Human Systems

We are back with day four of the Geography Standards which brings us to the humans. Element 4: Human Systems contains 5 standards on its own, which makes sense since the standards are focused on K-12 education, which includes Geography in Social Studies. This generally covers history, political and economic geography, and other humanities content. Here are the 5 standards of Element 4.

9) The Characteristics, Distribution, and Migration of Human Population on Earth’s Surface

10) The Characteristics, Distribution, and Complexity of Earth’s Cultural Mosaics

11) The Patterns and Networks of Economic Interdependence on Earth’s Surface

12) The Processes, Patterns, and Functions of Human Settlement

13) How the Forces of Cooperation and Conflict Among People Influence the Division and Control of Earth’s Surface

Quite a bit to go through in just one column so I am just going to touch on them briefly (and hopefully finish by the time we land in Chicago). Standard 9 is fairly broad and actually encompasses aspects of each of the other 4 standards in this element, especially with its focus on characteristics, distribution and migration of human populations. These processes play crucial roles in determining the cultural, social, economic and political make up of our world, where as Standard 10 begins to narrow it down a bit with a focus on cultures. How cultures are formed, the impact they have on how we live and interact, and the relationships between cultures are often thought of as the focus of Anthropology, but the spatial patterns and impacts of cultures are more important aspects of understanding our human species and are squarely within the realm of Geography.

One of my standard answers for “what is Geography” is to talk about it as a series of connections that go beyond location to show larger relationships that include spatial patterns of human and physical systems. Standard 11 focuses on those relationships as networks of economic interdependence. While this network has always been important, the trend towards globalization has brought it to the fore as we no longer have the weeks or months that it used to take to exchange goods over long distances. Instead we live in a world where information is exchanged in seconds and materials can make it around the world in a day or possibly even less.

Standards 12 and 13 are often interrelated. Standard 12’s focus on human settlement considers how and why people put down roots in places. Standard 13 looks at the interactions between groups that determine how the world is divided, primarily politically, but also culturally and economically. Where people settle often defines the boundaries and interactions between groups. While often these interactions lead to cooperation and positive benefits, in some cases, disputes arise due to conflicts in various beliefs.

This was definitely a dash through these 5 standards, but they truly do lay the basis for a lot of what is taught in middle schools and high schools in Social Studies classes in the US.

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Jesse is Instructor in Geography and a PhD candidate in Geography focusing on the integration of phenomenology and geospatial technologies to study prehistoric cultural landscape. He is a GIS Professional and Registered Professional Archaeologist and holds an MA in Geography and a BS in Anthropology with a concentration in archaeology.