Exploring the Two Types of Geography: A Comprehensive Guide

September 20, 2023 By cleverkidsedu

Have you ever wondered how geographers classify the world around us? There are two main types of geography that help us understand the planet we live on. These two types of geography are physical geography and human geography. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore each type in detail and see how they interact with each other. So, buckle up and get ready to embark on a journey to explore the world from a geographer’s perspective!

Understanding Geography: The Basics

Geography as a Discipline

Origins and Development

Geography as a discipline can trace its roots back to ancient civilizations such as the Greeks and the Chinese, who were among the first to study and document the natural and human phenomena that shape our world. The modern academic discipline of geography emerged in Europe during the 16th and 17th centuries, with the work of scholars such as Ptolemy, who produced influential maps and geographical treatises. Over time, geography has evolved to encompass a wide range of topics, from the study of physical environments and natural resources to the examination of human societies and cultures.

Subfields and Specializations

Geography is a diverse and interdisciplinary field, encompassing a wide range of subfields and specializations. Some of the key subfields of geography include:

  • Physical geography: which focuses on the study of natural environments, including landforms, climates, and ecosystems.
  • Human geography: which focuses on the study of human societies and cultures, including their spatial organization, economic activities, and political systems.
  • Regional geography: which focuses on the study of specific regions or areas, including their physical and human characteristics, as well as their historical and contemporary development.
  • Environmental geography: which focuses on the study of the interactions between humans and the natural environment, including issues related to sustainability, resource management, and environmental change.
  • Political geography: which focuses on the study of political systems, including their organization, power dynamics, and spatial distribution.
  • Economic geography: which focuses on the study of economic activities and processes, including trade, investment, and development.
  • Urban geography: which focuses on the study of cities and urban areas, including their spatial structure, social organization, and cultural dynamics.

These subfields and specializations are constantly evolving, as geographers continue to explore new topics and approaches to understanding the complex relationships between people and the environments in which they live.

Key Concepts and Theories

Space and Place

  • The study of geography focuses on the relationship between space and place.
  • Space refers to the physical environment, including natural features such as mountains, rivers, and climate.
  • Place refers to the human-made environment, including cultural features such as cities, buildings, and land use patterns.
  • Understanding the interplay between space and place is essential for understanding the dynamics of geography.

Environment and Society

  • Environment and society are closely intertwined in geography.
  • The environment affects society through factors such as climate, natural disasters, and resource availability.
  • Society, in turn, shapes the environment through human activities such as urbanization, industrialization, and land use changes.
  • Understanding the complex relationship between environment and society is critical for addressing issues such as sustainable development, environmental justice, and climate change.

Regional Systems and World-Systems

  • Regional systems and world-systems are two important theoretical frameworks in geography.
  • Regional systems focus on the study of specific regions, including their physical and human characteristics, spatial organization, and dynamics.
  • World-systems, on the other hand, examine the global economic, political, and cultural connections that shape the world.
  • Understanding these frameworks is essential for understanding the complex relationships between regions and the global system.

The Two Types of Geography: Physical and Human

Key takeaway: Geography is a diverse and interdisciplinary field that encompasses a wide range of subfields and specializations, including physical geography, human geography, regional geography, environmental geography, political geography, and economic geography. It examines the complex relationships between space and place, environment and society, and regional systems and world-systems. Understanding both physical and human geography is essential for addressing issues such as sustainable development, environmental justice, and climate change. Geography is a dynamic and ever-evolving field that requires a commitment to lifelong learning and collaboration with other experts in related fields.

Physical Geography

Description and Characteristics

Physical geography is a branch of geography that deals with the study of the natural environment and its processes. It examines the physical characteristics of the Earth’s surface, including landforms, climate, vegetation, water, and soil. Physical geography seeks to understand the interactions between these various components of the Earth’s system and how they impact one another.

Subfields and Applications

Physical geography is divided into several subfields, each with its own focus and applications. These subfields include:

  • Climatology: the study of climate and weather patterns
  • Hydrology: the study of water systems and resources
  • Geomorphology: the study of landforms and their evolution
  • Biogeography: the study of the distribution of plants and animals
  • Pedology: the study of soil formation and processes

Each of these subfields has important applications in fields such as natural resource management, environmental planning, and disaster mitigation.

