GED Social Studies Practice Test: What is World Geography?
World Geography is the study of looking at regions of the world and its peoples, history, physical features, and other aspects. It is important because, unlike the other social sciences we have discussed so far, it is involved in spatial perspective — the identification, explanation, and prediction of human and physical patterns across space and time. Another key aspect is the interconnectedness of people and spaces.
A Few basics to Begin With
There are seven continents [a contiguous — ‘touching’ — land mass]: North America, South America, Africa, Asia, Europe, Australia and Antarctica. Within these seven continents and the islands of the world are about 190 nations (which are political units).
There are four oceans: Pacific, Atlantic, Indian, and Arctic.
There are seven seas (which are salt-water bodies that are essentially landlocked): Mediterranean Sea, Caribbean Sea, North Sea, Black Sea, Caspian Sea, Red Sea, Arabian Sea.
The major mountain ranges are: the Rockies, the Andes, the Himalayas, the Hindu Kush, the Alps, the Caucasus, and the Atlas ranges.
The Five Themes of Geography
Location: Location explains where something is on the planet and the effects that position has on human life. Absolute Location refers to the precise location of a place on the grid of longitude and latitude. Latitude uses the equator to divide the Earth into hemispheres. These are further divided into minutes and seconds (but don’t confuse these terms with the time-related ones).
Longitude refers to the position east or west of the prime meridian (which was set by England in the 1700s and runs through Greenwich, England). These are further divided into minutes and seconds (but don’t confuse these terms with the time-related ones).
The Earth comprises 360 degrees of longitude (as the Earth is a sphere).
There are 180 degrees of latitude — 90 north of the Equator and 60 south of it. At the “top” and “bottom” of the Earth are the North and South Poles. Degrees of latitude are also subdivided into minutes and seconds.
Thus, to give the absolute location of a place you would provide the latitude position and the longitude position.
Here is the Earth mapped out in latitude and longitude:
Relative location is just that — relative. In other words, where is Place A located in relation to Place B. For example: “Grandma’s house is 15 miles southwest of the supermarket at the corner of State and Main Streets.”
Human Environment Interaction. This concept describes how humans (specifically, human activity) affect their environment, and how their environment affects them. Let’s break this down into three parts:
- How have people have been changed by the environment?
- How has the environment has been changed by people?
- How do people depend on the environment?
How people have been changed by the environment can be called adaptation. It is the way humans change to suit their environment. An example might be the use of very light clothing in a region that has hot temperatures, or using study materials to construct homes in areas that have long and harsh winters.
How has the environment been changed by people is also known as modification. In ancient times, people discovered how to irrigate crops by diverting fresh water from rivers. Or, perhaps, a dam is built to prevent seasonal flooding. And you cannot plant crops in the middle of a forest; you’d have to chop down all the trees first.
How do people depend on their environment? This can very from place to place. If forests are abundant, it’s likely people will use firewood as the source of fuel for cooking and heating. If there is a river nearby, it may well be used for drinking water and/or transportation. Where coal and oil are plentiful, they are extracted from the group and used, or sold as a commodity.
Regions. A region is a spatial (of or relating to space) unit or geographical area that have the same (or similar) characteristics. There are three types:
- A formal region (such as a desert or a mountain range).
- A functional region has a defined core and then a specific characteristic that radiates outward from it (for example: the metropolitan region of a major city or the site of an epidemic and all the places around it where the infection has spread).
- A perceptual region is defined by people’s feelings or attitudes, even though the exact borders may not be precise (for example: “The West”).
Place. What are the human and physical characteristics of a location? Human attributes (traits, customs, practices) might include:
Human: religion, art, language, political organization, modes of transportation, clothing
Physical: climate, terrain, natural resources, mountains, coastline, rivers
Movement. Most anything can move from A to B in a space: people, goods, natural resources, information, customs….you name it. Spatial interaction is a key concept of geography. Of course, not everything can (or should) move easily. What interferes with movement? Here’s an example: because of physical isolation (let’s say a mountain), two valley communities on either side of the mountain speak different dialects of the primary language. A place may be rich in natural resources, but if it has (or even impossible) to move them, then there is what we call friction of distance, and movement is harder, or even impossible.