Preparing for the world of work? Geography may just be the subject you need!
You might be a matric student seeking to ace your Geography exam. If so, you’re definitely exactly where you need to be!
This article brings into sharp focus five themes central to geography, different types of geography, interesting facts about geography, a glossary for geography and mentions a number of world-renowned geographers, all in an attempt to assist pre-varsity students improve their knowledge of geography and prepare them for the world of work!
Geography Has Five Major Themes
Geography is quite a wide-ranging academic discipline, covering far more than the mere memorisation of continents, oceans and mountains ... or even world capitals.
Anyone, who has not undertaken an in-depth study of the subject, will never discover that geography can be divided into five main themes.
So, what are geography’s five themes?
Here follow the five main themes of geography, which will help any matric learner or aspirant varsity student prepare for an upcoming geography test or exam:
- Location: this theme can be split up into two main parts: the absolute location and the relative location of a place. Absolute location denotes a place’s precise position in terms of its latitude and longitude, e.g. Cape Town is located at 33.93°S 18.42°E. Relative location, on the other hand, relates to the connection between a place and others. The relative location of a place is described by way of kilometres or miles, minutes and cardinal points, e.g. Pretoria lies north of Johannesburg.
- Place: this, the second theme of geography, relates to the human and physical features of a location. The human characteristics would refer to the culture of the people who inhabit the area and the ways in which the interact with it, like designing a city or establishing a harbour. The physical features would include the mountains, valleys, rivers or local climate.
- Human Environment Interaction: when compared to other species, people (human beings) have impacted on the environment far more significantly. Up-and-coming geographers would study three main aspects as part of this theme, namely adaptation, dependency and modification. The aspect which has most negatively impacted on the environment is modification, which has resulted in climate change, global warming and animal and plant species extinction. In this theme, students are sensitised to how the behaviour and actions of human impact on the environment.
- Movement: the fourth theme of geography is movement, which relates to the changing of position or location. There is constant movement of people and things around the earth. This area of study, thus, relates to the movement of people, their ideas and goods. Emigration and immigration are two topics which are studied in this theme.
- Region: Geography’s fifth theme has similar features, but does not always have definite limitations (boundaries) like borders, for instance. Continents, countries, provinces, cities and villages can all be split up into regions. Students investigating this theme of geography gain knowledge of functional regions: a location that is optimally linked to its hinterland via good transport infrastructure that facilitates the movement of people, ideas and goods. Examples of functional regions are found in the suburbs of Tokyo and New York City.
There they are, the five themes of geography, which should give you a thorough understanding about what geography, the academic discipline, is all about.
Kinds of Geography
It must be stressed that geography is not just one extensive subject. It consists of a number of fields and there are several sub-disciplines of geography which can be contemplated as a course of study.
Here, then, are the distinct types of geography that interested students can pursue:
- Human Geography: a vital field of study, human geography considers very important information, including the study of economies, cultures, people and their interaction with the environment. Essentially, it can be considered to be the study of mankind, the human race. Human geography has several fascinating off-shoots or branches, including population geography, cultural geography, economic geography and medical geography, to name but a few.
- Physical Geography: a sub-discipline of two important academic disciplines, geography and earth sciences, physical geography deals with the earth’s physical characteristics. It is also referred to as physiography or geosystems and has a number of sub-disciplines, including geomorphology, climate geography, water resources geography and biogeography.
- Environmental Geography: this aspect of geography, although not as complete as physical or human geography, is vitally important in a world where man is seeking to minimise mankind’s negative impact on the environment and finding solutions to decade-long abuse. Some of its sub-disciplines include political ecology and hazards.
- Cartography: a centuries-old craft, cartography is the practice and study of maps and making of maps. Some famous cartographers as Ptolemy, Gerardus Mercator, Marie Tharp, Abraham Ortelius and Tom Harrison. Students of geography, of cartography in particular, will discover that a good map must be clear, easy to use and accurately reflect that distance and relationship, in terms of orientation, between places and other physical features.
Geography has various layers, and is not simply a one-dimensional subject. It can be a very interesting, worthy of a choice of subject to study at matric and varsity level!
Geography: A Fact File
It’s great to know interesting things to toss around at a dinner party or braai. The earth has many facts that are not commonly known, as well as places that have for the most part, remain hidden from most of mankind because of their remote location.
We’ll dive right in and have a look at some truly interesting facts about each of the world’s continents.
In terms of area, Africa is the world’s second-largest continent.
Below are some remarkable facts about the continent:
- Most continents reside in one or, maybe, two hemispheres; uniquely, Africa resides in all four hemispheres ( northern, southern, eastern and western).
- The Nile River, the second largest in the world, has a drainage basin that covers 11 countries.
- Africa has the most countries in the world: 54 (27% of the world total).
The only continent that does not have any permanent inhabitants, Antarctica is, however, the subject of on-going studies by research teams based there, for a year at a time.