Physical Processes and Systems

Physical geography is concerned with understanding the physical processes and systems that shape the Earth’s surface. These processes include plate tectonics, erosion, weathering, and sedimentation. Physical geographers also study the Earth’s natural resources, such as water, minerals, and energy sources, and how they are distributed and used by humans.

Climate, Vegetation, and Water

Climate, vegetation, and water are key components of the Earth’s physical environment. Physical geographers study the distribution and patterns of these elements across different regions of the world. For example, they might examine how climate varies across different latitudes or how vegetation changes with altitude. They might also study the water cycle and how it is influenced by factors such as climate and land use.

Landforms, Soil, and Geomorphology

Physical geography also involves the study of landforms and the processes that create them. This includes the study of mountains, valleys, plains, and other features of the Earth’s surface. Physical geographers also study soil formation and processes, including soil erosion and fertility. Geomorphology, the study of landforms and their evolution, is a key subfield of physical geography.

Overall, physical geography is a diverse and fascinating field that seeks to understand the physical processes and systems that shape the Earth’s surface. Its applications in fields such as natural resource management and environmental planning make it a vital discipline for understanding and managing our planet.

Human Geography

Human geography is a branch of geography that focuses on the study of human activities, relationships, and processes that shape and are shaped by the Earth’s surface. It examines how people interact with each other and the environment, and how these interactions shape the distribution of resources, power, and wealth.

Human geography has several subfields, including:

  • Cultural geography: the study of how culture influences human behavior and the distribution of cultural practices and beliefs.
  • Population geography: the study of population dynamics, including migration, fertility, and mortality.
  • Economic geography: the study of the distribution and organization of economic activities, including industries, markets, and globalization.
  • Political geography: the study of the organization of political power and authority, including states, borders, and governance.
  • Urban geography: the study of cities and urbanization, including urban planning, transportation, and land use.

These subfields have a wide range of applications in fields such as urban planning, transportation, public health, and environmental management.

Human Interactions with the Environment

Human geography examines how humans interact with the environment and how these interactions shape the Earth’s surface. This includes the study of land use and land cover change, resource use and management, and environmental impacts of human activities.

Settlement Patterns and Urbanization

Human geography also studies settlement patterns and urbanization, including the distribution of population, the size and growth of cities, and the spatial organization of urban areas. This includes the study of suburbanization, gentrification, and urban sprawl.

Political Organization of Space

Political geography is a subfield of human geography that examines the organization of political power and authority, including states, borders, and governance. This includes the study of political boundaries, nationalism, and global governance.

Economic Activity and Development

Economic geography is a subfield of human geography that examines the distribution and organization of economic activities, including industries, markets, and globalization. This includes the study of economic development, regional development, and globalization.

The Importance of Knowing the Two Types of Geography

Applications in Everyday Life

Travel and Tourism

Travel and tourism is one of the most significant industries worldwide, and understanding geography plays a crucial role in this sector. Knowing the location of various tourist destinations, the best routes to take, and the most efficient ways to get around can enhance the travel experience for both tourists and travel agents. Additionally, geographical knowledge can help in identifying potential tourist destinations that have not yet been discovered, which can lead to the development of new travel packages and promotions.

Environmental Conservation and Management

Geography plays a vital role in environmental conservation and management. Understanding the geographical features of an area, such as its topography, climate, and hydrology, can help in identifying areas that are most vulnerable to environmental degradation. This knowledge can be used to develop strategies for sustainable land use, conservation of natural resources, and mitigation of the impacts of human activities on the environment.

Disaster Preparedness and Response

Geography is also essential in disaster preparedness and response. Knowing the geographical features of an area, such as its topography, location, and proximity to natural hazards, can help in identifying potential risks and developing strategies for disaster preparedness and response. This knowledge can be used to develop early warning systems, evacuation plans, and emergency response procedures that can save lives and minimize the impacts of disasters.

Urban Planning and Design

Urban planning and design is another area where geography plays a critical role. Understanding the geographical features of an area, such as its topography, climate, and natural resources, can help in developing sustainable and livable urban environments. This knowledge can be used to design cities that are environmentally friendly, economically viable, and socially inclusive. Additionally, geographical knowledge can help in identifying areas that are most suitable for urban development, which can lead to the development of new urban centers and the expansion of existing ones.

Careers in Geography

Academia and Research

Geography as an academic discipline offers a variety of career opportunities in research and teaching. Many universities and colleges offer positions for geography professors and researchers who specialize in different areas of geography such as physical geography, human geography, GIS, and environmental studies. These professionals conduct research, publish scholarly articles, and teach courses on geography and related subjects.

