24 жовтня 2020 р.

General geography: the integrity of geography and its entities

 Oleksa Kovalyov


Wholeness would measure all points as one point - no separation means no measurement.

When there is no measurement, there is the quality of wholeness

                                                                J. Krishnamurti


In this short speech, I touch on the important and complex issue of the integrity of the entities studied by geographers and the integrity of geography itself as a scientific branch. What is science in general? This is a special form of human communities, a special approach to vision, reflection of the world, which is based on the mental ordering of the perceived by introducing concepts and relationships between them in order to achieve maximum correlation with observations if unmatched. ​ The task of science is to organize empirical data. An important aspect of science is the formulation of theories that aim to reduce the identified links to a single principle, but no theory, like all of them together, can provide absolute truth (any theory is correct only in a limited context), therefore, their sequence is iterative. Therefore, what we call knowledge is always relative. Each scientific field conducts its own features of research, highlighting its area of ​ ​ interest in the surrounding world, but the main principles remain unchanged. The formation of each scientific discipline includes periods of domination of certain views (schools) based on stereotypes, and periods of significant change, when the foreground is the departure from old stereotypes and the transition to new ones, which takes some time during which new views are approved and are distributed. This is difficult because holders of old stereotypes tend to hold higher positions and have a higher formal rating, which allows them to block the spread of new ideas. Old views become dogmas, their provisions are introduced into regulations as absolute truth, which is very difficult to resist. This is also the case in geography. But it is never possible to stop, because scientific thought is an uninterrupted flow, which can be both calm and turbulent, the jets can diverge and converge - without discussion (​ and based on stereotypes is a sign of limitation​ ). This is especially important for geography, because geographers still have not been able to define clearly the field of study of this scientific discipline. And the problem is the extreme complexity of the issue. This is clear from the statement of P. Bowler: «​ Geography is a classic example of a subject that can disappear as a separate entity, each of its functions siphoned off by a new specialization. Much of what is called 'physical geology' could be dealt with quite happily by geomorphologists, geologists, climatologists and others. The exploration of humankind's relationship to the physical world could be taken up by anthropologists and various branches of the social and economic sciences. In the United States geography has indeed almost disappeared as a distinct academic discipline​ » [Bowler, 1992: 391]. My aim is to show that this is not so, because geography has its original field of study, which cannot be claimed by other scientific fields, which, on the contrary, determines its integrity, because the field of its study is integral. In this regard, the questions posed by R. Inkpen regarding physical geography are interesting (I have my own point of view in this direction, so I remove the word "physical") [Inkpen, 2003: іх]:

«• What is the reality that ... geographers think they study?

• What are the things ... geographers identify as their focus of study, and why those?

• What counts as a valid explanation in ... geography?

• How do ... geographers engage with reality to derive information from it​ ?»

I will make only two remarks. Since reality is hidden from us, it is better to talk about validity or actuality, that is, what we really perceive, and we often perceive what confirms our position, what we are ready to perceive. During research, we do not extract information, we receive data that can only become information - something that changes our point of view, our behavior, the direction of our movement, our understanding of what is happening.

