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Lecture outline. Two stories of regret History of Geography What is Geography? Focus on its concern and analytical power to explore issues of equity Interest in scale Power of mapping to explore issues of equity. Can you give us some anonymous feedback please on the form?.

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Lecture outline

  • Two stories of regret

  • History of Geography

  • What is Geography?

  • Focus on its concern and analytical power to explore issues of equity

  • Interest in scale

  • Power of mapping to explore issues of equity

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Can you give us some anonymous feedback please on the form?

  • National University of Singapore collaboration an experiment to see if value added by getting different students to talk to each other when exploring global society-environmental issues

  • Would like your thoughts on it to decide if we continue doing it and if so how to improve it

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Videoing of lectures another experiment

  • Have a look at the resources so you can give me some feedback in later lecture on if it has helped you

  • Remember 3 ways to access the video

  • YouTube - search for “ANUsustainability” http://uk.youtube.com/user/ANUSustainability

  • Fenner lectures http://fennerschool-lectures.anu.edu.au/lectures/SRES1001/

  • Your course webpage http://fennerschool-people.anu.edu.au/richard_baker/SRES1001/SRES1001/index.html

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Please feel free to contact me any time before July 8th if you have any questions about 2nd semester courses or your degree structure in general


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SRES1001 can count in the following 10 Arts majors

  • Australian Studies, Australian Studies, Development Studies, Environmental Policy*, Environmental Studies*, Geography*,Human Ecology*, Human Sciences*, Population Studies, Social Science Research Methods

  • * above indicated Majors administered by Fenner School the others are run by Arts

  • Note SRES1008 Australia, Asia and the Pacific can count for all the above Majors plus International Relations

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SRES1001 can count in the following 10 Science majors

  • Environmental Policy (can be done as a double major)*, Environmental Studies*, Environmental Systems*, Forestry*, Geography*,Human Ecology*, Interdisciplinary Science, Science Communication, Sustainability Science, Water Science and Policy (can be done as a double major)*

  • * above indicated Majors administered by Fenner School the others are run by Arts

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A real story of regret

The world is getting smaller and smaller. Is it? Well I've got no idea because I never studied geography at school and I've regretted it ever since.

Adam Spencer when he was the Triple J. Breakfast Announcer

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As a young man my fondest dream was to become a geographer. However, while working in the customs office I thought deeply about the matter and concluded that it was far too difficult a subject. With some reluctance, I then turned to physics as a substitute.

Attributed to Albert Einstein (1879-1955)

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What is Geography?

  • The geography that my generation often of did at school was about rote learning an array of geographic facts.

  • Only some of us were fortunate to have been taught geography in a more in-depth and stimulating way to reveal the discipline’s enormous potential for helping us understand the world around us.

  • Such geography, rather than ignoring the complexity of human-environment interactions, has learning about these complex issues as its central focus.

  • Of huge value ie helping us understand complexity of current global food crisis

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Simplistic popular views

  • Not surprisingly the general lay view of geography reflects the dominance of the simplistic way it has been taught in schools.

  • A slightly more sophisticated popular view of geography is that it is about exotic people and places.

  • The popularity of Discovery Channel TV and the National Geographic magazine reveal that ‘exotic people and places’ geography has enormous popular interest.

  • National Geographic magazine has the third highest subscription rate in the United States - only behind TV Guide and Reader's Digest

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A hard discipline to define

  • “Geography has been described as the Los Angeles among academic disciplines because it spreads over a very wide large area, merges with its neighbours, and we have a hard time finding the central business area”

    (Pattison and Natoli 1997:21)

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While it not possible to give one agreed definition of what Geography is, it is possible to list a variety of characteristics of what it is that Geographers do

  • We study the complex interplay between people and the environment – both shape each other.

  • Key issues in this study are understanding location and distribution of resources, people activities etc.

  • This focus that has led some to define geography as being about who gets what where.

  • Such a definition gives an inherently political dimension to geography as questions of allocation raise numerous equity issues.

  • For example who (or what processes) decide who gets what where?

