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sions—dimensions that are ignored at society's risk. The geographic perspective is concerned with the significance of place and space on processes and phenomena (see Chapter 3 for a fuller discussion). The geographic perspective motivates such questions as: Why is a particular phenomenon found in some places but not others? What does the spatial distribution of vegetation or homeless people or language traits tell us about how physical and human processes work? How do phenomena found in the same place influence one another, and how do phenomena found at different places influence one another? How do processes that operate at one geographic scale affect processes at other scales? What is the importance of location for efforts to effect (or avoid) political, social, economic, or environmental change?
The importance of the geographic perspective to many contemporary "critical issues" for society is illustrated by a few selected examples in the following sections.
Perhaps the main reason for American society's strong interest in geography in the 1990s is a sense that jobs, income, and entrepreneurial opportunities in the United States are connected with the global marketplace. The United States is caught up in the profoundly important process of global economic restructuring, in which every nation seeks competitive advantage in providing products and services that global consumers want. U.S. citizens no longer have the highest average standard of living in the world, and many citizens believe that other countries are doing a better job than the United States in responding to new economic conditions. Moreover, U.S. cities and regions are dealing with other dimensions of global economic change, such as reduced military spending with the end of the Cold War and increased interest in environmental sustainability.
Geography is expected to ensure a flow of accurate, timely, and useful information about the rest of the world, but it is more than a repository of place facts. It asks, for example: How and why do commodities, money, information, and power flow from one place to another? What characteristics of a place cause it to do better economically than another? What actions are best taken at national, regional, or local scales to improve economic development? How does global economic change relate to global environmental change?
Geographers contribute to understanding and responding to global economic change through their focus on place and space—in this context, the effects of place (location) and space (the connections between locations at different scales) on economic change and development. For example, Glasmeier and Howland (1995) used the heterogeneous and rapidly growing service sector to study the impacts of advanced information technologies on the growth of rural areas in the United States, recognizing the distinctiveness of rural areas as well as the social, economic, and geographic differences among rural areas. Geographers