Introduction xi members would come to its aid. When a Serbian nationalist assassinated Arch- duke Franz Ferdinand of Austria in 1914, Austria-Hungary declared war on Ser- bia. Those countries in mutual defense arrangements with Austria-Hungary and Serbia quickly entered the fray. By the end of the year, Russia, Germany, Belgium, France, Great Britain, Japan, and the Ottoman Empire were also at war, and the conflict was well on its way to becoming global. By 1918, World War I had dif- fused into a worldwide conflict with nations on nearly every continent joining the war. The reasons for this diffusion of war—such as mutual defense alliances—are of great interest to political and conflict geographers. Many geographers focus their studies on contemporary issues, seeking to find creatives solutions or mitigation strategies to problems societies currently face, such as the effects of environmental disasters on human societies, or alternatively, the effects of human disasters on the environment. A topic that fits both of the aforementioned scenarios, studied by many environmental and physical geogra- phers, is climate change. Medical geographers study the spread of diseases, such as COVID-19, in order to determine such factors as points of origin, as well as to identify methods to slow the spread, such as contact tracing. And political geogra- phers are investigating the reasons behind the worldwide rise in societal polariza- tion over economic, cultural, and political issues. Both physical and human geographers incorporate scientific data into their studies, as well as the creation and use of maps to show that data. Some geogra- phers, however, specialize in mapmaking. They are called cartographers. Map- making is an ancient science that dates back to the earliest civilizations. Such maps were carved into stone or written on papyrus. Oftentimes, the locations depicted on the early maps were far from accurate and had more to do with the mapmaker’s imagination than reality. Early geographers, such as Ptolemy, how- ever, developed ways to measure locations on Earth’s surface and transfer that data onto flat maps, paving the way for the maps we use today. Indeed, 21st- century cartographers use data gathered from satellites, unmanned aerial vehi- cles, drones, and airplanes to create complex, multilayered maps. While a few of geography’s subdisciplines, such as political, environmental, and conflict geography, have been mentioned here, there are many more, includ- ing cultural, economic, and even animal geography. As mentioned in the para- graphs before, geographers study such varied topics as plate tectonics, population distribution and migration, trade, political organization and boundaries, econo- mies, disease and famine, war, transportation, communication, globalization, as well as the diffusion of ideas, culture, and innovation. Or they might specialize in the graphic depiction of data. Indeed, the study of geography is expansive, often- times cross-curricular, and encompasses so much more than memorizing state capitals. Former U.S. president Barack Obama perfectly summarized the disci- pline and its value when he made this statement at the National Geographic GeoBee in 2012: The study of geography is about more than just memorizing places on a map. It’s about understanding the complexity of our world, appreciating the diversity of cul- tures that exists across continents. And in the end, it’s about using all that knowl- edge to help bridge divides and bring people together.
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