All this requires an answer to the question: what does we single out as a field of geography really exist, can it be considered existing? We really have a dialogue with the environment, and not only with what we are researching, because we still need to highlight the object of study in it. R. Inkpen notes: «​The metaphor of dialogue begins to make problematic what appeared to be natural. The metaphor highlights the importance of both the observer and the observed and continually switches between them» [Inkpen, 2003: 35], і далі: «The use of metaphors, such as a conversation with nature or reading nature as a book, is common both as a teaching method and as a view about how to study nature ...​» [Inkpen, 2003: 35], at last: «​The dialogue metaphor strikes a particular resonance with the critical-realist and pragmatic-realist views of reality. The dialogue metaphor highlights the negotiated nature of reality. Reality is not just a thing to be probed and made to give up pre-existing secrets. Reality enters into the dialogue by answering in particular ways and by guiding the types of questions asked. Central to this metaphor is the interpretative nature of inquiry. This does not deny that an independent reality exists, only that it is the engagement with that reality which is the focus of study. Some pragmatic realists have argued that the assumption of a real, external reality is vital for any dialogue to work. Although absolute knowledge of the external reality can never be achieved, the idea that one exists means that researchers have an assumed common basis for reference and discussion of their understanding. Each researcher is willing to enter into this dialogue because each ​ recognizes the potential fallibility of their own view of reality, and so the potential for modification​» [Inkpen, 2003: 36]. A researcher literally hangs in the dialogue, dealing only with him, which requires a constant stay in a mode of critical thinking. «​Continual shifting and informing of practice by the ‘real’ and the ‘mental’ means that neither can be understood in isolation» [Inkpen, 2003: 36]. Moreover, not the essences themselves are studied, but the relationship between them, which rejects the possibility of achieving complete knowledge, absolute truth. «​This does not deny that an independent reality exists, only that it is the engagement with that reality which is the focus of study​» [Inkpen, 2003: 36]. But this means that a geographer cannot do without constant field research: a geographer does not start by reading books, but by field research. 

Is geography a holistic scientific discipline?

This question is fundamental, because if we do not consider geography as a whole, then we should not talk about the integrity of its object of study. And here we come across a rather difficult question: too many of those who impose on geography fragmentation in the form of a huge number of areas with their «objects» of study, related only by what is considered in terms of distribution, location of something in space, although it is an aspect, not an object of study, and not just geography. At the same time, the authors do not even burden themselves with the need to consider the nature of space, accepting it as a physical ​ actuality​. It turns out that, considering the placement of anything in space, you can consider yourself a geographer. Of course, such a vision of geography does not determine its integrity. This cannot be ensured by the differentiation of geography into separate areas, such as physical (in the traditional sense), economic, social, political, plant geography, animal geography, human geography and others. Yes, R. Inkpen asks: «​Physical and human geography: division or integration?​» [Inkpen, 2003: 143]. He writes: «​Recent discussions over the nature of geography often refer to the human/physical divide in the subject. Despite protests and pleading to the contrary, the divide is often seen as insurmountable, with some even claiming that geography has become effectively split into two specialisms (some even carry the subdivision amongst specialisms further)​» [Inkpen, 2003: 143]. And what is important: «​There is also the feeling amongst key researchers on both sides that what they study is different from that being studied on the other side. The subject matter of human and physical geography is seen as fundamentally different​» [Inkpen, 2003: 144]. In fact, such a division is artificial, due either to a not very clear understanding of the essence of geography and the peculiarities of its field of study, or, much worse, the desire to separate to be independent and reject all critical remarks, declaring the originality of this area, and even worse: «​Academics, as noted above, are only human. Career paths and funding requirements mean that people will pursue courses of action profitable to them in their particular context. If funding councils do not recognize an integrative physical/human geography then why pursue it? There is no money in it; there are no rewards. This may sound cynical, but an academic life is short, the period available to make an impact even shorter, so why waste it in pursuit of an unattainable goal?​» - writes R. Inkpen [Inkpen, 2003: 144]. All questions disappear if we assume that geography has one basis, one area of ​ ​ study, regardless of what processes and structures are considered - abiotic, including biota (biotized) or anthropotic (anthropized): abiota, biota and anthropote are macro-actors (​actor - a significant subject playing a noticeable role in a particular process, in certain conditions​) the environment we call the geoenvironment. This basis is a special form of organization, which should be called geotic (more on this below). If this position is taken, there is no need to raise the question of integration of different branches of geography and to debate on this issue: the geographical environment is seen as a whole, which undergoes stages of evolution, generating first biotic (biosphere), then - anthropotic (anthroposphere) forms there are separate, on the contrary, each subsequent level of the organization is organically combined with all previous (it is a nested structure). This determines the ​ geoprocess - the process of formation, deployment of the geoenvironment. Therefore, in order to, for example, investigate biotic entities; it is necessary to first understand the processes of the abiotic level in the absence of biota and their possible impact on the biotic component, and then the reverse effect of biota on the processes and structures of the abiotic level and the integrity. In the case of anthropized entities, the research process becomes even more complicated because the anthropic component is added[1]​. And this is the way to ensure the integrity of geography.

