What is geography?
First published 2008
SAGE Publications Ltd
Working in the field of geography for many years, I kept thinking about why the field of research in this area of science is so vague, why people who consider themselves geographers explore many issues that cannot be related to geography. When this happens, you should get acquainted with the positions of the maximum number of researchers. Alastair Bonnett's work "What is geography?" is just that, it allows us to understand the authors of the English-speaking world, although in the scientific field, the author's affiliation to a particular language group should not matter, because all scholars form a single cohort. Let's walk through the pages of this book. I will comment on some opinions to show differences - without this, science cannot move forward.
I will give my comments in black, quotes from the book - in blue.
Why What is Geography?
It is an extremely original introduction. It seems that the author writes sincerely, from the heart. Look what he writes: «This book introduces geography as one of humanity’s big ideas. Geography is not just another academic specialism. Indeed, in an age when knowledge is fragmented into thousands of disciplines, geography can seem like a throwback. Its horizons are just too wide» (p. 1).
Discussing the similarity of geography and history in terms of comprehensiveness, the author notes: «Those with a geographical bent of mind will want to add, ‘and our position in the world’» (p. 2).
My position: This begs the question: what is our position in the world? The answer will be ambiguous. When it comes to space, it's too trivial.
The author writes: «More specifically, it is towards geography that people have turned when seeking answers to the questions, ‘How and why has the environment altered?’ and ‘How and why do nations differ?’ These questions, transformed into images, are postered across school rooms the world over» (p. 4).
My position: The questions posed by the author are very important, but the question of differences of nations is related to ethnology but not to geography. For us, the question of the transformation of the environment is more important, but it's not just a transformation in itself, it's, above all, a change due to the activities of mankind, which is itself part of it. These changes are happening at the same time. Here the Alastair Bonnett notes: «But as we imagine a world so easily spanned we also sense its vulnerability. Geography can still talk to us in the primal language of survival. To discuss environmental crisis may seem a distant, rather dry exercise. But what is being discussed is survival» (p. 5).
Why What is Geography?
This is a very important statement: «But if its story is confined to only one institutional form then it appears both random and disconnected. This much is obvious if one looks at contemporary academic geography. It covers everything from queer theory to quaternary science. Merely collating this vast body of activity will never lead to a plausible explanation of what geography is» (p. 5 - 6).
My position: We are really facing a problem that requires finding options.
It looks very nice: «Geography is an attempt to find and impose order on a seemingly chaotic world; an attempt that is simultaneously modern and pre-modern, ancient and contemporary» (p. 6).
My position: But this applies to all sciences - the search for order in, at first glance, a chaotic world.
1. To Know the World: Order and Power
The author: «In Chapter 2 I address how the world came to be understood as a creation of Nature. Chapter 1 is focused upon how the world came to be seen as the home of women and men. It is a story with ancient roots but which confronts us with the modern dilemmas of ethnocentrism and global domination» (p. 8).
My position: The author asks quite difficult questions - «how the world came to be understood as a creation of Nature», «how the world came to be seen as the home of women and men»? I would say that they relate to the essence of science in general and geography as its important and special field. At the same time, I would focus on the concept of "organization", that is, on the question of how our world became more and more organized, which contributed to the emergence of Homo sapiens with its culture.
Ordering the World
The author: «When we look at the different ways people have found meaning within the world we address traditions and practices that vary from one society and from one period to another. However, there are some geographical ideas that appear universal. I turn now to three such ideas: the search for a world story; the need for orientation; and the notion of centre and periphery» (p. 8 - 9).
My position: These are very valid opinions. First, the environment in which we live was formed as a whole gradually, making it impossible to understand it without understanding history. Then the geographer should consider it not only as a "choro-", but also as a "chrono-", and moreover – how “ChoroChronoOrg”. Secondly, without guidelines, we will not be able to understand the meaning of the changes that have taken place. Finally, the issue of "center" and "periphery" is really important, and I think that the "center" should be understood as places where events occur that affect the state of the periphery, as places of changing wave’s generation.
Stories of the World
The author: «The desire to find order in the world is a fundamental human need» (p. 9).
My position: At the same time, we must always keep in mind the question: is this order really such, or do we impose our image of order on the environment, that is whether such an order is our vision of order? This raises another question: will the order change when our paradigm changes? This seems to be the case, although there is no doubt that a certain order - as a manifestation of the organization - exists. As for the deity, which is considered by A. Bonnett, this, in my opinion, is the prototype of the scientific concept of "organizing beginning". It is very interesting. At the same time, I cannot agree with A. Bonnett on the geographical nature of his questions - «questions about how and why the climate varies between different places; questions about how and why the world’s peoples differ» (p. 9).
I want to draw the attention of geographers to the following text of the author: «Thus in tracing geography’s secularisation we are not necessarily following a shift away from the search for the ‘big picture’. The notion that geography can be divided into two fields of enquiry, the regional and the general (or global), has allowed geographers to be highly empiricist and descriptive at the specific scale while making claims for an overall and overarching logic at the general scale. This was a central concern for Bartholomaus Keckerman (1572–1609), the Protestant theologian who is often credited as a founding father of modern geography. His division between geographica generalis, which addressed the earth globally (most especially its climatic and physical forms), and geographica specialis, which addressed particular regions, proved to be highly influential» (p. 11).
