Geography is the study of place, and seeks to understand the ways in which humans influence their environment, and in turn explore the influence the environment has on humans. Quite simply, it is the study of the world around us. Surprising to many, its manifestation is seen in the following common every day instances:
Global Positioning System (GPS). A part of our daily lives, it speaks for itself. Spoiler alert: informs most items on this list.
We all use them. Before the advent of the above #1, we had these paper things that had routes, roads, highways (dare I say topographic features?) all accurately drawn. Nowadays we can use an electronic one that utilizes GPS such as the iPhone map. Or, for those with nostalgia, the paper one works just fine. Road atlases, remember?
3. Online food delivery services
Ever track a Domino’s delivery to see its progress? How about using the Seamless application to allow for speedy delivery of your food at the touch of a finger? At the speed of broadband, this entire concept is based on one thing: where you live.
4. Google Earth
While this is similar to #1 and #2 in that it facilitates a visual representation of WHERE we are in the world, it deserves its own category. A common computer application linked to satellite imagery that allows a user to explore the entire planet at the click of a button. Google Oceans? – Revolutionary. Bringing the dimensions of the earth into your home or work place, Google Earth has makes mapping and viewing the places we live, travel, or dream of visiting incredibly user friendly and accessible. Google Earth has seamlessly facilitated the ease of use of satellite imagery in our homes, which has had a ripple effect on the ways we view the earth.
While not a direct contributor, the groundbreaking crowd-sourcing project Tomnod can be seen as an extension of manipulating satellite data at home, an extraordinary feat considering the first image of the earth was only taken 55 years ago. Click here to learn more about how Tomnod and Google Earth have changed the world.
5. Transit Applications
Ever use a phone application such as Hop Stop to track the nearest subway or locate the schedule of your expected train ride? How about receiving a text to let you know your bus was en route? Yup. That’s geography in action, in cities all over the globe.
6. United Parcel Service
Do you use UPS to mail or receive packages? UPS is the world’s largest package delivery company, delivering millions of parcels a day, to over 200 countries worldwide. Their efficiency in part can be attributed to the use of the handheld Delivery Information Acquisition Device (DIAD). These devices are advanced tracking and route planning tools that include a GPS unit. They are what allow both UPS and the shipper to track a package while in its travels. Check out this video here to see the DIADs in action (fast forward to 29:01). Another win for geography!
7. Weather and Climate
This is a massive topic where physical geography and earth systems science could be expanded upon, but we’ll keep it simple. Do you listen to the weather on the radio, look it up online, or watch it on TV? How about a weather application on your phone? Well, the daily, weekly and monthly forecasts are surely based on your location.
8. Sports Teams
UConn making it to the final four a big deal in your hometown? How about Seattle Seahawks for the win? While there are some who support teams who have nothing to do with where we live, many of us tend to root along for the teams that represent our home town, city, state, or region.
Location, location, location. If you haven’t figured it out by now, geography defines and informs just that. It’s where you are in the world. In fact, when it comes to housing, you may have already utilized numbers 1-5 on this list to better understand the features of an area you are choosing to move to. Will you be living near the ocean, a downtown, a farm, a school? Will the area have public transit? Are there pedestrian and bike friendly sidewalks/lanes? These are all questions asked and/or considered when moving to a new place. In person, realtors take these questions into consideration when helping to find you a home. Online, Zillow, Trulia, or Craigslist can help do the job as well.
10. Planning a place to live
Planners play a unique role in the places we choose to live. The questions asked above by the everyday citizen are a microcosm of the questions planners themselves raise when designing and planning a region, city, urban renewal project, transit system, green space project, town center, etc. The people, community, culture, politics, local features and physical attributes of a location all influence the decisions planners make and essentially are the pinnacle of geography.