Ever since the dawn of any civilization on this earth, the study of geography has captured the imagination of every human being. Since ancient times, various civilizations like the Indus Valley, Mesopotamian or Maya civilization still speak volumes about the geographical location and how they impacted the culture and heritage of the particular country.
As we find history synonymous to study of civilization, in the same way geography played a pivotal role in the development of early civilizations. Geography impacted the development of past civilizations as it determined how much they can benefit from their geographical location or suffers from it.
For example, the geography of Ancient Greece was very mountainous and not much fertile land. This led to the need for trade because they could not grow many crops. Individual city-states were each blocked off from each other by the mountains. This eventually led to a civil war in Greece and then the downfall of Ancient Greece.
But on the other hand, the two-largest cities Mohenjo-daro and Harappa that formed an integral part of Indus Valley Civilization also known as Harappan culture flourished due to presence of rivers near it. This encouraged farming and encouraged people to abandon nomadic lifestyles in favour of permanent settlement in one area.
Two great wars of the history- the First and the Second World War were mainly for geographical reasons rather than colonialism or hegemony. The “scramble for Africa” between Germany and Great Britain in the First World War and the hegemony on Europe by Germany and the attack on Pearl Habour in America by Japan during the Second World War has mostly to do with the geographical location of these countries.
Ironically, many students find world history boring or tedious to understand as they continue to mug it without exactly knowing where is Germany, Poland or Great Britain exactly located. Is Japan near to America or away from it still remains a mysterious question for many of us as we are still not properly aware of the Atlas, the best geographical guide.
However, the importance of geography does not only confine to growth of mankind or civilization we also learn about the various types of plants and birds that exist throughout the world. Wild animals residing in forests like lions, wolves etc have their territorial demarcation and threaten other animals from their own community from encroachment of their area.
The origin of the word ‘geography’ was created by the ancient Greeks from the roots "ge" for earth and "grapho" for "to write." In simple terms, “Geography is a science that deals with the study of the earth’s landscapes, peoples, places and environments. It is, quite simply, about the world in which we live.”
Geography is a fascinating subject. It reveals all the wonderful changes and activities that have been going on in the world since the beginning of time. Sadly, many of us restrict geography to only mountains, valley, rivers, terrains or the study of universe. Look beyond and you will find that geography has more to it than meets the eye.
By reading geography we learn not only about our own country but also about countries beyond the seas. We also learn about the mountains, oceans, islands, lakes, volcanoes, the winds and a number of other interesting things about the world and the universe.
As the climate and vegetation of one place are not the same as those of another, the habits and activities of the people of different regions are also different. Even their religious convictions and languages are different from those of other parts of the world.
Among the important things that we learn in Geography are the infinite varieties of creatures, plants, birds and land features that exist in the world. Reading about all these is indeed very interesting. Nowadays, riveting visual experience of geography can be done through channels like National Geographic, Discovery, Animal Planet and Fox History.
Geography provokes and answers questions about the natural and human worlds. Geography is important because we need it to keep up with the world market. You will need to know basic landmarks and where things are located, so you will be able to converse in daily conversations.
Our pitiful knowledge of geography has been well documented for the last decade. Most young adults between the ages of 18 and 24 demonstrate a limited understanding of the world beyond their country’s borders, and they place insufficient importance on the basic geographic skills that might enhance their knowledge.
Geography is essential to our education. Not just knowing how to read a map, but at least a basic understanding of where countries, states and continents are located on a map is a must. The study of our world has many other implications as well:
- It’s multidisciplinary: You have to read maps, and understand what symbols mean. Distances, angles, and rates of speed for travel all need to be calculated. Borders between states or countries can change or shift over time for different reasons. Geography extends to every discipline.
- It informs our history: Geography played a huge role in the development of civilization. There were no accidents but geography behind the emergence of various civilizations which has an impact on mankind till date.
- It informs our perceptions: It gives us a clear picture to our perception whether it’s true or false. It’s important for everyone to understand this. The North East part of India comprises of the seven sisters or say seven states and it’s a part of India which many don’t know.
- It’s tactile: Geography is one of the few parts of social studies that is hands-on. The best way to get a kid excited about the world is to put a map or globe. It also helps the student understand the world doesn’t always revolve around us–even though that’s how it seems.
Many geographers work on matters of great relevance for the issues facing society, but geography is rarely invoked in public debates over matters of contemporary concern and its importance in general education has sharply dwindled. As a result, geographical perspectives are often missing from public discourse, and outmoded conceptions of geography are reinforced.
Today, researchers in the field of geography still focus on people and cultures (cultural geography), and the planet earth (physical geography). It is not surprising that those trained as geographers often contribute substantially to the applied management of resources and environments.
The features of the earth are the domain of physical geographers and their work includes research about climates, the formation of landforms, and plant and animal distribution. Working in closely related areas, the research of physical geographers and geologists often overlaps. No doubt, many IITians still opt for geology (the study of earth) as an area of subject.
Religion, languages, and cities are a few of the specialties of cultural (also known as human) geographers. Their research into the intricacies of human existence is fundamental to our understanding of cultures. Cultural geographers want to know why various groups practice certain rituals, speak in different dialects, or organize their cities in a particular way.
Geographers plan new communities, decide where new highways should be placed, and establish evacuation plans. Computerized mapping and data analysis is known as Geographic Information Systems (GIS), a new frontier in geography. Spatial data is gathered on a variety of subjects and input onto a computer. GIS users can create an infinite number of maps by requesting portions of the data to plot.
There's always something new to research in geography: new nation-states are created, natural disasters strike populated areas, the world's climate changes, and the Internet brings millions of people closer together. Knowing where countries and oceans are on a map is important but geography is much more than the answers to trivia questions. Having the ability to geographically analyze allows us to understand the world in which we live.
Geography provokes and answers questions about the natural and human worlds, using different scales of enquiry to view them from different perspectives. It develops knowledge of places and environments throughout the world, an understanding of maps, and a range of investigative and problem solving skills both inside and outside the classroom. As such, it prepares pupils for adult life and employment.
Studying geography invites us to participate more fully in the excitement, enjoyment and challenge of this dynamic world. It draws on personal experience, to help us better understand the places we live in, why they matter and how they are connected to a globalised world.
Geography draws from across the physical, cultural, economic and political spheres to illuminate key issues for the present and the future, explored at all scales from the personal to the local and the global. Geography is therefore a vital subject resource for 21st century global citizens, enabling us to face questions of what it means to live sustainably in an interdependent world.
Students should have access to as much geography as humanly possible. The more they understand the world, the more curious they get about how the world works–especially its problems. The geography problem, in many ways, is the most urgent problem, as it colours almost every other aspect of social studies. Extending knowledge of world geography will help our students make a positive mark on that same world later in life.
To sum up, we all live our lives geographically. Geography is a very important subject, and because of its width and variety it is one of the most interesting subjects to study.
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