The author: «The late twentieth century saw the demise of overtly racist expressions of Eurocentrism.» (p. 12).
My position: But I must point out that in addition to Eurocentrism, it is worth talking about Soviet-centrism in the 20th century, and now about Russian-centrism, which is manifested in the Kremlin's desire to establish its own rules of the game throughout the world. At the same time, I still do not find anything related to the natural component, its organization, without which the geography will not be complete.
In this section we have a good description of the ideas of the people of the Middle Ages, which may be useful for geographers, but it has nothing to do with geography.
The author: «The orientation of the world between East and West has developed into an important tool for ordering global affairs. In 1978 the Palestinian literary critic, Edward Said, diagnosed a Western ideology which he called ‘orientalism’» (p. 15).
My position: Very interesting review! Especially when it comes to Russia. But today, this state is an example of ‘Asianism’ (Aziatchina), demonstrating aggression towards neighboring countries and the culture of the past. Good statement: «the sun may still rise in the East but Enlightenment comes from the West. We have come full circle» (p. 16). From this point of view, Ukraine has become a barrier to the advancement of Russian Asia to the West. In 2013-14, a movement emerged here that demonstrated the desire of Ukrainians for the culture of the Western world and it is Russia that is still trying to prevent this.
Centres and Peripheries
The author: «The need to find order in the world appears to be inextricable from the hunger to see the world in terms of centre and periphery» (p. 17).
My position: Trying to describe the world in terms of center and periphery is a very ancient technology of thinking since prehistoric times. This may indeed be the result of egocentrism, but it is more important to observe the inaccessible Sun, which cannot be influenced. The forces of influence go from the Center to the peripheral zones, and this hierarchy has affected the structure of human communities, the emergence of centralized states, where there is a leading center - the capital, and all the other territory that should support it. But such a scheme has demonstrated its conservatism for a long time and will eventually be replaced by another. As A. Bonnet noted, «However, if we accept that the entire globe has undergone a profound modernisation and, hence, Westernisation, then it also seems plausible to say that we live in the most centralised era in human history. While ancient centres, such as Christendom, or imperial China and Rome, were surrounded by terrain outside their control and ken, today the Western cosmopolitan imagination claims the entire planet within its discourse of universal values and universal progress. Today’s world consciousness has grown bigger and more sophisticated. Yet it carries a level of arrogance that is historically unique» (p. 17).
It should also be added that the so-called "center" should be considered as a source of innovation waves that propagate in the environment, especially in the corridors of communication.
Modern Geography: The World of Trade and Nations
The author: «We take it for granted today that geography will impart economic information: that it will tell us about tonnages shipped, key exports and where raw materials are extracted. That most maps massively magnify transport lines passes without comment. The only form of information that rivals the status of economics is political. The modern era is the age of nations. To offer a representation of the world means to offer a representation of state boundaries. Indeed, the act of establishing national borders has taken on a primordial aspect. Everything – including flora and fauna – is readily imagined in national terms. Geographies of, for example, Turkey and India, are addressing very recent categories which are, moreover, internally diverse and have contested borders. Yet to think nationally has become second nature. The flowers illustrated in The Flora of Turkey39 may not know it, nor the birds flapping through the pages of Birds of India40, but nature is now subject to the state» (p. 22).
My position: Here I am already forced to protest. If this has to do with geography, it is very indirect. Of course, studying geographical formations as quasi-organisms, we cannot ignore economic and political processes, but geography is not limited to them. Human communities are integrated into the natural environment, which is the basis of their existence on the planet. And if we, considering nature, do it referring to state territories, it is only because it facilitates orientation.
Knowing Others: Geography as the Modern Dilemma
The author: «Geography attempts to describe and explain the world and its peoples. There are many pitfalls in such an undertaking. One of the most fundamental is how we can know about people from other parts of the world. The increased mobility of people and information means that the issue of ‘knowing others’ has become a defining dilemma of the modern era. Prejudice, ignorance and stereotype are concerns within all intellectual fields of enquiry. But because of the nature of geography, because of its claim to produce information about other societies and other landscapes, it is forever shackled to this set of problems» (p. 24).
My position: I cannot agree with these statements. Geography is not a universal scientific field and cannot claim to describe and explain the world and peoples. These peoples are also part of the world. Similar views can be found in the works of the late 19th - early 20th centuries. The esteemed author found himself in a time trap. To exist as an independent scientific field, geography must have a well-limited field of study. And such a restriction exists: it is a form of organization of the so-called geographical environment or a form of geographical organization of a certain part of the earth's environment. As for peoples, this is an area of study in areas such as ethnology and ethnography, but certainly not geography.
But then the author writes: «Contemporary geography agonises over anti-racism. Within primary and secondary education, many geography textbooks consciously strive to dismantle ethnic prejudice and expose students to human diversity» (p. 24).
My position: It goes far beyond geography. It is not necessary to involve geography in the problems of interethnic relations, as well as to replace politics with geography - there is no political geography, it is a fabrication. At the same time, the results of geographical research should be taken into account by politicians. Next is a text that has nothing to do with geography.
