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Friday, January 1, 2016

The five basic themes in geography - Geography and World History

Modern geography focuses on five basic themes, or topics: location, place, human-environment interaction, movement, and regions. Each of these five basic themes helps to clarify the relationship between the world's physical landscape and its human occupants. These relationships, of course, have a time span as well as a spatial context.

The Five Basic Themes in Geography

1- Location
2- Place
3- Human-Environment Interaction
4- Movement 
5- Regions 

Location. The first theme, location, has two aspects. Absolute location deals with the exact, or precise, spot on Earth that a place occupies. Relative location, on the other hand, describes the position of a particular place in relation to other places.

The latitude and longitude of a place best describes its absolute location. To calculate latitude and longitude, geographers use a grid formed by a series of imaginary lines drawn around Earth. (See globe on this page.) The equator, an imaginary line that circles Earth halfway between the North and South Poles, divides Earth into two halves, or hemispheres. Geographers call these hemispheres the Northern Hemisphere and the Southern Hemisphere. Several shorter imaginary lines called parallels, or lines of latitude, circle Earth, parallel to the equator.

Geographers identify the parallels through a special numbering system based on degrees. In the Northern Hemisphere, the parallels number from zero degrees (0°) at the equator to ninety degrees north (90°N) at the North Pole. Similarly, in the Southern Hemisphere, they run from 0° at the equator to 90° S at the South Pole.

Another set of imaginary lines called meridians, or lines of longitude is used to measure Earth east and west. The prime meridian which runs from pole to pole through the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, England serves as 0° longitude. The meridian directly opposite the prime meridian, on the other side of the globe, is the 180° meridian. The prime meridian and the 180° meridian together divide Earth into the Eastern and Western Hemispheres. The Eastern Hemisphere is the half of Earth that extends east of the prime meridian to the 180° meridian. The Western Hemisphere is the half of Earth west of the prime meridian to the 180° meridian.

Together, parallels and meridians form an imaginary grid over Earth. Since each degree of latitude and longitude can be broken into 60' (60 minutes), and each minute can be broken into 60" (60 seconds), the grid fixes the precise location of any place on Earth's surface. For example, the absolute location of Santa Fe, New Mexico, is 35°41' north and 105°57' west. No other place on Earth is located at exactly this same place.

The relative location of a place is often described in terms of direction and distance from another place. Santa Fe's relative location, for example, might be expressed as 58 miles northeast of Albuquerque. Other ways of describing relative location include nearness to resources and accessibility to trade routes.

Place. Place has to do with a location's physical and human characteristics. Every location on Earth has its own unique, or distinctive, physical and human characteristics. Physical characteristics include the shape of the land, climate, soils, vegetation, and animal life. Land use, street layout, architecture, and population distribution are a location's human characteristics. Physically, Santa Fe is in the foothills of the southern Rocky Mountains. Its human characteristics include its traditional Pueblo and Spanish architecture. Together, the physical and human characteristics make up a location's place identity. This identity changes through time and is therefore very important to an understanding of history.

Human-Environment Interaction. Throughout time, people have adapted their way of life to accommodate to their environment. For example, people who live in hot, dry climates such as in Sante Fe and other parts of the American Southwest have built houses of adobe, or sun-dried clay bricks. Even in extreme heat, the adobe helps to keep the house cool.

People also have made changes to their physical environment. For instance, they have cleared forests, dug irrigation ditches, and built huge cities. Geographers consider all the ways in which people interact with their natural environment.

The theme of human-environment interaction is of great importance to historians, for it concerns not only the ways in which people interact with their physical surroundings but also the consequences of such interactions. For example, the decision to mine and use fossil fuels to produce energy had the negative consequence of polluting the environment. This consequence, in turn, gave rise to people acting together to protect their environment. Such actions are of great interest to historians.

Movement. The fourth theme of modern geography, movement, concerns the interactions of people with one another as they travel, communicate, and exchange goods and services on a worldwide basis. Through much of its history, for example, Santa Fe has been a trading center for ranchers, farmers, and American Indians. Movement also includes an examination of the spread of ideas and the great human migrations that have occurred through the centuries two vital issues in the study of history.

Regions. In order to better study and understand Earth, geographers think of it in units called regions. A region is an area having a specific characteristic or characteristics. The characterisics used to define a region may be physical features such as climate, vegetation, and landforms, or they may be cultural features such as a dominant religion or language. The particular features that characterize a region set it apart from other regions. Since there are different kinds of regions, any given area might be part of several regions. For example, Sante Fe is the state capital of New Mexico (a political region), at the foot of the Sangre de Cristo Range of the Rocky Mountains (a climate region), and it has a large Spanish-American population (a cultural region).


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