Uses of Geography

Posted on Posted in Columns, GeographyAwareness

Time to wrap it all up with Element 6: The Uses of Geography. That’s right it is the last day people and it is time to consider how we can apply Geography and spatial thinking to help us understand what has happened in the past, what is happening around us now, and how we can use that information to plan for the future.

Standard 17 – How to Apply Geography to Interpret the Past, is the standard that is closest to my own background and the research that I work on. Historical Geography is a subdiscipline of Geography that focuses on understanding how people in the past created and modified the cultural landscapes around them, as well as identifying and interpreting the spatial aspects of historical events and processes. Within the last decade, a number of geographers and historians have begun to develop the subfield of Historical GIS, which utilizes GIS as a tool in understanding historical problems.

However, Geography can also be a powerful conceptual framework for understanding the present, as Standard 18 – How to Apply Geography to Interpret the Present and Plan for the Future, is trying to highlight. Geographers work on problems and issues in a wide range of topics from urban planning, to social and community issues, to hazards research. In each case, understanding how people utilize and inhabit space and place, as well as understanding their interactions with the physical environment around them, helps us to develop interpretations of these processes. Taking these interpretations a step further, we can actually begin to develop long-range models and plans to help us meet future challenges, such as global warming, population pressures, pollution, and disaster planning.

Hopefully you have taken some time to consider these 6 elements and 18 standards during this Geography Awareness Week. From our overviews and the materials available from National Geographic and the NCGE you hopefully have an idea of how these standards might impact Geography education in K-12 and beyond to college and university. They can not only support education but to create a better prepared geospatial workforce.