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Geography is about who gets what where

  • A particularly important aspect of geography is that it considers its subject matter in the context of spatial regions that range from the local, regional, national and international, and much is to be learned about social equity or the lack there of at each stage of analysis

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Hugh Stretton’s “Ideas for Australian cities”

  • Stretton discusses the two alternative plans for Higgins

    “all of Plan A’s charms, economies, safeties and ingenuities were sacrificed to take sixty seconds off the average drive from home to the local shops … the selected plan also saved less trees, had less houses facing north so reducing the possibilities of solar orientated houses and the heaviest traffic flows past the school”

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History of Geography

  • Developed in Ancient Greece, Rome, China and Arabia

  • Significantly in each case geography was part of their ages of discovery and played a crucial role in mapping the resources (both human and natural) of new worlds.

  • Many regard Strabo (60BC to about AD21) as the first ‘true geographer’. His 17 volume Geography was written between 9 BC and 18 AD. In a study of what we would today classify as regional geography, he describes local relationships between nature and society.

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  • Ptolemy (90 AD – 168 AD) in his 8 volume Geography set himself the ambitious task of developing a comprehensive view of the world

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Modern Academic Geography

  • like its ancient predecessors, modern academic geography was born in an age of discovery

  • The British Royal Geographic Society was established in 1830 with a major focus on promoting exploration (see http://www.rgs.org/).

  • By the end of the century there were university chairs in geography at many of the most prestigious universities and numerous geographical societies established

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Early British and North American Geography was highly environmentally deterministic

  • “Natural regions” defined by natural features of topography, climate and vegetation were seen to give rise to characteristics of human behaviour

  • it was argued that in “invigorating climates” such as in Britain and North American “it may also be easier to be honest and sober and self-controlled than in a more enervating one”

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Environmental determinism

  • “As a rule, people do their best thinking and planning, their minds are most alert and inventive, and they have the best judgment when the thermometer out of doors falls toward freezing at night and rises toward 50 degrees or 55 degrees [Fahrenheit] by day”

    Ellsworth Huntington in “Principles of Human Geography”

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The shift from environmental determinism to cultural determinism has resulted in the following changes in how human-environment relations have been seen

  • The environment controls people

  • The environment influences people

  • People adapt to the environment

  • People adjust to the environment

  • People respond to the environment

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Carl Sauer

  • Key publications are online at http://www.colorado.edu/geography/giw/sauer-co/sauer-co.html


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Carl Sauer

  • Pioneered the concept of cultural landscapes that are made by cultures over time, modifying natural landscapes

  • “one does geography through the soles of your feet”.

  • Sauer’s work has inspired many others to stress the importance of developing skills in reading landscapes like books for signs of human impacts.

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Sauer and “reading” landscapes

  • "the geographical bent rests on seeing and thinking about what is in a landscape"

  • need to put yourself in the shoes of the inhabitants of an area and trying to see it through their eyes

  • ties in with “land literacy” skills in community environmental monitoring programs such as Australia’s landcare movement.

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French Geography

  • Sauer greatly influenced by French regional and cultural approaches

  • Sorre "the landscape is in sum the material and spiritual expression of a culture”

  • French colonial regionalisations

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The split

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David Harvey’s (1984:7) Applied people's geography

  • As Harvey notes geographers “cannot remain neutral”. In documenting human-environment relations geographers are always revealing issues of equity and inequality (eg who gets or doesn't get what and why). Geographers then clearly have an ethical choice - ignoring the implications of their results or trying do something to rectify inequitable situations. Either choice is a political one.


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  • David Harvey

  • ‘The annihilation of space through time’

  • From The Condition of Post-Modernity, Blackwell, Oxford, 1989

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Political economy approaches

A good example is Piers Blaikie, 1985,

The political economy of soil erosion in developing countries, Longman,

Chapter 4, Why do policies usually fail

He discusses the recent “realisation that conservation is as much about social processes as physical ones, and the major constraints are not technical (in the agricultural engineering sense) is, but social.”

