Chapter 1: Introduction to the World


The discipline of geography bridges the social sciences with the physical sciences and can provide a framework for understanding our world. By studying geography, we can begin to understand the relationships and common factors that tie our human community together. The world is undergoing globalization on a massive scale as a result of the rapid transfer of information and technology and the growth of modes of transportation and communication. The more we understand our world, the better prepared we will be to address the issues that confront our future. There are many approaches to studying world geography. This textbook takes a regional approach and focuses on themes that illustrate the globalization process, which in turn assists us in better understanding our global community and its current affairs.

Geography helps us make sense of the world through four historical traditions:

  1. Spatial analysis of natural and human cultures
  2. Earth science
  3. Area studies
  4. Human-landscape interactions

Spatial analysis includes many of the concepts tied to geographic information science (GIS): the analysis of the interactions and distribution of many types of information using computer databases. The GIS data are entered into computer programs that convert location indicators to points or features on a map. Earth science includes the study of landforms, climates, and the distribution of plants and animals. Area or regional studies focuses on a particular region to understand the dynamics of a specific interaction between human activity and the environment. Researchers studying human-landscape interaction examine the impact of humans on their landscape and find out how different cultures have used and changed their environments. Geography provides the tools to integrate knowledge from many disciplines into a usable form by providing a sense of place to natural or human events. You will find that geography often explains why or how something occurs in a specific location. World geography utilizes the spatial approach to help understand the components of our global community.


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