The author: «Geography is not a specialism, like sociology or geology. Nor is it the product only of recent history. Geography, like history, is an infuriating but vital combination of the modern and pre-modern. Its ambition is absurdly vast. But we know it would be more absurd to abandon it. This chapter has introduced one of the two main ways geography attempts to find order in our world. It has looked at the world as a peopled place (in the next chapter I turn to the world as a natural place). One of modern geography’s tasks is to make sense of this international and, perhaps, increasingly post-national, realm. We have seen how this ambition has emerged over the past few hundred years. Geography has become the international discipline, with an agenda that reflects the development of a global, commercial civilization. We have also seen how geography’s modern role exposes deep-seated dilemmas and ambiguities, problems that revolve around the imbalance of power between different parts of the world» (p. 28 - 29).
My position: I completely agree with the author that «Geography is not a specialism, like sociology or geology», because it is a specialism just like geography. And the ambitions of geography are not absurdly huge - such a position only pushes young people away from this scientific field. Geography has fairly clear boundaries, as is the case in biology, sociology, chemistry, etc. - is a study of forms of organization of the geographical environment, in which such environments as abiota, biota and anthropota (as global actors) operate. As for commercial civilization, it should be studied by socio-economists, not geographers, although, as content, this should be taken into account in geographical research.
2. To Know the World: People and Nature
The author: « Our experience of the world is both of something made by humans and as something we call ‘natural’ (i.e., not made by humans). Because we are self-aware creatures we see ourselves as above nature or, at least, as acting upon it as if it was apart from us. Yet this is a troubling distinction. For in trying to describe nature we stumble into a dilemma: if the physical world is natural, does that make what we do to it unnatural? More questions follow: What should our relationship to nature be? Can we do what we like with nature? Should it be left alone?
But it is too late for that last query. We have already changed the earth; the flora and fauna are what we have left or care to keep; its landscapes have been dramatically altered by us and our pollutants have modified the soil and the climate» (p. 30). And then: «Geography is the world discipline, and the world is both natural and human. Geography has sought to find order in both and to study the relationship between the two» (p. 30).
My position: These remarks of A. Bonnett are extremely relevant. We call Nature what we have been able to understand and use in our activities. But are we ourselves and the products of our productive activity that not belong to Nature? I don't think so. Man, figuratively speaking, is immersed in Nature, because he is its product, the bearer of his brain - through Man Nature knows himself. And as for production, it is all based on those processes allowed by Nature. So, we cannot separate the natural and human worlds, we have to move towards human-natural organics, and this requires the development of another culture - geoculture. We can assume that this tradition comes from the A. Humboldt’ views.
The author: «The relationship between people and nature has not always been framed by an assumption of crisis. Yet the insistence that neither nature nor humankind can be understood separately, that they are connected, has made geography uniquely sensitive to the idea that mistreating one may have adverse consequences for the other» (p. 32).
My position: Here the position of the author completely coincides with mine. This is what makes it necessary to introduce new images into geography that reflects integrity, and this is "geocholon" or "geoorg". The first option focuses on integrity, the second - on the organization. Next, A. Bonnett considers geographical determinism, which for some time prevailed among geographers. Therefore, the following fact, important by the author, is important: «By the late twentieth century many university geographers had developed a deep suspicion of synthesis. In the words of Derek Gregory:
Claims [for synthesis] have been advanced many times in the past, as we all know, but more often as pious hopes or rueful excuses than as serious propositions … it hasn’t got very far because the natural and the social sciences keep pulling [geography] in different directions» (p. 34).
And the following is very important: «However, Gregory’s overview ignores the fact that the last 50 years have seen the development of influential environmental movements for whom holism and synthesis are central ideologies. What his statement reveals is not that synthesis is a hopeless ambition, forever roped to ‘pious hopes’, but that universities are structured upon intellectual division. The crises that have created environmentalism are not going to go away. Indeed, they are, in part, a consequence of the schism between humans and the natural landscape occasioned by the rise of fragmented, specialist rationalities. Holism and synthesis question not only ‘we moderns’ sense of superiority over non-modern times and places but also the way we have institutionalised knowledge» (p. 34 - 35).
The Land Ethic
I want to draw the attention of geographers to the following, because it is of paramount importance for the modern Ukrainian reality in connection with the sale of land: «The American conservationist George Perkins Marsh provided a practical translation of this emerging sensibility in Man and Nature 1965. It is a pioneering investigation of the impact of human activity on the face of the land. At a time of unhindered settlement and industrial expansion across the USA, Marsh lit a warning beacon. He explained that the unmoderated exploitation of the landscape can have unintended consequences. Here, for example, he summarises some of the consequences of forest clearance:
With the disappearance of the forest, all is changed. At one season, the earth parts from its warmth by radiation to an open sky – receives, at another, an immoderate heat from the unobstructed rays of the sun. Hence, the climate becomes excessive and the soil is alternately parched by the fevers of summer, and seared by the rigors of winter. Bleak winds sweep unresisted over its surface … the melting snows and vernal rains, no longer absorbed by a loose and bibulous vegetable mould, rush over the frozen surface, and pour down the valleys seaward, instead of filling a retentive bed of absorbent earth, and storing up a supply of moisture to feed perennial springs» (p. 35 - 36).