In this regard, the opinion of P. Bowler looks interesting: «​Geography has retained its integrity by projecting itself as a science devoted to the interaction of humankind with the physical environment, serving in effect as a bridge between the natural and the social sciences. To some extent, the link thus preserved through the emphasis on geographical diversity has run counter to an overall trend that has led the human sciences to separate themselves off into distinct fields which no longer interact directly with the natural sciences. Sociology and anthropology, once integral parts of the nineteenth century's evolutionary world view, have become independent disciplines that fiercely resist any suggestion that they should take their cue from biology. But the social sciences are dismissed as 'soft' areas by scornful exponents of the physical or biological sciences​» [Bowler, 1992: 391]. Yes, today geography does not yet look like a clear scientific discipline, because its field of study is not clearly defined. But is this «geography» they say so really geography? I think this is far from the case. As has been repeatedly shown in our publications, geography has a clearly defined field of study, the structure of which, of course, allows for its differentiation (as is the case in other scientific disciplines), but it is different. ​ The integrity of the scientific field should be determined by the presence of a single field of study, which has a special organization - geotic. 

Integrity of entities studied by geography

Before we begin to understand the integrity of geographical entities, let's try to understand what integrity is in general. The question is difficult because we do not see integrity, we feel it intuitively on the basis of the data we receive from the outside (maybe even better to talk about comprehension), and so we have to constantly keep in mind the question: does this integrity really exists as a separate entity? Most often, the answer is reduced to a well-known phrase: a whole is greater than the sum of its parts. But this is not the case: ​the whole is something else altogether, because it has other properties, it is simply a different essence. If the whole is divided into parts, these properties disappear: for example, He and She, combining, create a whole that implements the function of reproduction (emergent property), therefore, both He and She are in themselves integrity, but their combination forms a different integrity due to synergy effect​[2]: these are complementary (demonstrating additionality) formations. Emergence is that which arises from the combination of components in a structure. Then we can say that the manifestation of synergy indicates the existence of a whole. Another view is that the whole is that which is not divisible into parts, is inseparable, and therefore not measurable. This means that the assessment of the whole cannot be quantitative, it must be qualitative. And importantly, what cannot be measured is unmanageable. G. van der Bai gives an interesting vision of the problem of the whole, based on the approach of W. von Goethe: «​Clinical intuition is a form of pattern recognition and pattern recognition supports the ability to recognize an integrated ‘whole.’ Goethe applied pattern recognition and further developed it in his investigation of living nature​» [Van der Bie, 2012: 11]. Let's try to understand this issue in more detail.

K. Arambula remarks on integrity: «​The word “integrity” derives from the Latin integritas or integer, which means intact or whole. Integrity is defined, in the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, as follows:

– The quality of being honest and having strong moral principles

– The state of being whole and not divided​» [​Arambula​, 2015].

And next: «​This is where the original definition of integrity comes into play: an individual who is “whole”, i.e. in unison with her or himself – mind, head and body aligned-, is possibly in a better position to act with integrity than someone who is not​», and «​... so the virtual circle goes: from whole individuals, to whole organization, to whole society, which in turn ensures whole individuals​» [Arambula, 2015]. Such definitions help to understand more clearly what integrity is. Moreover, in the English literature we have a difference between the concepts of «wholeness» and «integrity» close term - «completeness» - completeness, completeness): «​The word integrity evolved from the Latin adjective integer, meaning whole or complete. In this context, integrity is the inner sense of "wholeness" deriving from qualities such as honesty and consistency of character​» [Integrity, From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, 2020].

