Not Just States And Capitals

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Zackary Wiggins
Staff Writer

Just as a disclaimer, I am a geography major concentrating in Earth Science and Environmental Studies, so I am a little biased when it comes to believing that everyone should have to take geography classes.  Also, this is not an advertisement to get someone to major in geography, but rather, why every student should have to take a couple geography classes.  

Whenever I tell someone that I’m majoring in geography, the first question I always get is “So you know all the states and capitals, right?”  A majority of the time they’re surprised that someone can even major in that.  

While yes, I do know where every state is and can name each one (which every American should be able to do), geography is so much more than that, and I believe students would benefit greatly from taking several classes in this field.  There are several subcategories within the field of geography: human geography, physical/environmental geography, and geography dealing with mapping software – called GIS.  

Geography, at its core, is the study of humans and their interactions with the environment.  This is broad, I know, but classes dealing with humans and the environment are crucial at a time when our government is denying the very existence of human caused climate change, proposing a wall that is absolutely pointless, and seemingly okay with Russia interfering with our elections.  

Climate change is real and it is happening at a terrifying rate.  This is a fact.  I’m taking an advanced weather and climate class and at the beginning of every class we look at the amount of arctic sea ice compared to other years, and the temperature anomalies around the world.  The data does not lie.  

This year is one of the warmest on record, and arctic sea ice is at its lowest point since records began.  On top of that, we can see the rapid increase in temperatures and dramatic decrease of arctic sea ice on graphs compared to other years, and the rate is actually increasing.  

If you’re a college student now, you don’t know what an average temperature year is supposed to feel like.  With all this data, why don’t more people in America believe that climate change is real, while people in other industrialized countries do? It’s the lack of science and geography classes that teach citizens the physics of the atmosphere, and the consequences of human activities on our planet.  

People are not given proper information and training, so they don’t believe that climate change is happening.  Taking care of our planet is second nature in a lot of countries and is taught to students at a young age, but in America it’s hard to teach young students to take care of our planet if our government denies the fact that we are destroying it.  We need more people who understand the climate and the environment to get involved and have their voices heard so that our government will listen.  This starts, though, with students taking geography classes that teach about climate change and its consequences.

Human geography deals more with human interactions with each other and their environment.  Geopolitics, borders, population growth and decline, language, and movement of people all go under this broad subcategory of geography.  This part of the discipline is just as important as the section dealing with the environment. If more people studied it, we would have an allover better country when it comes to dealing with certain aspects.  

Borders are important.  They define where the jurisdiction of one sovereign nation ends and another one begins. One thing that most people don’t know, however, is that the vast majority of borders in the world are not physically defined other than a stone post every so often.  

This comes to a surprise to most people I talk to. They cannot seem to understand the concept that a country doesn’t need a large wall in between itself and another country unless there’s some serious military conflict going on.  They’re so used to wanting a wall between us and Mexico, thinking that’s normal. It’s not.  

Let me tell you something: as a geographer, having a border between the United States and Mexico is pointless.  It does absolutely nothing.  If more students had to take geography classes, they would be able to see the benefits of immigration, and less people would want to shut people out of this country.  Currently, there’s actually more Mexicans leaving, than coming into the United States.  

What is the purpose of a wall then?  

It’s 2017. Most people coming to this country do not walk in, they come by plane.  Is Donald Trump going to build a 35,000 ft tall wall?  And even then, do people not realize that you can just go around that wall to get where you want to go?  Immigrants help boost our economy, pay into our social security, and help keep our population from shrinking.  

We need them, and politicians shouldn’t be playing into people’s fears to win elections.  Of course, if people took geography classes, they wouldn’t have so much fear because they would have gained empathy towards other groups of people, and would understand what’s going on between nations and ethnic groups.  

Again, this article isn’t an advertisement to get you to major in geography, but I believe that our nation and world would benefit so much if everyone could take some geography classes.  Maybe then, our climate wouldn’t be getting destroyed, and people wouldn’t have so much fear of others.  Remember, geography isn’t just knowing states and capitals. It’s understanding the world around us.



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