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Perspectives from the past chapter i review questions

These three perspectives can be represented as dimensions of a matrix of geographic inquiry as shown in Figure 3. Geography's ways of looking at the world—through its focus on place and scale horizontal axis —cuts across its three domains of synthesis: Spatial representation, the third dimension of the matrix, underpins and sometimes drives research in other branches of geography.

Such research benefits not only from bringing into one analysis ideas that are often treated separately in other disciplines but also from critically examining the disjunctures and contradictions among the ways in which different disciplines examine identical phenomena.

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Page 30 Share Cite Suggested Citation: New Relevance for Science and Society. The National Academies Press. Indeed, geography's focus on location provides a cross-cutting way of looking at processes and phenomena that other disciplines tend to treat in isolation.

Geographers focus on "real world" relationships and dependencies among the phenomena and processes that give character to any location or place. Geographers also seek to understand relationships among places: Geographers study the "vertical" integration of characteristics that define place as well as the "horizontal'' connections between places.

Geographers also focus on the importance of scale in both space and time in these relationships.

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The study of these relationships has enabled geographers to pay attention to complexities of places and processes that are frequently treated in the abstract by other disciplines.

Integration in Place Places are natural laboratories for the study of complex relationships among processes and phenomena. Geography has a long tradition of attempting to understand how different processes and phenomena interact in regions and localities, including an understanding of how these interactions give places their distinctive character.

The systematic analysis perspectives from the past chapter i review questions social, economic, political, and environmental processes operating in a place provides an integrated understanding of its distinctiveness or character. Research in this tradition since has shown that the temporal and spatial sequences of actions of individuals follow typical patterns in particular types of environments and that many of the distinctive characteristics of places result from an intersection of behavioral sequences constrained by spatial accessibility to the opportunities for interaction.

Such systematic analysis is particularly central to regional and human geography, and it is a theme to which much geographic research continually returns. When such systematic analysis is applied to many different places, an understanding of geographic variability emerges. Of course, a full analysis of geographic variability must take account of processes that cross the boundaries of places, linking them to one another, and also of scale.

Interdependencies Between Places Geographers recognize that a "place" is defined not only by its internal characteristics but also by the flows of people, materials e. These flows introduce interdependencies between places that can either reinforce or reduce differences. For example, very different agricultural land-use practices have evolved under identical local environmental conditions as a result of the distance to market affecting the profitability of crops. At a macroscale, the widespread and global flow of Western cultural values and economic systems has served to reduce differences among many peoples of the world.

An important focus of geography is on understanding these flows and how they affect place. The challenge of analyzing the perspectives from the past chapter i review questions and their impacts on place is considerable. Such relationships have all the characteristics of complex nonlinear systems whose behavior is hard to represent or predict.

These relationships are becoming increasingly important for science and decision making, as discussed in Chapters 5 and 6. Interdependencies Among Scales Geographers recognize that the scale of observation also matters for understanding geographic processes and phenomena at a place. Although geography is concerned with both spatial and temporal scales, the enduring dimension of the geographic perspective is the significance of spatial scales, from the global to the highly local.

Geographers have noted, for example, that changing the spatial scale of analysis can provide important insights into geographic processes and phenomena and into understanding how processes and phenomena at different scales are related. A long-standing concern of geographers has been the "regionalization problem," that is, the problem of demarcating contiguous regions with common geographic characteristics.

Geographers recognize that the internal complexity and differentiation of geographic regions is scale-dependent and, thus, that a particular set of regions is always an incomplete and possibly misleading representation of geographic variation.

Identifying the scales at which particular phenomena exhibit maximum variation provides important clues about the geographic, as well as the temporal, scope of the controlling mechanisms. For example, spectral analyses of temperature data, revealing the geographic scales at which there is maximum similarity in temperature, can provide important clues about the relative influence of microclimates, air masses, and global circulation on temperature patterns.

A global rise in average temperature could have highly differentiated local impacts and may even produce cooling in certain localities because of the way in which global, regional, and local processes interact.

By the same token, national and international economic and political developments can have highly differentiated impacts on the economic competitiveness of cities and states. The focus on scale enables geographers to analyze the impact of global changes on local events—and the impact of local events on global changes. Page 32 Share Cite Suggested Citation: There are two other important domains of synthesis within geography as well: These domains cut across and draw from the concerns about place embedded in geography's way of looking at the world.

Environmental-Societal Dynamics This branch of the discipline reflects, perhaps, geography's longest-standing concern and is thus heir to a rich intellectual tradition.

The relationships that it studies—the dynamics relating society and its biophysical environment—today are not only a core element of geography but are also of increasingly urgent concern to other disciplines, decision makers, and the public. Although the work of geographers in this domain is too varied for easy classification, it includes three broad but overlapping fields of research: Human Use of and Impacts on the Environment Human actions unavoidably modify or transform nature; in fact, they are often intended specifically to do so.