And the following: «Marsh attempted to ignite a sense of responsibility for, and longterm involvement with, the land. Chopping down a forest supplies an immediate need. But it has other, longer term, results; such as floods, soil erosion and the degradation of what was once fertile land. The decline of flora and fauna and the increase in dust particles and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are also likely to follow. Unfortunately, industrial modernity offered so much wealth to so many and so quickly that such early warnings, although they inspired a few and caught the attention of millions, acquired an image of impractical worthiness. Certainly, by the mid-twentieth century, when Aldo Leopold’s Sand County Almanac 1966  voiced similar concerns, the scale of the problem had grown. Leopold argued for a return of what he called a ‘land ethic’, writing
We abuse the land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect» (p. 36).
My position: A. Bonnett highlighted an important issue. Understanding this led me in 1996 to create the concept of the country "Biosphere". Its main position is that the Biosphere as a global actor must have a territory (configuration and area) that allows it to realize its functions. This means that not the entire land surface should be divided between states. Today we have many examples of the destruction of important natural formations, primarily equatorial and tropical forests, taiga, permafrost, swamps, etc., which will inevitably lead to the Biosphere going beyond the zone of tolerance. This can be achieved only by compressing the Anthroposphere as an area of economic activity of the shell: more organized education occupies a smaller area. This should be understood by Ukrainian leaders who have launched a program to sell land, and this despite the fact that land, as a product of the Biosphere, cannot be sold in principle. And the following is very important: «Reaching back to ancient traditions helps to create an aura of antiquity for environmentalism. Modern societies are fascinated by these disappearing remnants. But it is an enchantment that displays a kind of bad faith. It is pertinent to recall that it was only when they could be romantically cast as ‘dying races’ that native and tribal peoples became objects of exotic attraction. Similarly, ‘indigenous knowledge’ and ‘traditional farming practices’ are venerated and ‘respected’ today, even though (or because) their extinction is largely complete» (p. 37 - 38).
The author concludes this section with the right opinion: «Our reverence towards Nature is a function of our alienation from nature. The further we are removed from it the more we romanticise it. We have become armchair ‘lovers of nature’, sentimentally but genuinely attached to something we have little experience of, and it seems, quite unable to think beyond our comfortable, industrialised way of life» (p. 39).
The author: « The spectre of environmental crisis is stalking the world. We are increasingly aware of nature not just as a local, immediate environment but as a global and interconnected system» (p. 39). The author cites interesting graphs: Trends in selected forms of human-induced transformation of environmental components (Source: Meyer and Turner III, 1995) and describes the changes in the components: Climate Change, Air, Water and Soil, Humans and Other Species. There is a lot of interesting data.
The Systems of Nature
My position: We have a very good overview of the history of the development of ideas about the processes that shape our planet. At the same time, I do not think that such areas as meteorology, climatology, geophysics, geology are sections of geography, although it is true that they form the basis of knowledge about the Earth.
3. Geographical Obsessions: Urbanisation and Mobility
The author: «The twin pillars of modern geography are environmental and international knowledge. However, geographers have a number of more specific obsessions. None are more important than the two processes I shall be looking at in this chapter, urbanisation and mobility» (p. 54).
My position: Not all issues related to urbanization and, especially, mobility are related to geography. Of course, if we consider cities as forms of geographical organization (as they are), they are part of the field of geography. As for mobility (I understand that this is about human mobility), this issue is about demographics. Geography cannot explore everything, there must be limitations. And I understand the nature of the sadness that many people have in their minds about what the natural landscape in cities is becoming. In my opinion, megacities are not a normal environment for people's lives and in time they will disappear.
Presenting the City
At the same time, I agree with the author's opinion that «A country where most of the population is in poor or remote villages will not be a modern and developed nation» (p. 55).
My position: Very qualified review of issues related to the emergence and development of cities. But the author did not take into account an important point - the collection of taxes from residents of surrounding settlements, so you could keep armed forces to protect them. This is an important point that explains the combination.
My position: A very good overview of the cities problem.
Decentering the City
My position: A very good overview of the cities problem.
My position: This is a question that is considered by economists, although economics, like production, is a context for geography.
The Age of Travel
The author: «Cars and aeroplanes are objects of fascination for geography» (p. 76).
My position: It's a little too much!
4. Doing Geography
My position: An interesting introduction, but mapping is only a means of capturing data. Many scientific fields use it in their research. I completely agree with the author that «Geography wants to take children outside the school and into the streets and fields; it wants to take keyboard tappers out of their gloomy offices and into the rain or the sunshine» (p. 80). This applies not only to children but also to students: you can't study geography while sitting in an auditorium; you have to go out into the world. But this is a serious problem of geographical education.
The author: «This definition allows us to identify three of the most important forms and issues in the practice of exploration today: fieldwork, travelling and knowing and the rise of the era of ‘mass exploration’» (p. 81).
My position: This is a very correct position. The future geographer should spend as much time in the field as possible, observing, trying to identify traces of various processes and organization forms. Geography begins with the observation of the diversity of the structure of the day (visible) surface and attempts to find an order in this diversity.
My position: The author did a good review.
Travelling and Knowing
My position: The author did a good review.
Everyone an Explorer
My position: This is a very interesting approach - everyone is a researcher. But this requires a slightly different world, in which people are free and secure enough to explore. I think it's too early to talk about it.
