Department of Earth and Geographical Science

by

George Sekkes

 

 

Introducing Geography

 

Geography is the study of the world and all that are in it. Its peoples, its land, air,  water, plants and animals. When someone is investigating the world and its events, you are dealing with geography. As you move through space in your everyday life you are observing and interacting with geography and making geographic decisions based on those encounters or events. You may not be aware of it, but you are involved in geographic inquiry. So let me first explain  to you what is a geographic inquiry?

 

            1. Ask geographic questions.

            2. Acquire geographic resources

            3. Explore geographic data.

            4. Analyze geographic information.

            5. Act upon geographic knowledge.

 

1.Ask geographic questions: Think about a topic or place and identify something interesting or significant about it. Spin that observation in the form of a question such as “How do the type of  businesses change as we move along this street?” or “What does it matter if that whole area is cleared of trees?” By turning the interesting observation into a question, you can focus the exploration.

 

2.Acquire geographic resources: Once you have the question, you can think about the information needed to answer it. Here, it’s helpful to consider at least three aspects of the issue: location, time and subject. For example the population of Cyprus.

Today, the explosion of technology and rise of the internet has made it much easier to acquire information in wide range of formats and very easily. After what you have been obtain you may need to look at what is still missing and decide if you can answer your question. Even if you are missing some desired data, you may still be able to answer your initial question by exploring your data carefully.

 

3.Turn the data into graphs, maps, photos, satellite images and tables. Maps are especially valuable because they give you a powerful view of patterns of how things are in the real world on a piece of paper.

 

4.Analyze geographic information: Focus on the information and maps that most seem to answer your questions. Using carefully constructed queries (questions), you can expose patterns that had lain hidden during initial explorations. Focus on relationships between layers of information. Key on the deeper questions “Why is it there?” and “So what?” see if some predictions can be made. After all that research, at this point you may be able to conclude your theme and be able to have your answer to your question. Sometimes you don’t have the information you need to answer the question – that’s ok. The important thing is that now you understand the issue better than before and you have drawn some conclusions from your research, turning pieces of data into a geographic knowledge.

 

5.Act upon geographic knowledge: You have used variety of techniques to integrate and analyze data from multiple sources in order to become knowledgable to something. Being geographically wise means acting on the geographic knowledge that you have gained. Good citizens of the community and decision makers for the planet need to act according to an integrated understanding of the relationships between human and physical factors that exist on this planet called earth.

 

 

Geography is concern with locational arrangement or patterns of phenomena. The distribution of these phenomena are not random, meaning that phenomena did not choose to located there, but everything has a reason for being located where it is. In nearly all cases, the distribution of one type of thing is influenced by the presence or distribution of other things. For example: factors such as climate, landforms, patterns of transportation routes and the availability of housing and employment, influence human population distributions.

Some other factors such as the availability of solar energy or insolation, proximity to water bodies, altitude, climate and so on, geographers try to examine the causes for the distributions of such phenomena because there are not controlled by human beings. Therefore the systematic study of these interrelationships, how physical phenomena interact with humans, has therefore became a focus of geographic research. The geographer’s goal is to put enough pieces of knowledge about the earth and the universe in their proper locational settings in order to find conclusions and justifications on how these interrelationships occur.

 

The phenomena that can be studied geographically including not only physical objects like coasts, rivers, earthquakes, vegetation but also human features that deals with those subjects whose distributional patterns are largely or entirely controlled by people. Topics such as patterns of population, agricultural, industrial activities, urban areas, political, economic and so on.

 

At the most general level, the field of Geography today is divided into four main branches or categories:

 

  1. Physical Geography
  2. Human Geography
  3. Environmental Geography
  4. Geographical Information Systems – GIS

 

Physical Geography: This category seeks to give students a better understanding of the natural environment. The natural aspects of the human living environment. Learning about our natural environment and the process that govern it, is the major function of physical geography. It is therefore concerned with locational aspects of natural earth phenomena, which are NOT produced or primarily controlled by human beings. Phenomena such as hurricanes, climate, tornados, thunderstorms, rivers, coasts, hydrological cycle and so on.

The Physical environment can be classified in numerous ways, but one of the most commonly used classifications is that it breaks it into four interrelated spheres:

a.       Lithosphere or Geomorphology.

b.      Atmosphere or Climatology.

c.       Biosphere or Biogeography.

d.      Hydrosphere or Oceanography.