In the Ukrainian Wikipedia, integrity is defined as the internal unity, the connection of all parts of something, a single whole. Among the given examples I will single out biological​[3] integrity (because it is the closest to geography): ability to maintain and maintain balanced, complex functionality in the natural environment of a region [Цілісність (значення), 2017]. But this can be said not only about biotic unity, about which I, by the way, would write: it is the ability to reproduce and maintain the phenomenon of life as the main feature of biological entities and the main purpose of biotic organization ​ . We are talking about the synergy of biotic entities. Life should be seen as a global attractor with which the corresponding pattern is connected. Life is a process that is known to be evolutionary, and its external manifestation is the interaction of a huge number of ​ bioactors - living organisms and their communities. When we talk about the phenomenon of life, individual living organisms, figuratively speaking, dissolve as a whole, although life is realized through them. But we can talk about life separately, without referring to individual living individuals. The same can be said about human groups, which have also gone through a difficult path of evolution, which led to a new global attractor, and in this process involved a huge number of ​ anthropoactors. Something similar should distinguish many geotic entities. What exactly? Let's call it a geotic organization - a geoorganization. It is formed by the action of geoholons​ ≈​ geoorgs of different scales, which are geoactors (active geotically organized entities). In turn, this requires consideration of the specifics of the field of geography research, because here we have some uncertainty. The field of research of a scientific discipline covers all its possible objects of research that meet certain criteria. We also find interesting ideas in the work «Seeing and sensing wholeness in Nature and Organizations» [Robinson, Robinson, 2018]. They write: «​This perception of​ ‘wholeness’ comes from both scientific and artistic consciousness. When perceiving phenomena, the underlying organising principles appear in the imagination, in the authentic ‘belonging together’​», і далі: «​When we try to abstract common principles, we are taking a system apart, looking at parts which are already separate, and trying to put them together. This ‘belonging together’ is counterfeit if we only look at external relationships, which we ourselves have synthetically created, such as the taxonomy of Linnaeus. It is only once we have experienced in our intuition an authentic whole that we come to meet that whole, in a way in which it comes to presence in the parts​» [Robinson​, ​ Robinson, 2018​]. It all comes down to a process that is the result of the joint action of actors organized as a whole: the process is not the result of the sum of their actions, it is the result of their complex interaction. S. Robinson and M.M. Robinson  provide an interesting scheme that allows us to understand the relationship between three types of thinking - mechanistic, systemic and holonomic (I think it's better - holistic) (Fig. 1): we have approaches - fragmentation, dynamics and integrity, and indicators - quantitative, qualitative and vitality (coming-into-being). At the output we have objects, relations and meanings (meanings).


Fig. 1. The relationship between forms of thinking, thresholds of limitations and approaches to research [Robinson, Robinson, 2018]. 

Object and area of geography research. As A. Spirkin, noted «​The quality of the object is revealed in the sum-total of its properties. The unity of properties is, in fact, quality. Thus an overall definition of the quality of a thing or phenomenon is a definition of the thing as a system with a certain structure. The nature of a thing is revealed in its properties, which constitute the mode of the object's relationship with other things. It is thanks to their properties that things interact. A thing has the property of evoking one or another action in something else and of manifesting itself in its own way in relation to other things.

A property is the way in which a certain aspect of the quality of an object manifests itself in relation to other objects with which it interacts. A property is that by means of which something manifests its existence in relation to something else. To speak of the properties of a given thing out of connection with other things is to say nothing about these properties. A property of an object thus consists in its being able to produce this or that action in another object and reveal itself in its own way in this action. Moreover, the mode of its manifestation in acting on another object substantially depends on the properties or condition of the latter; a spark falling on a gunpowder store is far more dangerous than the same spark falling on damp ground, where it dies without a trace​» [Spirkin, 1983: Quality and Quantity].

Let's analyze the features of the object of study of geography. Here is the definition from Russian Wikipedia: «​Geographical objects - existing or existing relatively stable, characterized by a certain location (see geographical location) integral formations of the Earth: continents, oceans, seas, bays, straits, islands, mountains, rivers, lakes, glaciers, deserts and other natural objects; republics, regions, oblasts, cities of federal significance, autonomous oblasts, autonomous districts; cities and other settlements, districts, parishes, railway stations, seaports, airports and similar facilities. Different geographical objects are separated from each other by geographical boundaries» [Географический объект, 2020].