«We have trouble making connections. It is not the modern way. Ours is an era of specialisation. Yet geography’s pre-modern, holistic roots contain considerable wisdom. It may not be the modern way but unless we take an integrated view of the relationship between human activity and nature the world will become uninhabitable.
The towering figures of nineteenth century geography – Humbolt, Ritter, Mackinder – offered connection as the core technique of the discipline. Indeed, they offered it as a model for all modern science. For Carl Ritter,
geography, aims at nothing less than to embrace the most complete and most cosmical view of the Earth; to sum up and organize into a beautiful unity all that we know of the globe» (p. 87).
My position: I think this is what can be considered as a program for the development of geography. For many decades, geographers have tried to shape the image of geographical objects. Initially, these were geographical complexes as interconnected components of nature, which, however, were considered as static formations. Then the system concept entered geography and geographers began to make descriptions in terms of geosystem, information, feedback, and so on. Interesting developments have taken place, but this approach has made it possible to form models of operation in relatively stable conditions, while the geographical environment is undergoing constant change. Today we already use the terms "geocholon", "geoorg", "geocholarchy" and try to see geographical entities as certain forms of organization that have the potential for development because they contain so-called information machines that "calculate" options for survival and further development. This vision requires being based on the connections between the parts, because the whole structure looks like a set of nested formations. Contrary to the suggestion to see geography as a ‘bridge’ between the natural and social sciences, we consider geography as a science of organization of formations with increasing complexity from abiotic to biotic and anthropotic, which requires the researcher to see in them integrity. The most difficult is the last level - anthropotic. Those who undertake their research must pass all the previous levels and combine them into a whole. The more complex the formation is, the more spontaneity and unpredictability are manifested in his behavior.
A. Bonnett proposes three stages needed to combine "the human and natural sciences". A short: «Identification of parts. In order to build up an integrated analysis we need to start by breaking reality down into fragments. These components can then be put back together again, in order to offer us a model of the whole» (p. 88).
My position: If we talk about the selection of fragments, then in this way we destroy the existing integrity, we should talk about the parts, from the fragments can only form a conglomerate. And one more point: After decomposing into parts, we cannot make the same entity; we can only get its model, which will be different from it.
The second stage for A. Bonnett: «Defining period and scale. As well as identifying components we need to think about their spatial and temporal parameters (the where and when). The example presented in Figure 4.1 addresses Northern Kenya (the where) in the twentieth century (the when). At a much wider scale, James Lovelock’s model of selfegulating integration addresses the whole earth since its formation 4.5 billion years ago.20 Any attempt to demarcate a discreet region or period of time will always contain a degree of arbitrariness. There are no truly natural regions or blocks of time, nor places and times which are not influenced by other regions and periods. However, as Richard Hartshorne advises:
The conclusion that regions are not definite concrete objects but merely arbitrary divisions of the earth surface made by the student does not cast out the problem of dividing the world, or any large part of it, into regions nor reduce to unimportance the basis for such a division. It is important to find the most intelligent and useful method, or methods, of dividing the world into regions.21
The contemporary trend is to admit to these difficulties. There is also a current willingness to work with multiple scales. Multiscalar approaches encourage researchers to frame their topics within a diversity of spatial contexts.22
Thus, for example, research on environmental change may need to simultaneously engage changes from the largest scale – the earth in the solar system – right down to micro-climates and micro-ecologies» (p. 90).
My position: These are very important remarks, especially that «Any attempt to demarcate a discreet region or period of time will always contain a degree of arbitrariness. There are no truly natural regions or blocks of time, nor places and times which are not influenced by other regions and periods». I think that the holon-holarchic approach allows doing it. It is based on the allocation of parts at different scale (space-time) levels based on organizational unity. At the same time, I would not talk about "microclimate" and "microecology", because in the framework of geographical research it belongs to the microgeographical level of research. We should not forget that ecology is based on biocentrism, and geography brings the organization to the fore.
The third stage for A. Bonnett: «Translating social into natural values and vice versa. Social and natural scientists suffer from a problem of translation. Even when they understand each other’s words, the meaning and the motivation often get lost. One of the obvious ways translation can take place is by reference to the dominant way things are given meaning in a capitalist society, that is by reference to cost. A price tag can be put not only on environmental damage – translated in policy terms into the principle of ‘polluter pays’ – but also on other consequences of environmental change. Two other methods of translating scientific into social meaning concern aesthetics and risk. The perception of landscape attractiveness and the dangers posed by earthquakes both illustrate how natural forms can be translated into social values. ‘Thus the gap between natural scientific facts and socio-economic aspects’ Olaf Bastien concludes ‘can be bridged’. 23 Of course, this is a one-way translation, from nature to society. The representation of human values as driven by evolution, and of human behavior being, if only partly, genetically determined, suggests pathways for how translation in the opposite direction can be achieved. However, the problem of reification – of taking social categories and falsely claiming them as natural – should not be underestimated. … Knowing what not to ‘translate’ can be just as important than knowing what to» (p. 90 - 91).
My position: Extremely important stage. I think that such a "translation" will come by itself under the condition of the formation of a special culture - geoculture, from the standpoint of which man is a component of nature, which performs an extremely important function: it is the carrier of the brain of Nature. Man is not only a specific organism, but also that part of the natural environment with which he is connected and which is, in fact, its continuation. Thus, the destruction of the natural environment is the destruction of oneself. But to reach such a level of cultural development is not so simple, it requires a deep transformation of society, the transformation of the production sphere, the formation of the country "Biosphere" and so on.