 

These four basic elements of the natural world can be further subdivided. The lithosphere, for example is the study of the earth’s landscape formation, variety of soils and variety of rocks that are typically classified according to their modes of formation. The atmosphere that tends to explain variety of climates distribution and classification. The biosphere which examines the plants and animals and last the hydrosphere which is the study of the oceans, seas and in general the water.

 

Human Geography: it deals with those subjects whose distributional patterns are largely or entirely controlled by people. Its emphasis is on people, where they are and what they are like. Human geography, it help us to understand the world we occupy and to appreciate the circumstances such as development that affecting peoples and nations. Its models and explanations of spatial interaction allow us to better comprehend the economic, social and political systems within we all, singly and collectively live and operate. Our study of human geography, therefore, can help make us better informed citizens, more able to understand the important issues facing our communities and our countries and better prepared to contribute to their solution.

Subjects including, population, agricultural and industrial activities, urban areas, managing resources, development and so on. In order to understand each topic better, human geography is divided into the following  sub-categotries:

 

Economic Geography – is the study of how people earn their living, how economic systems (subsistence, commercial and planned economies) vary by area and how economic activities (primary, secondary, tertiary, quaternary and quinary) are inter-realated and linked.

 

Urban and Planning Geography – it deals with generalized models of urban growth and land use patterns in order to show how humans have been developed urban areas where people work and live.

 

Political Geography – is the study of political actions on society and culture. As a branch of human geography, political geography traditionally has had a primary interest in country’s states. The definitions of a state, country and nation must be clarified. Geographers also, have been examine and distinguished between “natural” and “artificial” boundaries.

  

Cultural Geography – is the specialized behavioral patterns, understandings and social systems that summarize a group of people’s learned way of life.

 

Regional Geography – since Geography is a spatial science that attempts to explain and define these places around the world, Geographers distinguishes them in order to present information and to make the world around us understandable and to simplifying the earth.

Regional geography it deals with the earth’s areas that display significant elements of internal uniformity, physical or human and external difference from surrounding territories, physical or human. Elements such as language, religion, population color, landform classification, climate and so on.

 

A basic understanding of physical patterns however is important to the human geographer because the earth’s physical environment affects all human activities.

In reality the interaction of earth phenomena, both physical and human, produces a great deal in today’s life. Today, human lives are depending on these resources in order to make our living conditions better. For example: Oil, medical drugs that are produced from variety of plants and animals, gold, rubber, water and so on.

Geography then, is both a physical and a social science and one of the geographer’s chief goals is to emphasize the interconnections among the two groups of phenomena.  

 

Environmental Geography: The term environment is used in many ways. The central theme of the term environment basically it deals with issues that arise from the physical environment, which is made up of the living (biotic) and non-living (abiotic) things and conditions that characterize the world around us.

Environmental Geography explains how people interact with the physical environment and describe those human conditions in certain places at particular times why conflict has arisen between human activity and the natural world. The interactions between humankind and the physical environment result from our attempts to satisfy our needs and wants. The specific actions that cause environmental issues directly are well known. They include such things as modifying natural distributions of vegetation and animals, overusing soils, polluting water and air, and the growth in the global population of human beings.

Professionally speaking, environmental geography deals for those people who believe that, our planet earth is in danger. Since humans created bow and arrow, so can protected and allow them to produce more food, when humans create a new technology that gives them greater control over the environment, gives them the ability to produce more goods as a result the carrying capacity (land as well as activity environment or resources that humans use) will no longer hold on to it. The humans can not understand that the carrying capacity would have a limit. Humans have been able to increase carrying capacity because of the development of new technological improvements that make our lives easier. Humans create technology to reduce the environment and increase population growth. Between 1650 up to 1850, population growth doubled within 2000 years of time. Between 1850 – 1930 population doubled and that took only 80 years to achieve. 1930 – 1975 again the population doubled within 45 years of time. In the MEDC (More Economically Developed Countries) families have an average of two children, by the year 2020, population will increase by 1.3 billion people. In the LEDC (Less Economically Developed Countries) population by the year 2020 will increase by 5.6 billion.

 

Thomas Malthus who was the first economist who predicted the end of the world based on a theory or its idea of overpopulation. Neo Malthusian Theory explains that, as the population is increasing geometrically 2-4-8-16-32-64-128 and resources increasing arithmetically 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10 someday in the near future it will be a tragedy. As this human irruption continues, the earth’s carrying capacity (maximum amount of people, earth can afford to have) will be exceeded so the resources will no longer be available. Resources will not be enough to satisfy human needs and wants and in the worst case scenario it will be the end of the world through famine and conflict.

