Discussion: Thinking Geographically

Think about global events that have occurred in the past several years. Global events are any events that make an impact worldwide. Describe one such event and in what ways did geography play a role in its importance?

Last year, there was a large earthquake off the coast of Japan. The resulting tsunami was catastrophic for those living in Japan. The waves even reached the coast of Oregon and California where one man was killed as he was trying to photograph the oncoming waves. Beyond the first physical ripple across the Pacific, there was a cultural response as countries from all over the world offered their support. Every part of the world is connected, and an event in one area affects all of the others eventually. In the middle of the Pacific Ocean, there is a giant floating island of trash. The tsunami has broken off a chunk of this island and sent it careening away to crash into the coast of California. Another global effect, is one of awareness. The Japanese nuclear power plant that was affected became a warning to other countries in earthquake-prone areas.

Using your atlas or a map found on the Internet, find the city of Montreal, Canada. How would you describe the site of Montreal and also the city's situation? Be very specific and thorough and refer to page 12 and 13 in your text for complete definitions of these two terms. It is imperative that you thoroughly understand these two basic Geographic concepts. Remember that when describing an area's situation, it also includes what makes the area significant.

Montreal spans the Saint Lawrence River, with the main portion of the river flowing to the southeast. Because of this, the land is quite flat and the streets correspondingly regular (inside of the irregular framework of larger roads that follow the contours of the river). Near the center of the main island, there is a bit of a hill which is largely covered by a park. Besides the main channel, there are a few smaller pieces of the Saint Lawrence River that cut through the city, and which are spanned by bridges.
The situation of the city of Montreal is that of southeastern Canada near the Canada / United States border. The major river of the region cuts through the city, and I imagine it was an early source of trade (both informational and economical).

Now let's try something a little closer to home. Using any source you wish, find your city's latitude and longitude. How would you describe your city's site and situation. Again, be very thorough in your explanation of site and situation.

Roseburg, Oregon: 43.23°N 123.35°W

Site: Roseburg is defined by the Umpqua River and the hills that surround it. The city is divided into two by I-5, which runs north and south. On the right side of the freeway, the oldest part of town is in the south, and is comprised of older homes and businesses. To the north is a small neighborhood which used to be the *really nice* neighborhood many years ago, the streets are wide with greenways between them. To the east are hills and a few businesses that line the highway heading towards Crater Lake. The rest of the town on the right side of the freeway is fairly flat, nestled between the hills to the east. To the left of the freeway is a long arm that reaches out to the west and the area known as Garden Valley. This area is comprised of newer homes and businesses.

Situation: Roseburg is in one of the larger river valleys of the area. The surrounding areas are covered in mountains or hills, and unfit for farming. When people ask me where Roseburg is, I tell them: one hundred miles from everything. 100 miles to the west is the coast with the coastal range in between, 100 miles to the east is Crater Lake after travelling through the Umpqua National Forest. 100 miles to the north is the first major city of the Willamette Valley, Eugene. And, 100 miles to the south is the city of Medford, the first major town to the south (almost on the Oregon / California border).

Now to add another dimension to perspective: Please view this very short video, The Sacred Balance. Before going into space, astronauts take extensive geography lessons to learn their Earth from a different perspective. How would you describe the city in which you live from an astronaut's perspective?

If I were an astronaut, looking down at the earth, I don't think I would care that much about looking at my city, it's such a small spot on the globe, and there are so many other places that I could focus on. I've looked at my town on a satellite image though, and it makes me sad, it is a grey blemish on a green backdrop. There, that dead spot, that's what we have created.

Lastly, chapter one discusses several historical theorists and their contribution to geography. Give an example (not discussed in your text) of environmental determinism and possibilism.

An example of these concepts can be seen in our clothing. (Practically) Every culture has a history and traditions surrounding clothing .. everyone wears something. Possibilism describes the adaptations each culture has adopted in their clothing choices. Even though it can be very hot in the Amazon Basin, native tribe members still wear tiny loin cloths in order to preserve modesty. The same thing can be seen on the beaches of our own county. Environmental determinism, on the other hand, describes the ways in which geography (site and situation!) modify the ways in which each culture adapts to their location. I belong to the same culture as those living in Southern California, but I do not wear the same clothes, as I would probably get sick if I went out in the rain wearing shorts, a bikini top and sandals.

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