This is a difficult question. Many geographers, especially in the past, saw the essence of geography in the display of objects under study on maps, such maps for some reason began to be called geographical. And I completely agree with A. Bonnott that «These are strong claims. Too strong. The map is more than a useful tool for geography. It is the distinctive visual expression of the geographical imagination. But to root geography in mapping is a suffocating fantasy: geography can no more be reduced to maps than history can to a list of dates» (p. 91). The author gives the Virginia Gavin’s point of view: «geospatial technologies have changed the face of geography … by combining layers of spatially referenced data with remotely sensed aerial or satellite images, high-tech geographers have turned computer mapping into a powerful decision making tool» (p. 94).
My position: Here I want to note that the term "geospatial" should not mean "geographical", because it refers to the space of the earth's surface, as I have repeatedly written. Moreover, I believe that geographical maps, like geographical cartography, do not yet exist at all. Such maps should reflect the levels and forms of organization of the geographical environment, and there are none yet.
I completely agree with the author that «Geography pushes its students out of the classroom and into the streets. This imperative implies another, that geography encourages a concerned and active disposition towards the world» (p. 95). The author concludes this section with the following statement: «The core concerns of a geographical education have emerged as the core concerns of the global citizens of the twenty-first century» (p. 98).
Geography, Children and Freedom: A Plea
It is very interesting: «The geographical imagination is insatiable. Even if geography were to be dropped from every school and university curriculum, some kind of illiterate geographical consciousness would blunder on» (p. 99). As follows: «Yet if any area of geography makes me worry, it is the area of practice. I worry because people are increasingly insulated from the natural world. Indeed, in many societies, we are actively protected from the world outside our doors» (p. 99).
I really like the following opinions of the author: «Geography requires freedom. In case this sounds too romantic let me clarify. Good geography, a geography able to explore, connect, map, and engage, requires freedom. Yet freedom is easily lost. The society of long-work hours, constant surveillance and materialist, isolated lives, is a society in which freedom is dying and with it the large horizons and outward disposition of geography. One of the most tragic aspects of this enclosing state of comfortable passivity is how it affects children. Increasingly, children are deprived of the freedom to explore, to roam and hide away out of reach of adults» (p. 99), and follows «The geographical imagination is insatiable. Even if geography were to be dropped from every school and university curriculum, some kind of illiterate geographical consciousness would blunder on» (p. 99). As follows: «In depriving children – and adults too – of environments in which they are free to explore and where risks can be taken, we are creating the conditions for the hollowing out of the geographical imagination» (p. 100).
5. Institutionalising Geography
Pay attention to the words of A. Bonnet: «What would we do without our councils, boards, committees, societies, associations and institutes? Ours is a highly organised and organising culture, in whose ocean of bureaucracy we all must navigate» (p. 101), and gave «…institutionalisation is not simply a way of restricting and narrowing geographical knowledge» (p. 101).
My position: This is a very modern point of view!
The author: «Geography’s borders are broad and permeable. If we address geography as a world discipline, then we must address its institutionalisation in terms of the institutionalisation of world knowledge. Moreover, the nature of geography also demands that we consider both specialist and popular institutions» (p. 102).
My position: Good thoughts, but with wide and permeable borders, because it can lead (and has already led) to the blurring of the "body" of geography as a scientific discipline. Thus, in Ukraine, people with different education, quite far from geography, became candidates and doctors of sciences. We also know that many people reduce geography to the knowledge of "where and what is".
Note the following: «We see geography becoming more institutionalised but also becoming a victim of institutionalisation. The interest in and activity around geographical themes expanded. But, increasingly, these themes were treated as separate fields of inquiry and disconnected from each other» (p. 104).
My position: Unfortunately, this has happened a long time ago. Areas such as physical geography and economic geography are considered by many to be «separate fields of inquiry and disconnected from each other», as «separate fields of inquiry and disconnected from each other» (p. 104).
The author: « Yet the attempts of academic geographers to identify geography as a specialist activity have never been entirely convincing. In fact, such efforts have sometimes undermined the discipline. For the pursuit of specialist status has, on a number of occasions, encouraged academic geographers to latch on to voguish core theories for the discipline. Around the turn of the nineteenth century, theories of evolution were taken up enthusiastically by academic geographers. Geography has traditionally been interested in the connections and ‘bridges’ between humans and nature. Yet, at the time of geography’s entry into academia, this interest was often garbed in the – then modish – notion that both natural and social phenomena were subject to the law of the ‘survival of the fittest’. In Political Geography (1897), Friedrich Ratzel applied this idea to geopolitics, giving us the idea that states are engaged in a battle for ‘living space’, or Lebensraum. Successful states required what Ratzel called large space, or Grossraum. In physical geography, William Morris Davies applied evolutionary ideas to the landscape. The cycle of erosion, he explained in 1885, was a form of ‘inorganic natural selection’. For Davies it was evolution, the ‘evolution of land forms’ and the ‘evolution of living forms’, that constituted geography’s bridge between the human and the natural» (p. 108).
