Geography Daily

This post is in response to Reginald Golledge’s article “Geography in Everyday Life”. 

It is written by National Geographic Education Intern, Ellen Esling, as part of the Geography Awareness Week Blog-A-Thon.

Photography by Ellen Esling: Buffalo, New York

Photograph by Ellen Esling: Buffalo, New York

If your experience was anything like mine, your exposure to geography in school involved a whole lot of coloring in maps and memorizing state capitols. Perhaps you’ve come to the conclusion that you aren’t very good at geography because you’re not able to name the capitol of Burundi (Bujumbura).  However, we use geography nearly every day without even realizing it. The most simplified definition of geography is “environment and human interaction”.

Based on the article by Reginald Golledge, geography is as small scale as finding your car in a parking lot to finding a neighborhood to live in. Geography is not all answering trivia questions or being able to name countries in Africa; it is complex with several layers to uncover and synthesize. No one can escape making decisions in a spatial realm.

Geography in Everyday life: It happens to you and you make it happen!

1)   Did you eat food today? Chances are that one or more of the ingredients did not just appear out of thin air. Some intricate geographic processes were involved before you got ahold of that burrito. Oh, and something made you decide to walk to the burrito stand. Your mind pictured the food truck and made a mental map of which streets to walk down to get there (or let’s face it, you relied on Google Maps). Even then, your use of Google Maps involved geography.

2)   Take a moment to appreciate the outfit you’re sporting today. Even if you’re still in your pajamas, the clothing label might indicate where the particular article of clothing was produced. The textile industry is a prime example of globalization working in full effect.

3)   At some point, you, or someone you probably know, picked the place you currently live. Extensive geography is involved in selecting the location for a house. Is there convenient access to a supermarket? What schools are nearby and what is the most efficient route to get to work?

4)   Did you drive to work or school? Perhaps you left your car in the parking lot. How did you find it after the utter madness of Black Friday shopping? If you take public transportation, you’ve probably at least glanced at a bus route map in order to determine the most appropriate bus stop for your wait.

5) Did you check the weather today before stepping out of the house with your umbrella? You guessed it! Geography is essential to determining climatic and weather patterns.

The study of geography involves being able to engage in spatial analysis at different scales. While we deal with geography daily at a localized scale, our small-scale interactions have the ability to affect large and global scale interactions. Can Washington, D.C. grow bananas in November? As a mass market of consumers, we demand bananas year-round. Chances are that your bananas are grown and shipped from somewhere in the tropics! Not only are Geographers asking “Where?” but geography begs the questions, “Who? When? Why? How?”

The goal of Geography Awareness Week is re-branding this often-misunderstood subject. When people hear the term, “Geography” they often write it off as learning country borders in grade school. We aim to change the way people think of this important and amazing discipline. Geographers deal with climate change, globalization, population density, disease outbreaks, famine -all these incredibly complex and critical issues.

We need more Geographers. During this week, be aware and hone in on your everyday geography skills and invite others to put on their geographic lens (hint: we’ve been wearing them all along).

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