These impacts of human action have been so extensive and profound that it is now difficult to speak of a "natural" environment.

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Geographers have contributed to at least three major global inventories of human impacts on the environment Thomas, 1956; Turner et al. Studies at local and regional levels have clarified specific instances of human-induced landscape transformation: Geographers study the ways in which society exploits and, in doing so, 2 Citations in this section do not refer to major research contributions since these are the focus of Chapter 5.

They refer the reader to books and articles that provide a more detailed discussion of the topic than can be provided here.

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Page 33 Share Cite Suggested Citation: Geographers ask why individuals and groups manipulate the environment and natural resources in the ways they do Grossman, 1984; Hecht and Cockburn, 1989. They have examined arguments about the roles of carrying capacity and population pressures in environmental degradation, and they have paid close attention to the ways in which different cultures perceive and use their environments Butzer, 1992.

They have devoted considerable attention to the role of political-economic institutions, structures, and inequities in environmental use and alteration, while taking care to resist portraying the environment as an empty stage on which social conflicts are acted out Grossman, 1984; Zimmerer, 1991; Carney, 1993.

Environmental Impacts on Humankind Consequences for humankind of change in the biophysical environment—whether endogenous or human-induced—are also a traditional concern for geographers. For instance, geographers were instrumental in extending the approaches of environmental impact analysis to climate.

They have produced important studies of the impact of natural climate variation and projected human-induced global warming on vulnerable regions, global food supply, and hunger. They have studied the impacts of a variety of other natural and environmental phenomena, from floods and droughts to disease and nuclear radiation releases Watts, 1983; Kates et al.

These works have perspectives from the past chapter i review questions focused on the differing vulnerabilities of individuals, groups, and geographic areas, demonstrating that environmental change alone is insufficient to understand human impacts.

Rather, these impacts are articulated through societal structures that give meaning and value to change and determine in large part the responses taken. Human Perceptions of and Responses to Environmental Change Geographers have long-recognized that human-environment relations are greatly influenced not just by particular activities or perspectives from the past chapter i review questions but also by the very ideas and attitudes that different societies hold about the environment.

Some of geography's most influential contributions have documented the roots and character of particular environmental views Glacken, 1967; Tuan, 1974. Geographers have also recognized that the impacts of environmental change on human populations can be strongly mitigated or even prevented by human action.

Accurate perception of change and its consequences is a key component in successful mitigation strategies. Geographers studying hazards have made important contributions to understanding how perceptions of risk vary from reality Tuan, 1974 and how communication of risk can amplify or dampen risk signals Palm, 1990; Kasperson and Stallen, 1991. Accurate perceptions of available mitigation strategies is an important aspect Page 34 Share Cite Suggested Citation: White's geographic concept of the "range of choice," which has been applied to inform policy by illuminating the options available to different actors at different levels Reuss, 1993.

In the case of floodplain occupancy, for instance, such options include building flood control works, controlling development in flood-prone areas, and allowing affected individuals to absorb the costs of disaster. In the case of global climate change, options range from curtailing greenhouse gas e. Geographers have assembled case studies of societal responses to a wide variety of environmental challenges as analogs for those posed by climate and other environmental change and have examined the ways in which various societies and communities interpret the environments in questions Jackson, 1984; Demeritt, 1994; Earle, 1996.

Environmental Dynamics Geographers often approach the study of environmental dynamics from the vantage point of natural science Mather and Sdasyuk, 1991. Society and its roles in the environment remain a major theme, but human activity is analyzed as one of many interrelated mechanisms of environmental variability or change.

Efforts to understand the feedbacks among environmental processes, including human activities, also are central to the geographic study of environmental dynamics Terjung, 1982. As in the other natural sciences, advancing theory remains an overarching theme, and empirical verification continues to be a major criterion on which efficacy is judged.

Physical geography has evolved into a number of overlapping subfields, although the three major subdivisions are biogeography, climatology, and geomorphology Gaile and Willmott, 1989. Those who identify more with one subfield than with the others, however, typically use the findings and perspectives from the others to inform their research and teaching. This can be attributed to physical geographers' integrative and cross-cutting traditions of investigation, as well as to their shared natural science perspective Mather and Sdasyuk, 1991.

Boundaries between the subfields, in turn, are somewhat blurred. Biogeographers, for example, often consider the spatial dynamics 3 of climate, soils, and topography when they investigate the changing distributions of plants and animals, whereas climatologists frequently take into account the influences that landscape heterogeneity and change exert on climate.

Geomorphologists also account for climatic forcing and vegetation dynamics on erosional and depositional process.

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The three major 3 The term spatial dynamics refers to the movement, translocation of, or change in phenomena both natural and human over geographic space. The study of spatial dynamics focuses on the natural, social, economic, cultural, and historical factors that control or condition these movements and translocations.

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