A show of hands, please: how many of you know anyone who is a geographer? We’re guessing there are no hands waving in the air… right?
That is because so-called geographers go by many other names; names we are much more familiar with, such as ‘oceanographer’ or ‘climatologist’ or ‘GIS specialist’.
Most people believe attaining a geography degree will not provide competitive job opportunities.
In fact, some people think that, now that the entire world is mapped, geography should be relegated to an academic exercise and nothing more!
Nothing could be further from the truth…
Geography is regarded as the mother of all sciences both for its far-reaching subspecialties and for its long history, which began as simply as someone thinking ‘What lies on the other side of that hill?’
Have you ever done that? Been somewhere, in an urban landscape or on holiday in unfamiliar territory and been beset by the urge to explore and discover?
Superprof taps into that very human urge to prospect, to examine; to investigate and uncover reasons why the study of geography is as vital today as when the first humans migrated out of their Cradle of Civilisation.
Many seem to think the physical features of our world have always been there! Source: Pixabay Credit: Bess-Hamiti
Most people tend to think of continents, mountains and bodies of water as timeless and never-changing.
National pride includes the love of our land and all of its features, but few take into account how that land has changed over time – through soil erosion and varying mineral content, coastline changes and even topography.
The eruption of Anak Krakatoa in Indonesia makes a timely and excellent case for the need to study landforms and coastlines.
Since the eruption, the island has been reduced to about a quarter of its size, clearly proving that our earth is dynamic rather than static.
That being the case, shouldn’t such changes, no matter how incremental, be studied, recorded and compiled?
Another phenomenon that illustrates this point succinctly is Italy’s disappearing coastline.
That observation was not casually made by avid beachgoers disappointed that the sea has taken over their favourite sandy strand but by people qualified to compile and analyse data.
That eroding coastline surrounding the world’s biggest boot is attributed in part to global warming: the melting of polar ice caps causing sea levels to rise.
That would mean then that climatologists and oceanographers should jump in the fray and work on solutions, right?
However, the main cause of that coastline’s erosion is human activity: taking sand from the beaches to build ever more.
The government is surely at fault here; allowing city planners to build so much!
Would you be terribly surprised to know that all of the career fields mentioned above are subspecialties of geography?
Through a variety of disciplines, cataloguing earth’s natural and man-made changes is the purview of geographers.
A background in geography will provide you with a steady career in regional planning Source: Pixabay Credit: Paul Br 75
Geography is a social science with many divisions.
Studying geography as an undergraduate will indeed prepare you for a lot of different careers, but which branch of geography would you undertake?
You may, for example, decide to specialise in physical geography; to learn about:
Climatology: the study of weather conditions over long periods of time to provide predictions
Meteorology: analysing weather processes for short-term forecasting
Hydrology: studying the amount and quality of water; in a specific region or across the planet
Biogeography: the pattern of species distribution and their effects on the environment
Oceanography: the study of oceans and seas
Environmental geography: studies the spatial aspects of humans’ interaction with the environment
The flipside of physical geography is human geography; the study of people and their cultures, communities, economy and environment.
An undergraduate degree in this discipline could lead you to a satisfying career in urban geography; laying out roads or mapping future factories.
Other branches of this far-reaching humanities study include economic geography, cultural geography, social geography and applied geography.
Whether you relish the prospect of travelling all over our world or plan on staying local with an office career, as a geography major, you would certainly have a wide range of choices when it comes to working.
Why just see how the study of geography has evolved from the days of Sir Francis Drake:
If computers are your bailiwick, you could train as a geographical information systems specialist, a career in which you may opt for fieldwork or stay in an office, conducting an analytical study of datasets.
In short, there is no shortage of career fields for anyone taking a geography course of study!
London is in… France, right? Eleanor Clarke, bank teller
Considering how all-encompassing the field of geography is, it seems rather astounding that the subject is not a part of the core curriculum in our schools’ later years.
And it’s not just UK schools that have forsaken geography courses!
A look at schools in America reveals the same state of affairs: the study of world regional geography, let alone learning about one’s own natural environment has taken a back seat to other sciences.
The truth is brutal: no education in earth science will result in nobody being qualified to staff the many positions calling for such training. Who will manage earth systems for generations to come?
Conservation and environmental problems are very real issues facing humanity today. Learning how to resolve them requires ongoing effort; a chain of dedication that involves everybody.
Exposing our youth to the challenges they will face, such as climate change and environmental management, is the best way to introduce and engage them early in a strategic concern for the world they will inherit.
Another reason to encourage environmental studies is to understand how common events impact different regions of the world.
We are quite fortunate that we have many systems in place to protect us from natural disasters such as floods. Other parts of the world are not so lucky; their physical environment is impacted by environmental change, sometimes severely.
In order to become well-educated global citizens, our students must have more than a passing acquaintance with the challenges that beset our and other societies.
It is not enough to view documentaries such as the Blue Planet series or bandy about words such as sustainability and ecology.
Our students need to understand the interrelationship of these concepts as well, so that they may be inspired to seek a science degree and work toward better earth stewardship for centuries to come.
Consulting a GPS does little to develop your spatial analysis skills! Source: Pixabay Credit CFVI
With satellite-generated GPS, what do we need maps for?
Perhaps people think that, because the world has been completely discovered and mapped, explorers are no longer needed and cartography is a dead science.
Nothing could be further from the truth! Cartographic skills are still highly in demand; classroom maps and atlases will never go out of style.
Who do you think draws all of those maps and inputs geographic information for display on your GPS? Geographic information systems specialists, that who!
Besides, it is a bad idea to rely exclusively on your GPS – which, again makes the case for studying geography!
Doing so will help you develop exquisite navigation skills by helping you to build spatial relationships.
Just as explorers of old navigated by astronomy – the position of the stars relative to their current place, you too could cultivate such a geospatial intelligence by studying the unique features of any environment you find yourself in.
Let us say you are a graduate student preparing to study abroad. How would you get ready for such an adventure?
Might you consider the cost of a geography tutor in your plans?
You would listen to news reports, become more than mildly curious about other cultures and develop a fascination for environmental science with regard to the new region you will find yourself in.
Will there be a lake to swim in? How about hiking trails? What about urban development: are you going to a big city or a smaller town?
By the time you return from you stay away, you will have surely realised that your experience and geographical studies have helped you understand the phenomenon of globalization on a deeply personal level.
Which, in turn, furthers your grasp on world geography and cultural consciousness… and that is exactly the type of understanding we need to cultivate!
The study of geography represents humanity’s future safety in a changing environment as well as an understanding of our history.
If you want a better grasp on world history, you should start by digging into geography!
A geography program of study promises career stability full of excitement and engagement as well as an understanding of global ecological systems and how we humans impact them.
For better or worse…
Why wait? Learn more about what geography courses can do for you and for our world!