Sunday, September 27, 2009

Geography: More than meets the eye!

Spatialworlds website

Picture descriptions:
Left image:From the Seoul Tower: Issues of pollution and urban design.
Right image:Cultural place amongst the beauty of the South Korean countryside.

Cairns, Australia: S: 16º 57' E: 145º 45'

This weekend I have travelled to Cairns to attend the Institute of Australian Geographers (IAG) Council meeting prior to the IAG conference. The program of the conference started me thinking about the question of what fields of endevour gather under the banner of geography and what gives them the credential to consider themselves geographical.
One of the great misunderstandings about the discipline of geography is that it is only about the environment and the earth sciences. Naturally geography involves the study of the environment but in a very multi-dimensional and diverse way – everything is geography if it is studied in a geographical way. That is, the study is undertaken through the spatial lens with the associated connections and inter-dependencies. It is not such much the topic that identifies a geographical study but rather the parameters within which it is studied.
Just looking at the IAG conference program show the diversity of topics which are connected as geographical studies. They are identified as such because the geographer will ask spatial questions over and over as they examine and unravel the inquiry.
For example the topics listed below are all geographical studies presented at the conference. To the outsider they would not immediately identify themselves as geographical studies – but they most certainly are!

* Human rights in place? Anti-racism, exports, damage limitation, choices
* Stewardship among lifestyle oriented rural landowners
* Regional sustainability and the Great Barrier Reef
* Creativity without borders? Re-thinking geographies of remoteness and proximity
* Aid cultures: Chinese aid to Cambodia
* Fired up? Understanding the disconnect between bushfire awareness and preparedness amongst diverse rural landowners
* Building resilience to coastal hazards and climate change: Lessons from post-tsunami efforts in the Indian Ocean
* State housing authorities and natural disaster preparations and response in Australia
* Traditional knowledge systems and climate change in the Torres Strait
* Using visual methodologies to study abject non-heterosexual performativities
* The self as informant in geographies of remembering
* Engaging the community in social research using data visualisation techniques
* How do you discover the nuances of social networks? A case study of Sudanese refugees in Colac, Victoria
* Tasmania’s ageing population: Non-metropolitan patterns and trends
* The meaning and importance of 'place' for older people living in rural areas: A WA case study
* Reconsidering financial globalisation in the developing world during the global financial crisis
* Anti-racism: Building evidence and utility for “what works”
* Everyday multiculturalism, Islam and the politics of ‘mixing’
* Leveraging sustainability: Communities of knowledge in the architecture industry
* Creative cities making a major contribution to urban sustainability
* Stepping out: A study of how urban design affects walkability in Sydney
* Environmental justice, ethical construction and gender
* Scrap: The revaluing of used household goods
* “Somewhere nice to go”: Garden making and home making in Hamilton South
* “A bottle of wine in front of the TV”: Material geographies of domestic alcohol consumption
* Masculine meanings of home: Preliminary results from an inner Sydney case study
* Mapping truffles in Australia
* Mapping historical tropical successional forest cover with satellite imagery
* Implications for the second Kyoto Accord and land-use/cover change geography
* Multispectral remote sensing applications for live fuel moisture content estimation in Sydney Basin bioregion
* The settlement geography of African refugee communities in Southeast Queensland
* Harmony, trust and participation in culturally diverse cities
* Exit strategies for ageing male farmers in Australia
* Identifying and meeting the care needs of older Indigenous people in a remote setting
* Gambling venue usage and problem gambling amongst grey nomads and itinerant construction
* Workers on the Sunshine Coast
* Using the coupled ‘human-environment systems framework’ for exploring issues of hazard and risk
* Groundwater fees in the North China Plain and its impact on irrigation practices
* Measuring potential of a residential neighbourhood for local food economy
* Urban food security: Community strategies and alternative food networks enterprises
* Sacred landscapes in secular society
* Designing sustainable cities using information technologies: Building information modelling and geographical information systems
* Teachers and the emotional dimensions of class in resource affected rural Australia
* The Pacific as a ‘development disaster’: New Zealand’s retrograde constructions of Pacific problems and solutions
* Invasion and spread of Australian White Ibis in south-western Australia
* Exploring the effects of 'sea- and tree-change' phenomena in far North Queensland
* Can tree-change development and rural production values co-exist?
* Refugee dispersal: Burden sharing, exclusion, or opportunity?
* Invisible Australians: The female Chinese in white Australia
* Migrancy, mobility and diasporic travel
* Curves of the lifeline: A drawing of the betweenness of place
* Can you interview my husband?: The problem of trusting one’s spouse in a tourism locale
* Intimate geographies of touch
* Sustaining tourism to diversify the local economy
* What makes a rural community resilient?
* Complex entanglements: Race, gender and spirituality in Aotearoa, New Zealand
* “Thai men no good”: Exploring representations of Thai and Western masculinity among women on Samui Island, Southern Thailand
* Towards a critical geography of gambling in remote Australia
* Health tourism as a discursive resource in the fostering of post developmental healthcare-consuming subjects in Malaysia
* The making of moving pictures: The rickshaw art of Bangladesh
* Regulating Rover: Legislating the public place of urban pet dogs
* World heritage listing: Blight or blessing? Three examples from Western Australia

All of these topics can be classified under the broad 'schools'or branches of geography identified by the discipline. These branches are often listed under hte broad headings of Physical and Human Geography. These divisions of Geography are quite false in many ways because due to the inter-connectedness of the discipline of geography it is impossible to study just one branch in isolation because they are invariably connected to other branches through 'the tree of geography'. How can one study pedology without looking at the relationship with agricultural, cultural, geomorhological and biogeographical impacts of soil on a place?
Here is a list of some of these branches – by no way the definitive list!
* Cultural Geography
* Social Geography
* Environmental Geography
* Biogeography
* Hydrology
* Demography
* Coastal Geography
* Transportation Geography
* Geomorphology
* Oceanography
* Industrial Geography
* Economic Geography
* Historical Geography
* Spatial science
* Geotourism
* Climatology
* Regional Geography
* Hazard Geography
* Urban Geography
* Development Geography

In fact, to demonstrate to students the diversity of topics in geography it would be an interesting task for a geography class to classify the IAG conference workshops into the various branches of geography listed above. In 2008 the Geography Teachers Association of South Australia (GTASA) produced a CD called Surfing Geographical. The CD organised over 1000 Internet sites under the main branches of geography. Go to to the GTASA site to view the information on this excellent resource for students to use in their geographical research.


winnie said...

This all looks great.
Despite the one reference to cities, I wondered if there was any presentation on strategic urban planning - what is really needed to manage climate change and environmental degradation, given the impacts of urban development.
When we consider that most councils have anywhere from 4 - 10 or more urban planners, clearly to overlook this vocational opportunity and the scope of the role of planners, would be a major omission from the study of geography.
Can you provide any feedback on this?

Ethan Smith said...
This comment has been removed by the author.