A few interesting facts about Antarctica are:
- Antarctica is the coldest, windiest and driest continent on earth.
- 90% of the planet’s ice and 70% of the world’s fresh water is found in Antarctica.
Asia is the world’s largest and most densely populated continent.
Here are some fascinating snippets of information about Asia:
- Two of the world’s most densely populated countries are situated in Asia, viz. India and China, the only two countries with populations of over 1 billion people. The continent is home to more people than all the other continents combined.
- The continent boasts the lowest and highest points on the planet: the Dead Sea (412m below sea-level) and Mount Everest (8 848m above sea-level).
A continent that is much loved because of the history it has, as well as picturesque landscapes and its diverse people.
The facts below are a smattering of what makes Europe a unique continent:
- Almost every city in France has a street (rue) named after its most celebrated writer and poet, Victor Hugo.
- The government of Denmark has an approved list of 7 000 baby names, and five that are not allowed. You will need to apply if you desire a name which you consider unique.
- Europe actually has a rain-forest, Perucica, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, in Herzegovina and Bosnia.
A very diverse, multi-cultural place, with immigrants from around the world, North America is a vast continent and worth a visit.
Below follows some fascinating geographic data about the North America:
- Half of all the world’s natural lakes are found in Canada; water covers 9% of the country.
- In Central America, no place is more than 201 kilometres from an ocean – Pacific or Atlantic.
Australia or Australasia
The continent of Australia, also called Australasia, is often confused with the region of Oceania. The Australian continent is made up of the countries Australia, New Zealand, and Papua New Guinea. The Oceania Region consists of the Australasian continent and the islands of Polynesia, Melanesia, and Micronesia.
Some facts about Australasia:
- Australia is the world's smallest continent.
- There are fewer people in Australia, the country, than in Texas. It is the continent with the second-lowest number of human inhabitants, after Antarctica. In fact, there more sheep than people, specifically in Australia and New Zealand.
With its varied landscape, agreeable climate and breathtaking beauty, South America that attract many with wanderlust. Here follow a few amazing facts about South America:
- Two of the largest countries in the world are located in South America: Argentina and Brazil. Argentina has the most Spanish-speakers on the planet and Brazil so large that it takes up half of the continent.
- The Atacama Desert is the driest of all hot deserts, with some places said to never have had any rainfall.
Uncovering many of the world's rare characteristics is one of the greatest delights of studying a subject like geography.
This knowledge brings about an appreciation of how beautiful planet Earth is, raises the level of awareness about the decline in the environment and encourages many to rise up in an attempt to stop and, possibly, reverse its degradation in the future!
A Brief Geographic Glossary
Geography is an academic discipline in its own right and, as such, has quite a large set of terminology which is routinely utilised. A glossary is an alphabetic list of terms used in an academic subject. Below is a little geography dictionary of words and concepts you need to know.
- Archipelago: an area which contains a group or chain of islands in the ocean, lakes or rivers, e.g. Hawaii and the Galapagos.
- Afforestation: the planting of a large number of trees where there are few or no trees.
- Ecosystem: a community of living organisms which live in a specific environment and interact with one another.
- Global warming: the long-term increase of the earth’s temperature caused primarily by the greenhouse gas emissions.
- Latitude: imaginary lines drawn on maps to indicate distances north or south of the equator; the angular distance of a place north or south of the equator.
- Longitude: imaginary lines drawn vertically on maps to indicate distances east and west of 0º (Greenwich Meridian).
- Savannah or savanna: tropical grasslands in much of central Africa, e.g. Tanzania and Kenya.
- Toxic waste: unwanted/ discarded material that can cause harm, e.g. when absorbed through the skin, inhaled or swallowed (examples: phones, batteries, computers and televisions).
Through the ages, there have been many geographers who have stepped forward to enhance or comprehension of physical, human and environmental aspects of geography.
Below are several who received worldwide recognition for the work in the field, including some information about research for which they are famous:
- Ptolemy: (c.100 CE – c.170CE) provided techniques and provided information on how to draw maps in his book, Guide to Geography. Innovatively, he recorded the latitude and longitude of around 8 000 places on his map of the world known to a Roman resident of that era. His is regarded by many as true pioneer in the field of geography and his work has survived for many centuries.
- Alexander von Humboldt: this geographer is famous for his exploration of the Americas between 1799 and 1804. His writings about Cuba, Mexico, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela and Peru opened up an unknown information to the world. He recorded biological and geographical data for many, publishing them between 845 and 1862, in a number of volumes called Kosmos.
- Ellen Churchill Semple: a feminist icon and famous geographer, Ellen Churchill Semple became well-known when, in 1921, she became the first female to serve as president of the Association of American Geographers. She also became famous for holding controversial theories about environmental determinism, which suggested that the physical environment determines the direction in which a particular society would develop.
To conclude, the terms above, the world-famous geographers and the interesting facts, surely, act as an appetiser for anyone who wants to know ‘what is geography?’.
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