Geography: Its Nature and Perspectives Key Terms
Historical Foundations of Geography
Geography: The description of the Earth’s surface and the people and processes that shape those landscapes.
Environmental determinism: A philosophy of geography that stated that human behaviors are a direct result of the surrounding environment. While discredited for decades due to its use as a justification for European imperialism, it has undergone a recent revival in the form of neo-environmental determinism. This variation emphasizes how natural resources and ecology affect the development, expansion, and potential collapse of societies.
Possibilist: An approach to geography favored by most contemporary geographers. It suggests that humans are not a product of their environment, but rather that they possess the skills necessary to change their environment to satisfy human needs. People can determine their own outcomes without regard to location.
Global positioning systems (GPS): A way for geographers to obtain new information, GPS technology is found in cars and cellphones; it uses the Earth’s latitude and longitude coordinates to determine an exact location. It is owned by the U.S. government. GLONASS is the Russian competitor and counterpart to GPS.
Geographic information systems (GIS): A way for geographers to obtain new information, GIS layers geographic information into a new map, showing specific types of geographic data. Watersheds, population density, highways, and agricultural data are geographic features that can be used as layers of data.
Satellite imagery: Images of the Earth taken from artificial satellites orbiting the planet. Important for GIS and remote sensing.
Remote sensing: Studying an object or location without making physical contact with it. For example, satellites have mapped the ocean floor by studying gravity waves.
Maps: An Introduction
Scale: The relationship of the size of the map to the amount of area it represents on the planet. In other words, scale is the abstract dimension into which one renders the real world.
Equal-area projection: Maps that try to distribute distortion equally throughout the map; these maps distort shapes.
Conformal maps: Maps that distort area but keep shapes intact.
Cylindrical maps: Maps that distort shapes but show true direction (e.g., a Mercator map).
Planar maps: Maps that show true direction and examine the Earth from one point, usually from a pole or a polar direction (e.g., any azimuthal map).
Conic maps: Maps that put a cone over the Earth and keep distance intact but lose directional qualities.
Oval maps: Maps that combine the cylindrical and conic projections (e.g., the Molleweide projection).
Thematic maps: Used to determine some type of geographic phenomenon, thematic maps can be represented in various ways: area class maps, area symbol maps, cartograms, choropleth maps, digital images, dot maps, flow-line maps, isoline maps, point symbol maps, and proportional symbol maps.
Isoline maps: An abstract map which outlines and connects points of identical value. An example is the weather map, which shows temperature or rainfall as overlapping colored blobs.
Flow-line maps: Maps that are good for determining movement, such as migration trends.
Choropleth maps: Maps that put data into a spatial format and are useful for determining demographic data by assigning colors or patterns to areas.
Cartograms: Maps that assign space by the size of some datum. For example, world population by country is often illustrated in a cartogram, with countries with larger populations appearing larger on the map.
Toponym: A place name, often based on similar features within a certain area.