Government and Public Sector

The government and public sector also offer various job opportunities for geographers. These professionals work for federal, state, and local government agencies, such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), and the Census Bureau. They use geographic information and analysis to inform policy decisions, plan infrastructure projects, and manage natural resources.

Private Industry and Consulting

Geographers are also employed in the private industry and consulting firms. These professionals use their knowledge of geography and GIS to help businesses and organizations make informed decisions. They analyze data, create maps, and develop spatial models to solve problems in areas such as marketing, logistics, and environmental management.

Non-Profit and NGO Work

Finally, geographers can also work for non-profit and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). These organizations focus on issues such as sustainable development, human rights, and environmental conservation. Geographers in these organizations use their skills to collect and analyze data, create maps and spatial models, and communicate their findings to policymakers and the public. They may also work on projects related to disaster response, humanitarian aid, and community development.

Common Misconceptions About the Two Types of Geography

Myth: Physical Geography is More Important than Human Geography

Debunking the Myth

Physical geography and human geography are two distinct but interconnected fields of study. While physical geography deals with the natural environment, including the Earth’s physical features, climate, and natural processes, human geography focuses on the human activity and how it affects the environment.

It is a common misconception that physical geography is more important than human geography. This belief may stem from the fact that physical geography is often more visible and tangible, as it deals with the Earth’s landscapes, climate, and natural resources. On the other hand, human geography can be less visible, as it deals with the complex interactions between humans and their environment.

However, it is important to understand that both physical and human geography are equally important in understanding the world around us. Each field of study provides a unique perspective on the Earth and its inhabitants, and they are interdependent. Understanding physical geography helps us to understand the natural processes that shape the Earth, while understanding human geography helps us to understand how humans interact with and modify the environment.

Importance of Both Types of Geography

Physical geography and human geography are both crucial in understanding the Earth and its inhabitants. Physical geography helps us to understand the natural processes that shape the Earth, including weather patterns, landforms, and natural resources. This knowledge is essential for a wide range of fields, including environmental science, resource management, and climate change research.

Human geography, on the other hand, helps us to understand how humans interact with and modify the environment. This field of study is crucial for understanding urbanization, globalization, and the impact of human activity on the environment. By studying human geography, we can gain insights into the complex social, economic, and political factors that shape human behavior and how they interact with the natural environment.

In conclusion, both physical and human geography are equally important in understanding the world around us. While physical geography deals with the natural environment, human geography focuses on human activity and its impact on the environment. Both fields of study provide unique perspectives on the Earth and its inhabitants, and they are interdependent. By understanding both physical and human geography, we can gain a more comprehensive understanding of the world and how it works.

Myth: Human Geography is All About Maps

While maps are an essential tool in human geography, they are not the only aspect of the field. Human geography is a branch of geography that focuses on the study of human populations, cultures, and activities. It involves the analysis of how human beings interact with their environment and how they organize themselves in space and time.

Human geography covers a wide range of topics, including urban planning, economic development, cultural anthropology, political geography, and population dynamics. It seeks to understand the social, economic, and political processes that shape human behavior and how these processes are influenced by geography.

Maps are an important tool in human geography because they help to visualize and analyze spatial patterns and relationships. However, human geography goes beyond mapping and involves the use of various techniques and methods to collect and analyze data. For example, human geographers may use surveys, interviews, focus groups, and other research methods to gather data on human behavior and activity.

Geographic Information Science and Technology

Geographic Information Science (GIS) and Technology is a field that focuses on the development and application of technologies for the collection, management, analysis, and visualization of geographic data. GIS and technology play a critical role in human geography because they enable geographers to collect, analyze, and visualize spatial data.

GIS and technology allow human geographers to analyze and model spatial relationships, create maps and visualizations, and conduct spatial analysis. This helps them to understand how human populations, cultures, and activities are distributed and how they interact with the environment.

In summary, while maps are an important tool in human geography, they are not the only aspect of the field. Human geography involves the study of human populations, cultures, and activities, and it encompasses a wide range of topics and methods. GIS and technology play a critical role in human geography because they enable geographers to collect, analyze, and visualize spatial data.

Myth: Geography is a Fixed, Unchanging Field


Geography is often perceived as a static discipline, with a set of established principles and boundaries that remain constant over time. However, this assumption could not be further from the truth. The reality is that geography is a dynamic and ever-evolving field, with new discoveries and innovations continually reshaping our understanding of the world around us.