Developments in technology have been closely associated with population growth. New technological innovations such as:

  1. Hunting & Gathering – use of fire, tool making, spear & thrower, bow & arrow.
  2. Horticultural – cultivation of plants, metallurgy.
  3. Agrarian – iron tools, plow (large farming tool for breaking and turning soil)
  4. Industrial – fossil fueled (coal or oil burned to produced power or heat) machinery, antiseptics (preventing diseases) surgeries.

All the above enabled humans to do things on a scale never before possible.  New large elaborate tools could now be made. Products of farm and factories could now be transported in large quantities for greater distances in order to make humans live, accelerate and expand.

 

A new “Ecological Understanding” or new idea regarding the classification of people who live around the world have been introduced from the environmentalists. Therefore, they have divided human beings into five main categories:

  1. Realists or Realism, those people who believe that there is a problem and we must change our way of thinking.
  2. Cargoists or Cargoism, those who also believe that we have a problem but technology will solve it.
  3. Cosmeticists or Cosmeticism, those who are hopeful because we recycle and that, governments authorized and input in effect anti-pollution and other environmental laws.
  4. Cynicists or Cynicism, those who believe that, either old ideas or new ideas won’t matter. No solution to the circumstance.
  5. Ostritch or Ostritism, those people who think that, there is no problem at all. Our word is functioning great and it will remain the same.

 

Environmental Geography also suggests that the pre-ecological paradigm can not remain in effect. We must change the paradigm that we had created in recent centuries, by completing a new set of paradigms, as logical paradigms which can acknowledge how the actions of human being have been take the ability of destroy the world of future generation. Also we must learn to live with in the limits, in progress by nature (Sustainable Development) and make it possible to live in the carrying capacity of the future.

System must be replaced by new ecological paradigms in which we realize and acknowledge that we are part of a community that what ever we do has a possibility destroying all the rest of the planet and it is not until we change our values, attitudes our concepts, our hopes so can survive and keep the world alive.

 

Every time humans creating a new technology that gives them greater control over the environment, it gives them the ability to produce more goods, providing in many cases a “competitive exclusion” among the people, ending up with the two of them or more to competing for the same thing. Sometimes this can bring unexpected consequences such as conflicts that have the ability to destroy the environment which humans live, even more.

 

World faced the above fact many times in the past. Even today many countries around the world competing in order to obtain something. We have seen at the second world war, that Hitler smartly was getting other countries resources in order to produce more weapons, so Germany to became the empire country of the world. Today Iran is trying to put into implementation a nuclear power station that will use for  producing more efficient and cheap electricity. Other countries don’t approve this to be happen because they believe that the nuclear station will be use in order to produce weapons of mass desruction and put in danger civilian human lives all around the world.

 

Rachel Carson was a marine biologist and author. On her book “Silent Spring” mentioned how human beings have been destroy nature. She wrote that during World War II, chemicals (pesticides) developed to kill the mosquitoes which were spread the yellow fever. These chemicals on the other hand had a result to kill song-birds, eagles, butterflies, fish as well as other species. Also, that chemical had a tremendous effect in ground water and land, they got poisoned.

 

She was the first woman who wrote at her book “Silent Spring” that there is a possibility for extinction on humans by a nuclear war. It is obvious that many countries around the world today are producing weapons of mass destruction. Weapons that have the capability to kill human lives and can destroy completely one country. There is so much competition among countries today and that there is a possibility that one day it might be happen to use these weapons of mass destruction. Result will be catastrophic for all of us.

 

Pollution moves across national boundaries. The hole in the ozone layer was first detected over Antarctica, but was not created there. The cause of much of the damage to trees in Scandinavia by acid rain can be traced back to the emissions from power stations that exist in other countries. Global warming is a world-wide problem and effective controls need international agreement.

Today many environmental organizations around the world as well as politicians and individuals are trying with variety of methods, treaties and summits to sign agreements among the most industrialist countries to eliminate or cut emissions of carbon dioxide, in order to protect and preserve the earth for the years to come. This basically can be achived when people meet their own needs without damaging the environment (Sustainable Development). By looking the earth now, future generations will also be able to meet their own needs for food, shelter, clothing and recreation.

