met his wife, Kate Middleton
Studying geography can be hard. Look what it did
to William .s hair (just kidding)
  • The picture to the left shows the senior author
    of our textbook. He is originally from the
    Netherlands. He once commented on the importance
    of geography
  • Geography can bring to our lives the insights
    that would be otherwise not obtainable - H de

Harm de Blij
What sets geography apart from other disciplines?
Below are five questions at the core of the
geographic way of viewing the world
  • Where is a place located? - Location
  • What makes a place special?
  • Relationships b/w humans and environment?
  • What are the patterns of movement?
  • People, commodities, and information
  • How can the place be divided into regions for
  • The highlighted words constitute the five themes
    in geography.

We can use the five themes to describe, for
example, the geography of Manhattan, KS
  • Location including
  • Absolute Location
  • Refers to the longitude and latitude of a place
  • Manhattan 39.11N, 96.34W
  • Compare Salina 38.50N, 97.37W
  • Relative Location
  • Location relative to other places
  • e.g., Manhattan is about 135 miles from Kansas
    City (or about a two-hour drive)

Absolute location on earth uses latitude and
Place Here we focus on
  • Physical/Environmental characteristics
  • Landforms
  • Climate
  • Flora and fauna
  • etc.
  • Is Kansas flatter than a pancake?
  • (You can find the article on the Internet)
  • Human Characteristics, such as
  • Economy
  • Who live there
  • Culture (language, religion, etc.)

  • Human-Environment Relations/Interaction
  • We examine things like
  • How do people use resources in Manhattan?
  • What kind of environmental impact (including
    carbon footprint)
  • etc.
  • Movement
  • This theme refers to the movement of people,
    goods, and information between Manhattan and
    other places in the US and in the world. It
    affects the type of place Manhattan is.

Finally, we will see if we can divide the city
into some sub-regions that possess more or less
similar characteristics, for example, the
downtown area, Aggieville, the west side, etc.
Studying the geography of the world is not much
different. We may divide the world into 12
  • 1. Europe
  • 2. Russia
  • 3.North America
  • 4. Middle America
  • 5. South America
  • 6. North Africa / SW Asia
  • 7. Subsaharan Africa
  • 8. South Asia
  • 9. East Asia
  • 10. Southeast Asia
  • 11. Australia and New Zealand
  • 12. The Pacific Realm

That is what our textbook did. Each realm got a
chapter in the book. You can see the 5 themes in
  • Keep in mind the realms are dynamic (they change
    over time), and
  • Transition zones, not sharp boundaries, exist b/w
    geog realms.

For example, there is a transition zone b/w North
and Middel America
Transition zones are marked by a gradual shift
(rather than a sharp break) in the
characteristics that distinguish neighboring
The nature of geography can also be seen by the
classification system it uses
Taxonomy kingdom, phylum, Class, order, family,
genus, species
3 Major groups of rocks, Subsidiary, groups,
geological time
Eras, ages, periods
Geographic Realms and/or Regions based on sets of
spatial criteria
Geography has always been important, but I would
argue that it is becoming more important because
the world is getting increasingly
  • Integrated
  • Interconnected
  • Interdependent
  • We now live in the Age of Globalization or,
    some would say, a global village.

National economies are connected in myriad ways
trade, transnational business operations,
tourism,... For example, the production of iPOD
and iPhone is an international operation, with
the technology developed in the U.S. and
elsewhere, and actual devices produced in China
by a Taiwanese company called Foxconn.
Many American companies sell products to other
countries but also buy things from them. Do you
know Americans drink more than 800 million
gallons of imported beer annually? This map
shows where the beer is from.
One implication of this integrated world is
  • What happens elsewhere will affect our lives
    directly or indirectly
  • I can give many examples to illustrate this.

  • Example 1
  • Oil Production in the Middle East affects how
    much we pay for gas.
  • We have experienced that several times in recent

  • Example 2
  • Food production/demand in China and India has
    been blamed for higher food prices in recent
  • American economist Lester Brown warned us about
    that years ago in his book titled Who will feed

  • Example 3
  • In our tightly connected world, pollution and
    infectious disease anywhere is a threat to public
    health everywhere.
  • SARS, Avian flu, HIV/AIDS, H1N1, ...

  • The interdependent nature of the world means
    that in order to understand ourselves, we need to
    understand others as well.
  • Just as poet T.S. Eliot said
  • We shall not cease from exploration
  • And the end of all our exploring
  • Will be to arrive where we started
  • And know the place for the first time
  • T.S. Eliot

  • Another implication of the interdependent world
    is made in America means very little
  • Buy American is just rhetoric, a sales pitch.
  • Many American brand products are made overseas
  • Many foreign products are actually made in the
    U.S. by American workers
  • e.g. Toyotas in Kentucky and California

This picture shows Toyota employees in
Georgetown, Ky, examine production stats.
The US Auto Industry has changed, with many
foreign car makers operating in the Midwest and
southern states. US Auto Plant Employees, 2006
  • Geography can help us understand the
    interconnected and interdependent character of
    our lives. It therefore plays a crucial role in
    understanding the cultures and countries of our
  • Hopefully this course will do something toward

This is a logo designed by a company called ESRI
that focuses on the geographic information
Systems technology. It makes a good point.