Geography is a versatile and cutting-edge science. Its findings can be applied to geopolitics, medicine and economics. If you have a basic background knowledge, you can put the news into context and understand conflicts.
I study geography and am therefore somewhat biased. Nevertheless, I am convinced that this science plays a role in almost every aspect of life.
Where You Meet Geography in Everyday Life
Geography is much more than memorizing facts about countries, cities, and rivers. It is not (only) about knowing that Berlin is the capital of Germany and has about 3.6 million inhabitants.
Anyone who shops at the supermarket comes into contact with geography: the supply chains that feed the supermarket, global trade flows and agriculture are aspects of geography.
Those who work digitally use raw materials from mines, internet cables at the bottom of the oceans, and come into contact with the global market.
The Corona pandemic highlighted the vulnerability of society and the role of medical geography, which studies the spread of disease, among other things.
Maps are regularly used in the news to show the course of conflicts, the impact of natural disasters, and infrastructure development.
We encounter geography everywhere. It is often closely linked to other sciences. It determines the framework in which human action is possible.
Why has war not yet broken out between India and China, two of the most populated countries on earth? Because their only border is the Himalayas. And why might they clash now? Because both are expanding their navies and meeting at sea.
Geography sets not only geopolitical boundaries, but also economic ones. The Suez Canal is a major international trade route. The world learned the consequences of a ship blocking this route from the “Evergreen.”
The consequences of the Corona pandemic need no description, but again, geography can explain how the virus was able to spread.
Why Geographical Background Knowledge Is Useful
Changing One's View of the World
If you have basic geographic knowledge, you will see the world from a completely different perspective. If you keep your eyes open, you suddenly see geographic processes everywhere: in your hometown, while shopping or watching TV in the evening.
The geographical concepts play a role everywhere: space as a container, as a system of relationships, as a subjective perspective, and as a construct. But what does that mean?
The space as a container describes the objective facts of a place. For example, a city has a population, area, and unique coordinates.
Space as a system of relationships means that places have connections to other places. These connections can be economic or political, for example.
Space as subjective perspective is the impression of a place, which is different for each person. What does one associate with the place? The Caribbean is considered a beautiful vacation destination – but also the home of pirates and their treasures.
The space as a construct means that the representation of places can be manipulated. The travel agent, for example, can portray a run-down tourist resort as an idyllic paradise.
Understanding the News
Through these geographical concepts, one can classify the news. Those who study Syrian geography understand why the civil war there has raged for so many years. If you learn about the Arabian Peninsula, you know why the oil states are so rich, but also that they face challenges in the coming decades.
Through geography, one has a more comprehensive understanding of politics, can participate in discussions, and is not as easily manipulated.
Since geography comes in contact with many sciences, you can expand your own knowledge through it. If you are interested in economics, you can learn about the logistical processes and trade routes.
If you're more into psychology, you could be interested in the psychological effects of the subjective geographical concepts of space.
And if you like railroads, you can look into railroad infrastructure.
Recommendations for Getting Started
Due to the scope of geography and its many applications, it can seem overwhelming. Yet getting started is easy! Pick a topic that interests you. The more specific the topic, the easier it is to narrow down the materials.
If you are interested in geopolitics, I can recommend Tim Marshall's books, “Prisoners of Geography” and “The Power of Geography.” Both are easily understandable and shed light on the background of political events around the world.
Most importantly, don't get overwhelmed by the mass of information. Start with the basics and then work your way through. Over time, you will see new connections and geography has changed your worldview!