World Regional Geography

This document was last updated on 11 April 2001. (Ver. 1.6)

What is Geography?
By the year 2000, planet Earth will be more crowded, the environment more threatened, natural resources more depleted, the global economy more competitive, world events more interconnected. As the winds of change blow ever stronger across the face of the globe, are we, are our children ready to deal with the world of the future? What skills will we need? What tools, what perspectives? (GEOGRAPHY FOR LIFE video, NGS, Nov. 1995)

Geography is NOT a collection of arcane information. Rather, it is the study of spatial aspects of human existence. People everywhere need to know about the nature of their world and their place in it. Geography has much more to do with asking questions and solving problems than it does with rote memorization of isolated facts. Geography is an integrative discipline that brings together the physical and human dimensions of the world in the study of people, places, and environments. Its subject matter is Earth's surface and the processes that shape it, the relationships between people and environments, and the connections between peoples and places. (GEOGRAPHY FOR LIFE video, NGS, Nov. 1995)

...geography must be seen as a discipline that deals with the sorts of questions,
problems, and confusions that face all of us every day, and in every place.
Geography is a discipline that truely is for life... for solutions to contemporary problems,
for intellectual satisfaction, and for old-fashioned curiosity.
(Salter, Forward to Geography for Educators)

Why Geography?
For example, to know that Mt. Everest is the highest mountain in the world is to know only a part of its whole story. Geography encourages us to seek a broader understanding. Why is Everest the highest mountain? How does its location as part of the Himalayas effect the Indian subcontinent? What role does the mountain play in flooding? In the access to water resources? In the political conflicts of the region? (GEOGRAPHY FOR LIFE video, NGS, Nov. 1995)

Millions of years ago, the Himalayas were created from a sea when the Indian subcontinent crashed into Eurasia. Uplifting, folding, weathering and erosion continue. These processes have impacts throughout the northern Indian subcontinent. That region's major rivers, the Ganges, Brahmaputra and Indus, have their headwaters in the Himalayas. As Everest erodes, rich topsoil fertilizes flood plains, providing rich farm lands for millions of people. (GEOGRAPHY FOR LIFE video, NGS, Nov. 1995)

But there is a downside. Flooding caused by monsoon rains has been aggravated by the loss of topsoil, a result of deforestation and farming practices. These upstream - downstream connections spur political tensions among the countries that share the river system. To the geographer, Everest is more than a towering peak of rock and ice. It is the ecological nerve center of the Indian subcontinent. It is a partner in an intricate dance of cause and effect between humans and their physical environment. (GEOGRAPHY FOR LIFE video, NGS, Nov. 1995)

The Existential Reason
In 1977, the U.S. spacecraft Voyager I set out on its epic journey to the outer solar system and beyond. When it had passed the most distant planet, its camera was turned back to photograph the solar system. Purely by chance, the camera recorded a pale blue dot in the vastness of space. Every human who has ever lived has lived on that blue dot - Earth. Humans want to understand the intrinsic nature of their home. Geography enables them to understand where they are, literally and figuratively. (
Geography for Life, 1994)

The Ethical Reason
Earth will continue to whirl through space for untold millennia, but it is not certain that it will exist in a condition in which humans can thrive or even live. Earth is the only home that humans know or are likely to know. Life is fragile; humans are fragile. Geography provides knowledge of Earth's physical and human systems and of the interdependency of living things and physical environments. That knowledge, in turn, provides a basis for humans to cooperate in the best interests of our planet. (Geography for Life, 1994)

The Intellectual Reason
Geography captures the imagination. It stimulates curiosity about the world and world's diverse inhabitants and places, as well as about local, regional, and global issues. By understanding our place in the world, humans can overcome parochialism and ethnocentrism. Geography focuses attention on exciting and interesting things, on fascinating people and places, on things worth knowing because they are absorbing and because knowing about them lets himans make better - informed and, therefore, wiser decisions. (Geography for Life, 1994)

The Practical Reason
Geography has a utilitarian value in the modern world. As the interconnectedness of the world accelerates, the practical need for geographic knowledge becomes more critical. Imagine a doctor who treates diseases without understanding the environment in which the diseass thrive and spread, or a manufacturer who is ignorant of world markets and resources, or a postal worker who cannot distinguish Guinea from Guyana. With a strong grasp of geography, people are better equipped to solve issues at not only the local level but also the global level. (Geography for Life, 1994)

History of Geography
Orientation to Geography by Tom Martinson.

  • Personalities
    Important Dudes - Explorers & thinkers

    Important Women - Explorers & thinkers

    Important Geography Organization links will appear here
  • AAG -
  • AGS -
  • GENIP -
  • NCGE -
  • NGS -

  • The Frederick connection (getting personal)
    Charles Warnock Frederick indeed worked at the Naval Observatory, first as a 'computer' 1901-1902, then as assistant on the equatorial telescope 1902-1904, assistant astronomer in charge of the observatory at Tutuila, Samoa, 1904-1906, and assistant astronomer, 1906-1909. He then went on to teach at the Naval Academy. He's one of our family geneaologists - no other information is available at this time.

    Some Final Thoughts
    Individually and in small groups, teachers in the lunchroom and conference room often wonder 'How do Students Learn for Understanding?'. This is a fair question based on the public's critical nature towards public education, effeciency in numbers, and the growing call for stronger accountability among students and their teachers. What's a teacher to do? Tina Blythe puts it this way

    How do you learn to roller-skate? Certainly not by reading instructions and watching others,
    although these actions may help. Most centrally, you learn by skating--
    and if you are a good learner, by thoughtful skating:
    you pay attention to what you are doing, capitalize on your strengths,
    and work on your weaknesses. (Blythe, Pg. 14)

    Likewise, one learns about geography by doing geography. On these pages are ways in what students, teachers, parents and the general public can 'do geography'. It is an important discipline for numerous reasons cited here. Without geography, where are you? Give us the tools to do the job, and tomorrow we conquer the world.

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