Geography is the spatial study of the earth’s surface. The dynamic discipline of geography bridges the social sciences with the physical sciences. Geography’s spatial nature can be illustrated by the creation of maps as an important means of communicating information. Human geography and physical geography are the two main fields of the discipline. GPS, GIS, and remote sensing are tools geographers use to spatially study a location or the physical or cultural landscape.
Geographers divide the earth into a geometric grid to provide location references to places on its surface. Human activity is orientated around the grid system to provide time zones, navigation, and the organization of communication systems. Climate and seasonal changes can be tracked using this grid system of longitude and latitude.
Regions are the basic units of geographic study. World geography divides the world into sets of regions called realms that are used as comparison studies regarding human and physical landscapes and activities. Climate regions or zones are helpful in understanding the earth’s environmental conditions. Historically, human activity has been strongly affected by the variation in climates. Type C climates have generally attracted large human populations.
The relationship between the environment and human activity is an important component of geography. The movement of tectonic plates sometimes causes earthquakes and volcanic activity, which affects human activity. The rain shadow effect can also impact where and how humans live. Human activity contributes to environmental problems such as deforestation, which impacts the environment through the loss of habitats, soil erosion, and possibly climate change.
The human population continues to increase. The earth’s carrying capacity for humans is debatable, but the impact that humans have on the planet is undeniably extensive. Some factors and conditions encourage high population growth, while others discourage population growth. Migration, rural-to-urban shift, and urbanization are related to changes in population. As population increases, the number of languages continues to decrease—an example of the impact of globalization.
European colonialism created a major wave of globalization that extended up until about the time of World War II. After the Cold War ended, a second wave of globalization was fueled by the information age and the introduction of new communication and transportation technologies. Concepts such as labor and resources, opportunity and advantage, or haves and have-nots can help explain the dynamics of globalization.
The core-periphery spatial relationship helps explain how human economic activity is organized around either an urban core or a rural periphery. The methods countries use to gain national income are a means to understand the ways in which economic activity is categorized and explained. The index of economic development is a model relating to the stages a country may transition through to reach a postindustrial development level. All these concepts, models, and theories are tools used to understand the human activities that are elements of the globalization process.