What can be said about such a definition? It is clear that its author is far from geography. The first place is given to a certain location of seemingly integral formations of the Earth, although this is not a feature or property of the object. And then there are examples - continents, oceans, seas ..., republics, stations, ports, etc. (and where are cafes, restaurants, canteens, factories, factories ...?), regardless of their features. Yes, regions, oblasts, republics, autonomous districts are socio-political entities and administrative units, not geographical objects. The use of the antediluvian expression «geographical boundaries» is also impressive: it is a manifestation of illiteracy, because there are no geographical boundaries, we can only talk about the boundaries (boundaries) of geographical entities (we are not talking about social, chemical, astronomical, etc. borders). No less surprising is the expression «geographical names» - the question arises: what is it, how do they differ from non-geographical names?

Here is another site – «geographical features». Among the many strange fragments I will single out one: ​ «Malaysia also has 510 offshore ​ geographical features which include rocks, sandbanks and ridges​» ​[​geographical features]. The question arises: what are the features of these fragments of the surface that allows us to consider them geographical objects? For example, a rock - what is geographical in it?

There is another point of view: «​An entity or geographic feature that occupies a position in space about which data describing the attributes of the entity and its geographic location are recorded. It is a discrete generic class with basic connectedness and interdependence as a single data set, i.e., land use as a class has separate entities of residential, commercial, industrial, agricultural, etc. The class is a set of geographic entities derived from a common set of criteria, thus sharing spatial character and structure, e.g., ownership parcels, intersections, street segments, etc. geographic» [geographical features ​ - ​ (Data West Research Agency definition)​]. Just surprising, and here is the record of the distribution of data, and here «​a single data set​», as well as the concentration on the spatial aspect? But we are more interested not so much in the object of study as in the field of research as a clearly defined scientific domain, the existence of which allows us to speak about the originality of this scientific discipline. It would seem that this question already has an answer - «geographical shell». Here is the definition: «Geographical shell – an integral and continuous shell of the Earth, formed as a result of interpenetration and interaction of substances of individual geospheres - lithosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere and biosphere. Its boundaries are blurred, so scientists define them differently. The upper limit is the ozone shield at an altitude of 25 to 30 km, and the lower limit is within the lithosphere at a depth of several hundred meters, sometimes up to 4 to 5 km or along the ocean floor. It consists entirely of the hydrosphere and biosphere, most of the atmosphere and part of the lithosphere. The geographical shell is a complex dynamic system, which is characterized by the presence of substances in three aggregate states - solid, liquid and gaseous, oxidizing environment and living matter, complex migration of matter involving oxen, oxygen and living organisms, solar energy concentration and richness of various free energy» [​ГЕОГРАФІЧНА ОБОЛОНКА​]. I will start with the fact that the term «shell» means only «​that which covers or envelops, envelops something outside, from the surface» [​ОБОЛОНКА – Академічний тлумачний словник української мови​]. It is also surprising that it was «formed as a result of interpenetration and interaction of substances of individual geospheres - lithosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere and biosphere​», although the idea of​ ​ individual geospheres is an abstraction. Surprisingly, the biosphere is on a par with abiotic geospheres, and why, in this case, there is no anthroposphere. Next, how can you distinguish a material object if its boundaries are blurred? For example, why take the ozone shield as the upper limit and not, for example, the magnetosphere? And what is this confusion with the lower limit? And what kind of «oxidizing environment» (which appeared at a certain stage of evolution), although the «non-oxidizing environment» is absent (although it also is), it turns out that when there was no oxidized, there was no geographical envelope (although life existed)? We see that this «definition» is far-fetched and does not fulfill its function (already at school age it introduces into the minds of children a misconception about the object of study of geography).