 

Geographical Information Systems – GIS:

 

A Geographic Information System – GIS is a computer system hardware, software, geographic data and personnel design to efficiently capturing, storing, querying, analyzing and displaying all forms of geographic data. It let you visualize information in new ways. Many people in a wide range of fields are using desktop GIS to find potential customers, locate the best place for new business or other facilities, identify natural areas needing protection, find the best places to develop real estate, mange extensive road networks, inventory forest lands, do emergency planning in Urban areas and many more.

GIS is divided into the following four components:

  1. Computer System: The computer system includes the computer and the operating system that will allow running GIS. Typically the choices are PCs that use the Windows XP, Windows 2000 and Windows NT. Other than that workstations that use the UNIX operating system can allow GIS to run. Additional equipment may include monitors for viewing, digitizers and scanners for spatial data input, printers and plotters for hard copy data display.
  2. GIS Software: The GIS software includes the program and the user interface for driving the hardware. Most common software is the Environmental Systems Research Institute -  ESRI’s software called ArcGIS which is complete GIS software for everyone.
  3. Brainware: The brainware refers to the people who manage the system and develop plans for applying it to the real world problems. GIS users range from technical specialists who design and maintain the system to those who use it to perform every day work.
  4. Infrastructure: The Infrastructure refers to the necessary data standards or Geographic data, which without them it will be impossible to operate the software.

 

GIS represents the real world on a computer similar to the way maps represent the real world on paper. It develops high quality maps and charts. There are two models that allow as to represent Geographic data, these are: Vector Data and Raster Data.

In the Vector data, information about points, lines and polygons (arcs) is encoded and stored as a collection of x, y coordinates to represent spatial feature or topology to a specific object. A line may represent a road, a stream or an administrative boundary, bridges.  A point might represent schools, churches, train stations, City Hall and an area may represent a vegetand land, a water body, forests, parks and other.

Raster data model is variously called an image or grid. Grid consists of rows, columns and cells (pixels). It might be a photo from a satellite also called orthophotos, might be an aerial photo, or a scanned picture.

With GIS, analysts can be able to map where things are. Mapping where things are lets you find places that have the features you're looking for, and to see where to take action. Find a feature—People use maps to see where or what an individual feature is. Finding patterns—Looking at the distribution of features on the map instead of just an individual feature. GIS allow to develop Map densities. While you can see concentrations by simply mapping the locations of features, in areas with many features it may be difficult to see which areas have a higher concentration than others. A density map lets you measure the number of features using a uniform areal unit, such as acres or square miles, so you can clearly see the distribution. Mapping density is especially useful when mapping areas, such as census tracts or counties, which vary greatly in size. On maps showing the number of people per census tract, the larger tracts might have more people than smaller ones. But some smaller tracts might have more people per square mile—a higher density.

ESRI – Environmental Systems Research Institute. A research organization founded in 1969 in order to develop new methods for managing geographic information. It is the brain of GIS. Because it provides the software, data automation and consulting services to thousands of GIS users around the World. ESRI set the stage for the revolution in automated mapping that we see today.

ArcView is a complete desktop GIS package, with tools for mapping, analysis, data editing, and map publishing. ArcView is available for both Windows and Macintosh computers. ArcView can classify and symbolize shapefiles, integrate a wide array of imagery, project on-the-fly shapefiles stored in decimal degrees, and use data distributed over the Internet from ArcIMS servers. In addition, ArcView provides tools for creating/editing data, creating graphs/charts, and performing statistical and spatial analysis. Arc View software is equipped with the ArcView extensions provide specialized tools for more sophisticated GIS analysis or to enhance ArcView’s map-making capabilities. The extensions most commonly used in the classroom are Spatial Analyst and 3D Analyst. Additional extensions are available from ESRI Business Partners.

Core Areas of GIS – The scope of Geographical Information Science:

 

  1. Cartography – Science of making MAPS.
  2. Photogrametry – MAPS making from satellite images or orthophotos.
  3. Remote Sensing – is the contact regarding information from the visible and microwave regions of the electromagnetic spectrum which means instruments such as printers and cameras located on mobile platforms such as aircraft or spacecraft and the analysis of acquired information by means photos and other images.
  4. GIS – stack of layers representing all types of geographic data.
  5. Surveying – Global Positioning Systems.

 

PC requirements in order to run ArcGIS:

 

PC Pentium Processor with CPU 3.0 or higher

512 RAM or higher

Disk Space should be 40GB and higher

1024 X 768 VGA Video Graphics Adapter with true color

Windows 7, Vista, Windows XP, Windows NT, Windows 2000

Pointing Device.

Microsoft Internet Explorer 6.0

DVD CD-ROM drive