The importance of geography
By Ruth I. Shirey
April 4, 2003: For many people geography means knowing where places are. It is true that knowing where places are and something of their characteristics is important, just as knowing the alphabet is important for reading or the multiplication tables for arithmetic; but geography involves much more. Geography is the study of places on Earth and their relationship with each other. Often the study of geography begins with one’s home community and expands as a person gains greater experience. Thus, geography provides a conceptual link for children between home, school, and the world beyond.
Geographers study how people interact with the environment and with each other from place to place and they classify Earth into regions in order to draw generalizations about the complex world in which we live. Because it deals with where and how people live, geography is rich in material that relates to international understanding, multi-cultural concerns, and environmental education.
The tools of geography help us understand places. The tool most identified with geographers is the map, but they also use different kinds of statistical information, photographs and images of many kinds, and a wide variety of data collected by other methods. They also rely upon their own observations and those of others found in such sources a descriptive geography texts, histories, diaries, and journals.
Geography teaches students important skills
Through the student of geography students lean to read maps and interpret information at geographical scales from local to global. They are able to use data from maps, tables, graphs, and text to recognize patterns and solve problems. Students also can integrate concepts from many different areas of science, social science, and the humanities, and apply critical thinking to understanding and dealing with current issues of local, national, and international importance.
Geography helps student learn about the world
Knowing something about where places are and what they are like is important. As the last “superpower” and a major player in international affairs, the United States needs citizens who have basic knowledge of other parts of the world as well as our own country. We also need to understand regional relationships and the role the United States plays in them.
Geography contributes to international understanding
The world’s economies are increasingly linked into an international network of trade and exchange. If our competitors know more about us than we do about them, they have an advantage in serving our markets and negotiating trade agreements, and we are placed at a disadvantage in reaching their markets. Well-planned geography education at all grade levels will help to make us more aware of other countries and cultures and prepare our students to take their place in the world.
Geography and citizenship
Knowledge of geography helps us be better citizens. Through geography we learn to locate important events. We can understand the relationship between geography and national or international policies and we can use geographical knowledge to make informed decisions regarding the best use of the nation’s resources. Finally, geographic knowledge helps us to ask important questions about policies that lead to changes in landscape and land use. Geographically informed students will be effective leaders for our country.
Geography and economics
There is a close relationship between geography and economics. The location of natural resources, the shape of transportation networks and the technology they use, the level of industrialization or energy production, and many other geographical factors influence the kind of economy a country or region will have. Trade patterns are fundamental elements of both geography and economics.
Geography and history
Geography provides important clues to the past. Landforms and climate are related to migration patterns, land use, and the rise and fall of civilizations. How people use the land also has a strong bearing on the economic progress of countries and regions. Thus, knowing what the landscape was like in the past is important for understanding historical processes; as is knowing who lived in a place, how they lived, and how they used the land.
Geography and the environment
Many human geographers examine the relationship between humans and the environments in which they live and physical geographers are concerned with how natural systems work. Geographers conduct research to understand the impact of environmental factors on human individual and group behavior, to identify the ways in which humans change the environments in which they live, and to determine the long-term environmental impacts of social processes such as population growth and technological development. These are key issues for determining government and private sector environmental policies with which an education citizenry should be acquainted.
Some important geographical links are given below. By clicking the following links, you can visit several locations of our global village.
Independent States of the World