Introduction The first recorded use of the word “geography” was by Eratosthenes, an ancient Greek scholar who lived between 276 and 194 BCE. The word means, simply, to write about or describe the Earth. Today, the study of geography is frequently mis- understood to be simply a catalog of places or environmental trivia. Yet, it is so much more. It’s the study of our planet and everything on it. Open a National Geographic magazine and you’ll find stories on anything from endangered occu- pations such as snake charmers or broom-makers to jaguars and their Central and South American habitats, to Africa’s high-tech generation—this is all geography. Geography is both an earth science and a social science. It supplements know- ledge from many fields of study, such as geology, meteorology, anthropology, pol- itical science, and economics, with spatial inquiry. It is the study of Earth’s physical and human processes and patterns across space. Indeed, it is the study of everything from plate tectonics, ecosystems, and climate to cultures, politics, and how humans adapt to their environment. The study of Earth’s processes falls under the branch of physical geography, while the study of human-related processes falls under the branch of human geog- raphy. There are some physical geographers who only study Earth’s characteris- tics and there are some human geographers who only study human-related topics. In many cases, however, there is crossover between these two branches because humans are part of the planet’s ecosystem. They impact Earth’s ecosystem and in turn are impacted by Earth’s natural processes. The study of geography itself has existed for more than 2,000 years and evolved from the philosophical tradition of the ancient Greeks. Strabo, a Greek geographer and historian who lived between 64 BCE and 25 CE, said of the discipline: If the scientific investigation of any subject be the proper avocation of the philoso- pher, Geography, the science of which we propose to treat, is certainly entitled to a high place and this is evident from many considerations. They who first ventured to handle the matter were distinguished men. Homer, Anaximander the Milesian, and Hecatæus . . ., all of them philosophers. . . . In addition to its vast importance in regard to social life, and the art of government, Geography unfolds to us the celes- tial phenomena, acquaints us with the occupants of the land and ocean, and the vegetation, fruits, and peculiarities of the various quarters of the earth, a knowledge of which marks him who cultivates it as a man earnest in the great problem of life and happiness. (Strabo 1903)
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