My position: I quote this great quote because it is important for understanding the state of geography today. And today the activity of a geographer is not convincing. After high school, geographers work in various fields - meteorologists, topographers, soil scientists, ecologists, etc., and dissertations in the field of geography are "defended" by specialists in various fields - meteorologists, physicists, biologists, etc. This blurs the field of geography research and makes this area poorly defined. The modern division of geography into physical, economic, social, political (sometimes add medical and a bunch of other areas) leads to the loss of its essence, which is associated with the study of the organization of the geographical environment and its evolution. F. Ratzel and M. Davis were right to apply the evolutionary paradigm in their research, but today we have gone further and consider the geographical environment as a large-scale quasi-organism that undergoes evolution, increasing its complexity and organization. This is a very complex object of study, because its feature is the identity of the components, which is manifested in their mobility. Everything is constantly changing, trying to achieve consistency at the highest level of the hierarchy: the stability of the whole is achieved due to the instability of the parts. As for the "bridge between the human and the natural", it has existed since the beginning. There are many examples where critical transformations of the environment lead to self-destruction in both flora and fauna. In this respect, a modern man is little different from animals. But man has an intellect that allows him to predict the future, which animals cannot. Therefore, everything should be done so that the understanding of the negative consequences of activities can penetrate into the consciousness of the masses. Geography is the most important discipline in this regard. Geography is the most important discipline in this regard. It should not only forecast movement options, but also perform an educational function.
Now I will give some thoughts about the regions.
The author: « However, the claim that regional study forms the essence of geography is difficult to sustain. What, after all, defines a region? … Recent years have seen the development of more sophisticated versions of regional studies. Today one is likely to hear geographers talk of ‘multi-scalar’ analysis and of regions as constructed through social practices such as institutionalisation (for example, the formation of regional government).18 Yet the proponents of such methods rarely argue that regional study is the defining attribute of geography. Regional studies has become just another of geography’s many subfields, with its own journals and, increasingly, a separate institutional structure» (p. 110).
My position: As for the regional, this is a difficult question. Previously, the regions were distinguished on the basis of territories’ similarity but it should be distinguished based on the concept of "organization", which I propose to define as a combination of structure and functions, and the processes as its source. The organization is present everywhere, although it is more or less clear. Then the regions are areas ", which I propose to define as a combination of structure and functions, and the processes as it grow on by one organization. It remains to identify it, as well as the processes that shape it. I think this is the goal of regional geographers.
At the anthropic level, regions are formed due to the productive activities of territorial communities. Of course, the division of labor is essential. There are large industrial centers with which certain areas are connected. Such concepts have long been known. However, due to instability, the areas covered by the regions are not stable, especially in their border areas. Therefore, often the administrative-territorial division does not reflect the real regional picture, which leads to contradictions. But I will note that the question of the origin of regions, their functioning and transformation belongs to geography.
The author: «However, in the latter half of the twentieth century, academic geographers continued their search for specialist status. Moreover, they also began to loose faith in geography’s integrative ambitions. The discipline began to fragment internally. Thus, academic geographers moved apart intellectually» (p. 110 - 111). And: «Today, spatial analysis is allied to spatial statistics and computer-generated mapping techniques, such as GIS. However, the notion that geography is about society in space is deployed throughout human geography. A wide variety of human geographers have used the concept to explain the discipline’s specialist status» (p. 111).
My position: These are exactly the issues that I have had to discuss for the last three decades. With the separation of geographers meant the integrative function of geography and its integrity as a scientific discipline. Unfortunately, few people pay attention to this, because isolation brings some benefits to those who do so. This is especially true of those areas (and they are artificial), which are related to the life of society. The fact that for such "geographers" came to the fore the concept of "geographical space", "spatial process", indicates the incorrectness of their ideas and attempts to build erroneous models. Geography is not divided into physical and human, it is integral, and man is a modern actor who is not only included in the geographical environment, but also shapes it. Now we are dealing not only with the biotic geographic environment, but also with the anthropotic one.
I want to draw attention to the following opinions of the author: «My argument in this book implies that ‘eclecticism’ and a clear idea of what geography is can co-exist. More than this; I have tried to show that geography cannot be understood as just another academic discipline: that to defend and assert geography is to defend and assert the possibility of world knowledge. Academic geographers sometimes seem to delight in lashing out against geography. Geography is cast as an oppressive father, restricting the freedom of its progency. But this anger is misdirected. For it is not geography but the bureaucratic forms and mechanisms that surround and succour modern education systems that hinder the ability to connect, challenge and synthesise. And since the modern era is addicted to institutionalisation, with the endless flowering of regulatory agencies, hopes of a less intellectually policed future are likely to be disappointed. Indeed, over the past 20 years, new administrative structures that shape and even dictate what is to be taught and studied have blossomed in drab profusion. These structures, which range from National Curriculums to research funding ‘priorities’ and ‘assessment exercises’, reflect centralised, politically derived decisions about what kinds of activity are considered to be useful for social cohesion and economic growth. The culture of continual surveillance and auditing that has emerged establishes bureaucratic systems as the prime audience for scholarly and educational activity. In many countries today teaching is, in large part, designed for inspectors and research is written for assessment exercises» (p. 113).
