Term Paper: William Renwick. The Content of the Book

Pages: 21 (5769 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 0  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Geography  ·  Buy This Paper

¶ … William Renwick. The content of the book is constructed around three central themes: the belief in the interrelationship between humans and their natural environment; the philosophy that many basic principles of geography can be demonstrated and studied on a local levels; and the idea that geography is a dynamic field. The book presents readers with the tools they need to understand current events, decide where to live, seek or build a career, and inform their own political opinions.

The first section of the paper will present and discuss basic ideas that form the foundation of geography; how it is a discipline and what kind of discipline it is, as well as how the concepts inherent to it are measured and studied. The second part will apply those concepts and principles to the geography of North America, then compare it with the geography of South America. The final section of the paper will consist of a survey of scholarly journals pertaining to the discipline, and will include examinations of the evidence and principle contentions of the article, as well as the significance of the research.

Part 1: Fundamental Concepts of Geography.

Geography qualifies as a scientific discipline because it involves the collecting of data of various forms, and methods of analyzing that data to come to logical conclusions. As defined in the text, geography is the study of the interaction of all physical and human phenomena of individual places and of how interactions among places form patterns and organizes space.

There are two main branches of geography, classified as physical geography and human geography. Physical geography studies the characteristics of the physical environment. It is considered a natural science because it deals with topics such as soil, climate and vegetation. Human geography studies human groups and activities, including linguistics, industry and urbanization. This branch is a social science because it concerns itself with the activities of people. Both branches rely on similar approaches to their respective fields, and share information back and forth. The two branches are intrinsically interconnected and one cannot be fully understood without drawing upon the sphere of knowledge encompassed by the other. In this way, geography is a discipline that bridges the gap between the physical sciences and the social sciences.

Area analysis integrates the geographic features of an area or place. Area analysis is a method of organizing the study of people and environments through the identification of regions and descriptions of similarities and differences among them. Each place in the world occupies a unique location, and is imbued with a particular character through a combination of this location and other factors, such as human behavior and environmental processes.

Important to the application of area analysis is the concept of regions. A region is an area defined by one or more distinctive features or characteristics, such as climate, soil type, language or economics. Geographers recognize three types of regions. Formal regions exhibit essential uniformity in one or more physical or cultural features, such as a country or a mountain range. Functional regions are defined by interactions among places, such as trade or communication. Vernacular regions are defined by widespread popular perception of their existence by people within or outside them.

Each place occupies a unique location in the world, and geographers study the factors that contribute to making each place unique. Geographers measure location in an absolute sense and in a relative one. Absolute location is called a site, and is plotted on what is known as the geographic grid. Geographers measure and mathematically represent the site on the globe through measurements for latitude and longitude. Latitude measures distance north and south of the equator, the imaginary middle line that surrounds the earth. The measurements are in degrees, minutes and seconds. The degrees begin with the equator as 0 degrees and the north and south poles at 90 degrees. In other words, the distance from the equator to either pole is divided into 90 equal degrees. The lines formed by all the points at the same degree are called a parallel. This name is derived from the fact that the lines never touch one another- they are always equidistant. The degrees are further subdivided; there are sixty minutes in each degree and sixty seconds in each minute. Longitude measures east and west distances from the prime meridian, located in Greenwich, England. It is also divided into degrees, minutes and seconds. The degree lines are named meridians. Unlike the parallels, they are not equidistant; they are at the furthest distance from one another at the equator and converge as the meridian approach the poles.

The same conference that established the geographic grid also established the twenty-four standard time zones and the International Date Line. The 24 time zones correspond with the number of hours it takes the sun to travel around the earth (360 degrees). Therefore the time zones each represent 15 degrees of longitude and each zone tracks time as one hour ahead or behind of the zones adjacent to it. The time at the prime meridian is established as Greenwich Mean Time.

The International Date Line runs along the 180th meridian, although it deviates slightly to accommodate specific areas and their needs.

Geographers also measure relative location, meaning where a place is located in relation to other places. Knowledge of the relative location of a place helps to understand how it interacts with the world. Relative location is also known as situation. Situation has an influence on accessibility and is indicated in relative terms, such as nearer or farther, or hard to reach or easy to reach. Accessibility is as valuable as natural resources in the potential thriving of a place. Changes in transportation and communication routes cause a change in relative location and redistribute accessibility.

Spatial analysis emphasizes interactions among places. It seeks to identify patterns in the distribution of human activities and environmental processes, as well as movements across the surface of the Earth. Distribution is defined as the position, placement or arrangement of phenomena throughout space. Geographers define distribution in three seperate ways. Density is the frequency of occurrence of the phenomena over a geographic area (usually expressed in ratio to square miles or square kilometers). Concentration is distribution within the given area. An area with close proximity of occurrences is said to be concentrated, whereas an area where occurrences are scattered far apart from each other is said to be dispersed. Pattern refers to the arrangement of objects within the area. It describes the geometrical arrangements of objects.

Geographers also study movement to further spatial analysis. Movement implies covering distance. Distance can be measured absolutely, by miles and kilometers, but is also measured in time increments or cost (known as cost distance). Geographers call the effort or cost of moving people or goods over a given distance as friction of distance. Friction of distance imposes practical limitations on movement over long distances.

The impacts and effects of phenomena diminish as the distance from the point of origin increases. Geographers call this distance decay. Geographers use mathematical formulas to create models in the same way that physicists do. Models serve as idealized and simplified representations of reality that can be used as a standard to compare individual cases in the real world.

Another important aspect of spatial analysis is the concept of diffusion. Diffusion is the process of an item or feature spreading through time. The place of origin of any innovation is called a hearth. Tracing diffusion offers insight into how groups of people interact and influence one another. Geographers have identified three primary methods of diffusion. Relocation diffusion is widely separated from point to point. Groups that relocate to another place tend to settle in terrain that is similar to their old homes, and they bring their culture with them.

Contiguous diffusion takes place between nearby or neighboring locations. Studies of cultural similarities in an area can reveal the contiguous diffusion of generations past. Hierarchical diffusion occurs upward or downward in a hierarchy of organization. Generally, information travels up and down the chain more than between places on the same level. There are barriers to diffusion, ranging from topographical and terrain, to political reasons, to a tense or unfriendly state between cultural groups in the same area.

Geography studies physical and human systems. A system is an interdependent group of items that interact in a regular way to form a unified whole. Geography places a particular emphasis on the interactions between humans and the environment. The four physical systems of the Earth that geographers study are the atmosphere (air), hydrosphere (water), lithosphere (earth and rock), and the biosphere (living things). The atmosphere is a thin layer of gases surrounding the Earth to an altitude of less than 300 miles, and is composed mostly of nitrogen. The hydrosphere is the collective water realm of the planet, with the vast majority being in liquid form in the world's oceans. The lithosphere is the solid earth, made up of rocks and… [END OF PREVIEW]

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