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Interest in scale and space

  • Running through all branches of geography is an interest in scale and mapping as a means of dealing with space and scale

  • An understanding of scale in of fundamental importance in dealing with environmental problems. For example

    • magnitude of an oil spill,

    • the size of reserves required for effective conservation of endangered species,

    • a policy is never going to work if it is not aimed at the right level

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Issues of scale

  • NIMBY – not in my backyard

  • NIMFE – not in my front yard either

  • NIMEY – not in my election year

  • NIMTOO – not in my term of office

  • NOPE – not on planet earth

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  • maps are a means of presenting the results of research and are an important means of doing research

  • we can find things out by mapping things and we can explain our results with maps as well

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Can map anything

  • Sex, Drugs, Rock and Roll

  • Uni marks

  • Death

  • Fear

  • Politics

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World mapperhttp://www.sasi.group.shef.ac.uk/worldmapper/index.html

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Cholera deaths in Soho, London, September 1854

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An integrative discipline

  • It is important to note here that geography is different from many other sciences as it is not solely investigatory

  • instead it tries to find links between all the physical and human feature of the earth.

  • In so doing it draws on the knowledge of other disciplines and in return demonstrates the connections they have to each other.

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Relevance of Geography to resource management

  • the breadth of our training and our ability to handle and synthesise material from a range of sources; it is an unusual discipline as combines social and so called 'harder' physical sciences

  • our acceptance of the complexity of causation -and the need because of this complexity for the precautionary principle – don’t mess with something you do not understand

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Relevance of Geography cont.

  • the range of information which we are trained to tap in both the social and physical sciences, a good geographer knows about a whole range of fields and is capable of working effectively with experts in other fields.

  • our long tradition of study in this area  

  • our interest in distribution; eg maps and scale

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  • Geography matters

  • Has over a long history developed important integrative tools and approaches

  • Has a valuable perspective to offer global change research and resource management

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Liverman: Geography and the Global Environment

  • Examines the relevance of Geography to Global change research and concludes (1999:108) that Geography offers

    “useful perspectives, including a focus on the link between the environmental and social sciences. A sensitivity to processes occurring at different scales, and the ability to provide conceptualized and comparative case studies”.

  • LIVERMAN, DIANA M. Geography and the global environment Annals of the Association of American geographers : Article (v89) http://library.anu.edu.au/record=b2080168

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Roger Croft 1999 “Geography Matters for the Environment of the Twenty-first Century”

Geography matters because

1) “geographers have the technical knowledge, the practical experience and the ability to bring together the means of managing natural changes and their human impacts and to advise on the social process and fiscal instruments which will be necessary” p 346

2) “because we need to understand the complex interaction between many variables and to relate these to action on the ground and in the sea. The use of GIS and modelling, on which geographers are expert, will be essential tools.” P347

  • CROFTS, ROGER Geography matters for the environment of the twenty-first century Geography, 1999, v.84, no.4, pp.345-353 http://library.anu.edu.au/record=b2080223

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Croft finishes (p349-350) by describing the kinds of skills that geographers engaged in environmental issues need. He argues that we need to:

  • understand the dynamics of change and reasons for it.

  • make connections between issues, and to recognise the interdependencies and feedbacks that occur.

  • have familiarity with the manipulation of spatial and temporal information not simply for its own sake, nor for the sake of geographers, but for use by politicians and other decision makers.

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Key skills for geographers (cont.)

  • have greater understanding of, and greater engagement in, social process issues. We need to ensure that geographers have political antennae, that they are aware of politics at all levels, including awareness of the subtleties of community issues with the different constituencies.

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Hurricane Katrina

  • An event like Hurricane Katrina is rich with possibilities for teaching and learning; in particular it opens up discussions and investigations around

  • The effects of Global Warming on weather events such as hurricanes, sea levels and flooding;

  • The divide between rich and poor, black and white, north and south in the USA;

  • The legacy of slavery, segregation and racism

  • The role of news and information technologies in reporting events such as hurricanes, including an investigation into alleged bias in reporting and

  • The impact of poverty in degrading civil society

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