between people and environments, and the connections between people and places (Geography Education Standards Project, 1994).

Geography is not defined by subject matter alone. Geography shares an interest in physical earth processes with such disciplines as geology, oceanography, and meteorology, and an interest in human processes with such disciplines as sociology, anthropology, and economics. Geography is more clearly defined by its unique perspective on the world with its emphasis on spatial relevance. For the geographer, location matters most; other disciplines underscore the relevance of subject matter. Geology, for example, is the science of the earth, meteorology the science of the atmosphere, and sociology the science of human behavior and relationships. The definition of geography as a perspective on place is similar to the definition of history as a perspective on the world from the viewpoint of time. More than most disciplines geography views the world as a system with human and physical components operating in a complex set of interactions.

Because geography offers a spatial view of the world, much of the discipline’s scientific effort goes to exploring how spatial processes operate and how spatial frameworks interact with other basic processes, such as those of physics, chemistry, biology, sociology, political science, and economics. Many geographers are scientists in the sense that they conduct their research according to commonly accepted methods of objective hypothesis testing using repeatable observations. However, some geographers investigate spatial interactions or nature-society connections using non-scientific approaches, employing techniques more closely aligned with the humanities. Because the objects of its study do not strictly define the discipline, natural scientists, social scientists, and humanists may hold the title of “geographer.” The emphasis on spatial considerations has given rise to a particular set of tools and techniques for geographic inquiry, including cartography, remote sensing, and especially GIScience.

All phenomena exist in time and space. Therefore, they have a history and a geography. Consequently, the discipline of geography cuts across numerous scientific boundaries and disciplines. Yet, geography has a core and a coherence that stems from well-developed and widely shared approaches (NRC, 1997; Figure 2.1):

  • A perspective that views the world through the lenses of place, space, and scale;

  • Investigations and explanations that use three domains of synthesis: environmental processes, social dynamics, and a combination of the two; and

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