The author has repeatedly expressed the opinion that the field of geography should be similar to the fields of research of other scientific fields - biology, sociology, chemistry, etc., and they are distinguished by the presence of appropriate forms of organization - biotic, social, chemical and more. Consequently, geography should be distinguished by this principle - ​ the presence in the environment of entities with a geotic form of organization. But, although it looks strange, often such an organization is reduced to a spatial organization, although such cannot be in principle (we can only talk about spatial order). This position significantly limits geography, turning it into an aspect associated with the placement in space of anything. And this despite the fact that space, as a material entity, does not exist. As recently shown by the author [Ковальов, 2020], ​ both space and time are abstractions based on illusions, the possibility of forming which is associated with the existence of many processes of different scales, manifested in the environment. There was no space and time before the so-called Big Bang (as it does not exist today - these are abstractions that are convenient for building a picture of the world, for modeling). It was different: with the beginning of this process, a dynamic environment began to unfold, in which processes different scales emerged, which contributed to its differentiation. And not space is filled with matter, but the material environment with its diversity allows you to form a concept of space. Moreover, one cannot talk about the development of space. Without differences it is impossible to form an image of space, without dynamics, without a sequence of changes that we can detect, it is impossible to form an image of time (these are abstractions, so it is possible to select them as parameters). Both concepts make it possible to compare processes of different scales. Moreover, the idea of​ time we have to thank the Second law of thermodynamics, which strikes the so-called arrow of time, as well as the process of information production[4]. Thus, time and space do not precede, the process precedes, the internal organization of which allows people to create such abstractions as space and time, because it creates the heterogeneity of the environment. Eventually, these concepts entered the lives of communities, which made it possible to organize their lives, and the idea of space was consolidated through the development of geometry[5]. That is why the concept of ​ HoroHronoOrg ​as an inseparable whole was introduced.

Thus, it is the processes that have a certain organization that are the original essence that should be explored​[6]. Then the ​ geotic organization is presented as ​ a set of heterogeneous processes and structures - abiotic, biotic and anthropotic, combined into a functional integrity, which is the ​ research field of geography. Each such integrity has its own composition - a structure in which all components are harmoniously (ideally) coordinated, although we should only talk about the desire for harmony, which can never be achieved. It is not the interaction of some components of nature (how simple!) that comes to the fore, but the interaction of processes that form a certain structure, and it, in turn, does not allow these processes to run away, figuratively speaking, collecting and keeping them in functional unity, which is determined by its quality. This is how a geobody - a special quality. Let's turn to A. Spirkin: «​The category of quality is an integral definition of the functional unity of an object's essential properties, its internal and external definiteness, its relative stability, its distinction from and resemblance to other objects. Quality is an existing definiteness, as distinct from other definitenesses. It is the expression of the stable unity of an object's elements and structure. Quality is at the same time the limits of an object within which it exists as that object and no other. This means that quality is inseparable from the object. In losing its quality any object ceases to exist as such​» [Spirkin, 1983: Quality and Quantity]. What are these processes? There are many of them. It can be called spring-forming, basin-forming, forest-forming, steppe-forming, city-forming, agro-forming and many others: all these entities are the result of complex integrated processes operating in certain conditions. At the highest - global - level we have a ​ geoprocess, the deployment of which leads to the formation of abiotic, biotic (biosphere) and anthropotic (anthroposphere) components nested in each other. This exacerbates the question o​f geography sections and related research fields[7]. The most expressive are geomorphology (explores the abiotic sphere)​[8], biogeography​[9] (explores the ​biosphere as an area of action of biotized geotic entities) and anthropogeography or human geography (explores the ​ anthroposphere as an area of anthropized geotic entities). The most problematic today are biogeography and human geography. The first is still considered a discipline that studies (though what to study there?) the species of organisms and their communities distribution. The situation with human geography is even worse. Here is one definition: «​Human geography or anthropogeography is the branch of geography that deals with humans and their communities, cultures, economies, and interactions with the environment by studying their relations with and across locations» [​ Human geography, Wikipedia​, 2020]. It deals with society, culture, economy, often adding demographics issues and other areas, although each of them is a separate discipline: all this has nothing to do with geography. In both cases, it does not take into account the fact that living organisms and their communes, as well as humans and their communes do not operate in the environment, but together with it as a whole.

