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Old Wednesday, December 13, 2006
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Naseer Ahmed Chandio Naseer Ahmed Chandio is offline
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Arrow Geography an overview


Geography is the study of the Earth and its features and of the distribution of life on the earth, including human life and the effects of human activity. Geography research addresses both the questions of where, as well as why, geographical phenomena occur. The word comes from the Greek words Ge (γη) or Gaea (γpenisαια), both meaning "Earth", and graphein (γραφειν), meaning "to describe" or "to write".
Because place matters for a variety of topics, including economics, health, climate, plants and animals, geography is highly interdisciplinary. Geography draws upon and contributes to numerous other knowledge disciplines. Geography is broadly divided into human geography and physical geography, with subfields of including economic geography, political geography, urban geography, biogeography, geomorphology, coastal geography.
With advances in computer technology, the analytical and spatial data management tools available to geographers, including Geographic Information Systems and spatial data analysis, are now allowing geographers far more rigorous, quantitative analyses of spatial phenomena. Though the qualitative approach to geography remains important, with ethnography and other methodologies used to investigate theories of spatial phenomena.
History of geography

The Greeks are the first known culture to actively explore geography as a science and philosophy. Mapping by the Romans as they explored new lands added new techniques. During the Middle Ages, Arabs such as Idrisi, Ibn Batutta, and Ibn Khaldun maintained the Greek and Roman techniques and developed new ones.
Following the journeys of Marco Polo, interest in geography spread throughout Europe. The great voyages of exploration in the 16th and 17th centuries revived a desire for both accurate geographic detail, and more solid theoretical foundations. This period is also known as Great Geographical Discoveries. By the 18th century, geography had become recognized as a discrete discipline and became part of a typical university curriculum in Europe (especially Paris and Berlin).
Over the past two centuries the quantity of knowledge and the number of tools exploded. There are strong links between geography and the sciences of geology and botany, as well as economics, sociology and demographics. In the West during the 20th century, the discipline of geography went through four major phases: environmental determinism, regional geography, the quantitative revolution, and critical geography.
Physical geography

Physical geography (or physiogeography) focuses on geography as an Earth science. It aims to understand the physical features of the Earth, its lithosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere, pedosphere and global flora and fauna patterns (biosphere). Physical Geography can be divided into the following broad categories:Human geography

Human geography is a branch of geography that focuses on the study of patterns and processes that shape human interaction with various environments. It encompasses human, political, cultural, social, and economic aspects. While the major focus of human geography is not the physical landscape of the Earth (see physical geography), it is hardly possible to discuss human geography without referring to the physical landscape on which human activities are being played out, and environmental geography is emerging as a link between the two.
Human geography can be divided into many broad categories, such as:* Distinction between these fields of study have become increasingly blurred over time and the above list should not be considered definitive.
Related topics: Countries of the world - Country - Nation - State - Personal union - Province - County - City - Municipality - Central place theory - Urban morphology
Socio-environmental geography

During the time of environmental determinism, geography was defined not as the study of spatial relationships, but as the study of how humans and the natural environment interact. Though environmental determinism has lost support, there remains a strong tradition of geographers addressing the relationships between people and nature. There are two main subfields of socio-environmental geography:
  • Cultural and Political ecology (CAPE): Cultural ecology grew out of the work of Carl Sauer in geography and a similar school of thought in anthropology. It examined how human societies adapt themselves to the natural environment. Sustainability science has been one important outgrowth of this tradition. Political ecology arose when some geographers used aspects of critical geography to look at relations of power and how they affect people's use of the environment. For example, an influential study by Michael Watts argued that famines in the Sahel are caused by the changes in the region's political and economic system as a result of colonialism and the spread of capitalism.
Related fields

Urban, regional and spatial planning

Urban planning, regional planning and spatial planning use the science of geography to assist in determining how to develop (or not develop) the land to meet particular criteria, such as safety, beauty, economic opportunities, the preservation of the built or natural heritage, and so on. The planning of towns, cities and rural areas may be seen as applied geography although it also draws heavily upon engineering, the arts, the sciences, lessons of history, and politics. Some of the issues facing planning are considered briefly under the headings of rural exodus, urban exodus and smart growth.
Regional science

In the 1950s the regional science movement led by Walter Isard arose, to provide a more quantitative and analytical base to geographical questions, in contrast to the descriptive tendencies of traditional geography programs. Regional science comprises the body of knowledge in which the spatial dimension plays a fundamental role, such as regional economics, resource management, location theory, urban and regional planning, transport and communication, human geography, population distribution, landscape ecology, and environmental quality.
Geographical techniques

As spatial interrelationships are key to this synoptic science, maps are a key tool. Classical cartography has been joined by a more modern approach to geographical analysis, computer-based geographic information systems (GIS).
  • Cartography studies the representation of the Earth's surface with abstract symbols (map making). Although other subdisciplines of geography rely on maps for presenting their analyses, the actual making of maps is abstract enough to be regarded separately. Cartography has grown from a collection of drafting techniques into an actual science. Cartographers must learn cognitive psychology and ergonomics to understand which symbols convey information about the Earth most effectively, and behavioral psychology to induce the readers of their maps to act on the information. They must learn geodesy and fairly advanced mathematics to understand how the shape of the Earth affects the distortion of map symbols projected onto a flat surface for viewing. It can be said, without much controversy, that cartography is the seed from which the larger field of geography grew. Most geographers will cite a childhood fascination with maps as an early sign they would end up in the field.
  • Geographic information systems (GIS) deal with the storage of information about the Earth for automatic retrieval by a computer, in an accurate manner appropriate to the information's purpose. In addition to all of the other subdisciplines of geography, GIS specialists must understand computer science and database systems. GIS has revolutionized the field of cartography; nearly all mapmaking is now done with the assistance of some form of GIS software.
In their study, geographers use four interrelated approaches:
  • Systematic - Groups geographical knowledge into categories that can be explored globally.
  • Regional - Examines systematic relationships between categories for a specific region or location on the planet.
  • Descriptive - Simply specifies the locations of features and populations.
  • Analytical - Asks why we find features and populations in a specific geographic area.
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[Naseer Ahmed Chandio]
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