My position: I'm sure you can do without "eclecticism". I am convinced that it is possible to do without "eclecticism" if we approach the study of the geographical environment as a whole that has arisen due to long-term evolution. This is really the only quasi-organism. I would like to emphasize once again that the study of the biotic environment must be preceded by the study of its abiotic basis and forms of its transformation; the study of the anthropotic environment must be preceded by the study of its basis - the biotic environment. This is what so-called human geographers do not want to do.
Geography’s Popular Institutions
It is interesting conclusion.
What is Geography?
My position: Geographers should read and discuss the author's findings on geography. This is especially true for university students.
So what is geography?
Very interesting work! Alastair Bonnett gave his answer. In some ways you can agree with him, and in some ways you can't, the main thing is that an opinion has been expressed that can be discussed. Anyone can read this book and it's worth it.
In the last part of "What is Geography?" Alastair Bonet formulated 9 points in which he spoke about what he sees as important in geography. In the second paragraph, he notes that «geography helps us imagine that there is meaning and sense in the world. Geography allows us to see order in, and impose order on, what otherwise would be chaos» (p. 121). This is true, but it is a feature of science in general. In the third paragraph, he notes that «Geography is both pre-modern and modern» (p. 121), but geography is even more the science of the future, which, however, is inherent in all sciences: soon we will have to significantly change the terrestrial world in the direction of improving the functioning of the Biosphere, which requires change and man himself. In the fourth paragraph, the author notes that «Geography has a wide subject matter and an equally wide constituency of contributors» (p. 121), but in the first place should be the organizational aspect.
Now I will express some of my thoughts on the question: what is geography?
I will answer at once: for me it is a very difficult question. I have always questioned why we were taught at university, and year after year I went to the understanding I have today. First of all, I note that geography should have a fairly well-defined field of study, such as chemistry, biology, sociology, economics, and so on. All these scientific fields study certain forms of organization that occur in the world. Thus, biology studies the biological forms of organization that we associate with the phenomenon of life, sociology - the social forms that we encounter in human society (although there is something similar among animals and plants), economics considers forms of organization of production systems and more. Even at the abiotic level, we have excellent examples of organization - fluvial networks and some other variants. This led me to believe that geography should study the special forms of organization that should be sought in our environment - the geographical environment. These are the forms that bind in the integrity of the abiota, biota and anthropota, which are the biggest actors. The connection is through communication. Where communication is better expressed, we get a higher organization, which is outwardly manifested in the form of order. The more complex the formation, the less predictable it is. Thus, the leading concept of geography is the concept of "geographical environment", in which various geographical formations arise and disappear at the same time (it is a dynamic process), among which we can distinguish abiotic, biotic and anthropotic forms with different levels of organization. In accordance with these formations are the concepts of "geocholon" or "geoorg", the difference between which was shown above. One of the important concepts is the "geoprocess" - the process of formation, evolution of the geographical environment structure, which led to the formation of the Abiosphere, Biosphere and Anthroposphere. By the way, it is also multiscale, consisting of many nested processes of different scales.
An important feature of the geographical environment is the presence of several large-scale levels. This means that, moving in the direction of scaling up, we must identify certain levels at which such formations are more pronounced, i.e. the organization is unevenly distributed. Accordingly, we can talk about the micro-level, meso-level, macro-level and global level, which allows you to enter the appropriate options for geography. I will note that the processes that form formations with different forms of organization are manifested in the structure of the day surface, and these drawings within the localities allow forming their images - landscapes.
We now briefly define the field of study of geography and its purpose: Geography explores the geographical environment as part of the Earth’s environment in terms of the presence and origin of forms of its organization. The purpose of geography is to create models for the future development of the geographical environment based on ideas about the symbiosis between the main actors - abiota, biota and anthropota.
A few words should be said about the unity of geography and its differentiation. The division of geography that emerged in the twentieth century reflected a certain stage in the development of ideas about geography as a science. There was talk of physical, economic, social, socio-economic (there were many fictional options), political and many other "directions" of geography, which, in fact, were fakes. Since the geographical environment is integral, geography must also be integral, without division into these areas. But since there are three main levels of organization - abiotic, biotized and anthropotized, there is every reason to distinguish such disciplines as geomorphology, biogeography and anthropogeography. Their complexity increases from the first to the third. All other options should be discarded because they prevent you from concentrating on these options. There should be General Geography as a general theoretical basis. Of course, at each such level other secondary directions can be distinguished, such as, for example, fluvial, glacial, karsts geomorphology, biogeography of bacterial mats, biogeography of biogeography of the water environments, agro-geography, urban-geography, etc. Directions can be different, depending on local conditions and available tasks.
 The author refers to the following work: Derek Gregory, Ideology, Science and Human Geography, Hutchinson,
London, 1978, pp. 170–1.
 The author refers to the following work: George Parkins Marsh¸ Man and Nature, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, 1965, p. 186.
 The author refers to the following work: Aldo Leopold, Sand County Almanac: with other Essays on
Conservation from Round River, Oxford University Press, New York, 1966, p. x.
 The author refers to the following work: Carl Ritter, Comparative Geography, William Blackwood and Sons, Edinburgh, 1865, p. 16.
 The author refers to the following work: Quoted in Harm de Blij, Why Geography Matters: Three Challenges Facing America: Climate Change, the Rise of China, and Global Terrorism, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2005, p. 48.