Geography is a subject that is increasingly being ostracized by students as a subject with no practical value whatsoever. It is understandable, for it is rather easy to believe that knowledge about contours and volcanoes will not help the most of us in dealing with practical matters of the world. It has even been argued that it is not pragmatic for a student to include geography in his education after a certain point. These beliefs are, in fact, as unfounded as those held by many students some thirty years back about the value of studying history or sociology beyond a certain level. Geography, like the other shunned subjects, has immense practical value, especially when trying to understand the dynamics of the world and its people. The pervasiveness of its influence has made its study all the more crucial.
Current events and politics when viewed from a geographic spectrum can be understood far better. It is because our insight into these events does not include much influence of geography that there always remains an air of partial mystery hanging about them. The recent Russian annexation of Crimea would serve as the perfect example. Even after months of analysis, political analysts have not been able to explain the sudden Russian annexation of Crimea. Very few had expected the annexation to take place, even amidst the height of the crisis. A very basic understanding of geography however would help understand the politics behind the action. Russia, a huge country with much of its territory lying in a frigid zone, has very few warm water ports. The loss of Soviet territory left the country in need for more of these ports, especially as the country grew economically stronger. It was but natural that it would undertake a quest to recover such ports as soon as the opportunity presented itself.
Economics and history can also be better understood with the help of geography. A question which has perplexed historians and economists alike for a very long time is why the Industrial Revolution occurred in Europe and not in any other part of the world, especially when much larger amounts of capital were available elsewhere. A geographical explanation in such a case would be helpful in providing an answer. The geography of Europe is such that it is very difficult for one single country to dominate it. Several peninsulas and mountainous barriers made it possible for a variety of states to develop and flourish. This never could occur in other parts of the world. In fact, after the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, there were almost as many states within Europe as outside it. The competition between the myriad of states as well as the trade between them was natural. Out of this competition grew the need to surpass the other in technological improvements. Technological progress became a necessity as the small continent could not sustain its populace without better utilization of its resources. Hence Europe became the birthplace of industrialization.
It is, however, equally important to note that geography cannot provide complete explanations in all cases. It can only further our understanding of the situation in the same way as any other subject does. Geographic determinism as it is called it almost as dangerous as the denial of the subject’s importance. Geography serves as only a piece in the puzzle of the world; a very crucial piece nonetheless, without which the puzzle cannot possibly be solved.
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