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Environmental geography

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Environmental geography examines interlinkages between human and natural systems. This discipline combines parts of human geography and physical geography.

Introduction

History of environmental geography

Geography's origins lay in the linkages of human and natural systems. Early geographic study was tied to exploration and cartography as well as understanding the distribution of natural phenomena.

Environmental determinism

Environmental determinism is the doctrine that human activities are controlled by the environment. This belief has waxed and waned over the years, and was dominant in human geography in the early part of the twentieth century, in the work of such scholars as Americans Ellen Churchill Semple and Ellsworth Huntington, and Briton Halford Mackinder whose work traced linkages between natural and human patterns, following in the tradition of the German Friedrich Ratzel. This work was linked to Social Darwinism and utilized to justify colonial expansion and racial typecasting. Ratzel, as Hitler's geographer, was influential in German expansionism. Scholars in this field attempted to create a causal science creating ties between environmental causes and human results.

Today, environmental determinism has been discarded, replaced by ideas of environmental influence (where nature shapes but does not mandate human activity), and complex multi-directional influences between nature and society.

Separation of human and physical geography

The twentieth century saw increasing specialization within the discipline of geography. Scholars began to study either human or physical geography, but rarely blended both. Notable exceptions to this rule include Gilbert White whose work on hazards linked both human and natural influences into the study of disasters.

Renewed study in nature-society relations

Branches of environmental geography

Hazards

Hazards research includes study of human-made (anthropogenic), environmental (natural), and blended disasters. Hazards frequently studied include: fire, drought, earthquakes, floods, volcanoes, hurricanes, tornados, toxins, pollution, and more. This study is intricately tied to risk analysis.

Energy and resource geography

Energy and resource geography studies the spatial placement, interrelations, place-based effects, and human-environment connections of natural resources and energy generation.

Cultural and political ecology

Environmental perception

Environmental perception is the study of both individual and group understandings of the environment, the creation of those understandings, and their impacts on decisionmaking.

Systems theory

Landscape studies

Landscape studies involves the interactions between humans and the environment in concrete areas. The term landscape comes from the German Landschaft, referring the the area that one's eye can comprehend in a single view. This work includes study of both physical and human systems, with much attention paid to cultural, political, and aesthetic aspects. Carl Sauer's work traced the transition from a physical landscape to a cultural landscape, marked and defined by human activity.

Marxian environmental geography

Sustainability

Environmental geography is one of many disciplines active in the study of sustainability and sustainable development. Work in this branch includes economic, social, and environmental development. Specific topics include food, energy, the built environment, population, consumption, modernization, conservation, globalization, and others.

Environmental governance

Environmental justice

Environmental justice is a term that includes both the academic study of disparate environmental impacts as well as activism to address those impacts. This body of study grew out of the anti-toxic movement of the 1980's, and the findings of the time that environmental harms often correlated with race, class, or other axes of difference.

Selected list of notable environmental geographers

  • Gilbert White (1911-2006) - central figure in natural hazards research
  • Carl Sauer (1889-1975) - developed idea of cultural landscapes which evolved into cultural ecology
  • Yi-fu Tuan (1930-) - seminal work in environmental perception
  • David Harvey (1935-) - integrated the environment into Marxist geography

References

Related fields

External links