The idea that geography is a fixed, unchanging field is a misconception that has persisted for far too long. In reality, geography is a discipline that is constantly adapting to new challenges and trends. This means that geographers must continually update their knowledge and skills to keep pace with the latest developments in the field.

One of the primary reasons why geography is anything but static is the rapid pace of technological advancement. From satellite imagery to geographic information systems (GIS), new technologies are revolutionizing the way geographers collect and analyze data. As a result, geographers are now able to study the world in greater detail than ever before, uncovering new insights and connections that were previously unimaginable.

Adapting to New Challenges and Trends

The dynamic nature of geography means that geographers must be adaptable and willing to embrace change. This requires a commitment to lifelong learning, as well as a willingness to collaborate with other experts in related fields. By working together, geographers can develop a more comprehensive understanding of the world and its complex systems, paving the way for new discoveries and innovations.

In conclusion, the myth that geography is a fixed, unchanging field could not be further from the truth. In reality, geography is a dynamic and ever-evolving discipline, with new challenges and trends continually reshaping our understanding of the world around us. By embracing change and committing to lifelong learning, geographers can continue to make groundbreaking discoveries and innovations that advance our knowledge of the world and its many mysteries.

Resources for Further Exploration

Books

  • “The Power Elite” by C. Wright Mills
  • “The Geography of Nowhere” by James Howard Kunstler
  • “The Social Construction of Whiteness: An Interdisciplinary Analysis of Race and Race Relations” by Ashraf M. E.
  • “The Globalization of Poverty and the New World Order” by Michel Chossudovsky
  • “Geography: A Very Short Introduction” by John Matthews

Online Courses and Programs

  • “Geography: Environment and Society” by the University of British Columbia on Coursera
  • “Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and Science” by Stanford University on edX
  • “Geography of Africa” by the University of California, Los Angeles on Coursera
  • “Human Geography” by the University of Oxford on Coursera
  • “Introduction to Physical Geography” by the University of Toronto on Coursera

Conferences and Workshops

  • American Association of Geographers (AAG) Annual Meeting
  • International Geographical Union (IGU) Regional Conference
  • The Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers) Annual International Conference
  • The Canadian Association of Geographers (CAG) Annual Meeting
  • The Association of American Geographers (AAG) Latin America and the Caribbean Division Annual Meeting

Professional Associations and Networks

  • American Association of Geographers (AAG)
  • International Geographical Union (IGU)
  • The Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers)
  • Canadian Association of Geographers (CAG)
  • The Association of American Geographers (AAG) Latin America and the Caribbean Division

Please note that this is a sample of resources for further exploration, and there are many more resources available for those interested in the topic of geography.

FAQs

1. What are the two types of geography?

The two types of geography are physical geography and human geography. Physical geography is the study of the natural world, including the Earth’s landscapes, climate, and natural processes. Human geography, on the other hand, is the study of human activity and the ways in which people interact with the physical environment.

2. What is physical geography?

Physical geography is the study of the natural world, including the Earth’s landscapes, climate, and natural processes. It encompasses a wide range of topics, including the study of rivers, mountains, deserts, oceans, and weather patterns. Physical geographers use a variety of tools and techniques to understand the Earth’s physical systems and how they interact with one another.

3. What is human geography?

Human geography is the study of human activity and the ways in which people interact with the physical environment. It encompasses a wide range of topics, including the study of population, urbanization, culture, and economic systems. Human geographers use a variety of tools and techniques to understand how people shape and are shaped by their environment.

4. How do physical and human geography relate to one another?

Physical and human geography are closely intertwined, as the natural environment shapes and is shaped by human activity. For example, the location of cities and the distribution of resources are influenced by physical factors such as climate and topography. At the same time, human activity can also impact the natural environment, through processes such as deforestation and climate change. Understanding the interactions between physical and human geography is important for understanding a wide range of issues, from global environmental problems to local economic development.

5. Why is it important to study geography?

Geography is important because it helps us understand the complex interactions between the natural and human worlds. By studying geography, we can gain a deeper understanding of the ways in which people and the environment interact, and how these interactions shape our world. This knowledge is essential for addressing a wide range of issues, from climate change and natural disasters to economic development and urban planning. By studying geography, we can better understand the world around us and work towards creating a more sustainable and equitable future.

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