What Is Geography?

It’s important to understand that geography is much more than place names and countries and their capitals.  Here’s the definition of geography from the Royal Geographical Society: Geography is the study of Earth’s landscapes, peoples, places and environments. It is, quite simply, about the world in which we live. Geography is unique in bridging the social sciences (human geography) with the natural sciences (physical geography).

Physical geography studies the Earth’s surface and the processes that shape it.

Human geography studies the complex relationships that develop between people and their environments (physical surroundings).

When looking out at the world, observe the landforms, the flora, and how the people that live there make their living, build their houses and subsist in concert with their environment.    You will begin to see the connections between places. Opening your eyes, thinking about what you see and interpreting what it tells you about that place is not only fun but a good exercise in critical thinking skills. Geographers are scientists who study the relationships between people and their environments.

Why it geography important? Geography helps us know more about each other and how our cultures evolved. It helps us understand our environment and problems associated with it and then geography can help us solve environmental, political, economic, and social problems.

First you need to “see” a place with the eyes of a scientist. What can you see in Austria?

Geographic Concepts: Natural sciences

Geology:  What kind of rock is Austria made of?  Why does Austria look the way it does? This is also called geomorphology.
Meteorology: What makes the climate the way it is?
Oceanography: Austria is landlocked.  Why is that important?

Geographic Concepts:  Social Science

Anthropology: Where did the people come from?  Were there ancient people here? How do you know?
Economy: How do the people make a living?
History:  Where did the ideas that make the culture come from?

  • A “Nature” Experience

    Do something outside. Talk about what you see.

  • An “Anthropology” Experience

    Find a very old site.  Archaeological, prehistoric, or just old.  Consider what it means.

  • Do something “active.”

    Ride a bike. Take a hike in the Alps. Canoe or kayak. The world looks different when you are out in it.


  • How was that made?

    Take a tour of how something from Austria is made.