What is Geography?

Geography is the study of the earth and how human activity affects and is affected by it. The subject is infinitely broad and cuts across many study fields to heighten awareness of how the many aspects of our life on this planet are connected.

Geographers examine the connections that bind us to each other, to the land and to other species. By deepening our understanding of these connections, geography enriches us and imbues us with greater empathy, appreciation and respect for other living beings, places, and ideas. Place, location and connection are central themes to the study of geography. Geographers analyze spatial data to reveal the physical and cultural processes that underlie them. We recognize that place is not a neutral entity but that it actively shapes our lives, and that we in turn shape place to reflect our values and world views.

Branches of Geography

A traditional distinction in the study of geography is between human and physical geography, though the two are actually inextricably related. The introductory course at Vanier introduces both subfields to the intrepid geographer. From there, students can choose courses that focus on the physical realm to cover issues related to climate change, biogeography, geomorphology or the environment, and/or on the human realm to tackle the challenges of global population growth, development, urbanization, globalization, social justice and cultural survival.

Where and Why

These words are central to geography. Ultimately, all courses emphasize the connections between the physical and human realms at the local and global scales. How, for example, do pollutants generated in China come to rain down on Vancouver? How does drought in the African Sahel affect European politics? What is the relationship between the accelerating extinction of animal species and the extraordinary growth of the human population? How does green space affect our psychological well-being? How was the destruction unleashed by hurricane Katrina related to human activity and decision-making? How do tourists from rich nations impact residents of developing countries? What is the relationship between resource exploitation and the health and welfare of indigenous communities?

It is the holistic approach to the study of the earth and its inhabitants that renders geography a central pillar of the Social Sciences.

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