The cliché is that most people think geography is about memorizing state capitals and the primary exports of countries – and that is in fact where my journey with geography started, in 7th grade. We would sharpen our pencils and get ready for yet another quiz, trying to remember if Togo is between Ghana and Benin, or the other way around…
When I arrived at UC Berkeley to start college, I didn’t know what I wanted to major in, so I picked up the catalog and started thumbing through it, looking for classes that sounded interesting. For those of you that know what these were like, the catalog was just like a telephone book – thick, heavy, dense and printed on newsprint.
As it turned out, many of the classes that attracted me were in – of all things – the Geography department. Geography offered an incredible diversity of topics. I took classes on the shape of rivers, the migration of species, why windmills are where they are, making maps, and the economics of cities, just to name a few. I learned that geography covers, well, just about everything – and that it is a highly integrative was of looking at things. Geography is about the shape and phenomena of the earth, its inhabitants, and how they interact. It’s about how everything is connected.
Geography isn’t just about capitols. It’s a lens to look at the world. You can think about the geography of anything: where languages are spoken, mapping the Internet, the rise of the “creative class”, sacred geography, or maps as an art form. In many ways I am a geographer at heart, and this way of thinking informs many other parts of my life.
Read my posts on geography for more!