Integrity is presented not as a stable state of equilibrium, but as a complex process that involves components in a joint action aimed at survival in a complex environment. It is not like a chair or table consisting of parts that can be moved, disassembled and assembled. Integrity is a kind of subject (a kind of personality), a body that constantly fights against internal destruction and external influences by reproducing its self, organization and its reproduction in a certain context, which is also changing. To do this, you should constantly assess the internal state and dialogue with the environment, which makes it possible to produce information in the form of changes in structure and behavior, which causes the irreversibility of the process. We now understand that the whole is something that responds to signals from the outside and internal changes as a single body (ravine, fluvial system, forest, city so on). It may have appropriate structural and functional elements that form an information machine designed to survey the environment and produce information, as, for example, is the case of a ravine.

Consider the question more specifically. I will turn again to R. Inkpen: «Philosophically this is a tricky question. Entities are the units we believe exist in reality. They are the things we try to study. How they behave, and why they behave in that manner, is what we are trying to explain. Whether they really exist as we think they do, however, is a more difficult issue to clarify. We may, for example, study a landslide and try to explain its behaviour by reference to smaller parts. By focusing on the component parts, does this mean that the landslide is not really the focus of study or the basis of explanation? Are not the component parts the focus of study and so the things that really exist and hence the ‘real’ entities of study?​» [Inkpen, 2003: 46]. The example with a shift is very representative: it is shown that the study of the properties and behavior of parts does not give an understanding of the behavior of the whole (more precisely, does not predict the behavior of the whole, because the interaction of parts produces emergent - unexpected - behavior). But such a phenomenon exists, so it should be studied at the level of the shear body as a whole, based on the fact that there is a close relationship between the components, which lead to a high level of correlation. By the way, this can be seen on steep sandy slopes, when the mass of sand suddenly begins to move coherently, resembling a current.

Geoenvironment’ ​ multiscale. ​ This is a very interesting question: is there such a thing as multiscale in the geoenvironment? Does multiscale exist in nature, or is it a consequence of our perception of the environment? The fact that hierarchy takes place in the natural environment has been shown by many authors. C.D. Ducey writes: «Hierarchy theory as it pertains to ecological systems provides a useful framework for evaluating the effects of scale on observed patterns in landscape heterogeneity. This framework is based on the conceptualization of landscapes as spatial mosaics of patches organized hierarchically across a range of scales (O’Neill et al. 1986, Kotliar and Wiens 1990, Wu and Loucks 1995). Patches occurring at each scale level represent discrete landscape features with boundaries constrained by higher level patches and internal structures reflective of the properties and spatial interactions occurring between lower level patches. A hierarchical model’s upper and lower levels are predetermined by its specific extent and grain, which limit the possible range of scales over which patterns and processes can be addressed (Wu 1999). Extent refers to the total areal coverage under investigation, while grain corresponds the minimum observable unit. In complex landscapes, changes in scale produce predictable changes in the spatial variance within and between patches with respect to the extent and grain (Wiens 1989). As patch sizes expand within a constant extent, the internal variance increases because a greater proportion of spatial heterogeneity measured at the grain is contained within individual patches. Conversely, differences between patches decrease progressively at higher scales as heterogeneity is consolidated and averaged within larger patches (Wu 1999)​» [Ducey, 2010: 2].​ The point is that complex large-scale dynamic formations in principle cannot be homogeneous, because this cannot ensure their sustainability. There are certain large-scale levels at which entities are more stable and long-lasting, and the intervals between them are marked by instability: we have alternating zones of constancy and instability, both relative continuity and discontinuity. It can be assumed with high probability that in a large-scale dynamic environment there are such levels at which there is a concentration of organizational potential, which leads to the emergence of more sustainable entities (as shown in Fig. 2). It is at such scale levels we single out entities that become objects of study, so it is important to find out why this is the case. It can be assumed that geocholons​ ≈​ geoorgs are concentrated at these large-scale levels. Between them there is a constant exchange of signals that need to be made, processed and make decisions in the form of restructuring and behavior change. This seems to be the cause of the so-called deterministic chaos. The organization curbs the chaos, so it's always a simplification. Chaos is always an opportunity for transformation and is the glue that connects the entities of one level and different levels of the hierarchy.


Fig. 2. The levels of hierarchy in the medium are shown (simplified representation), which are distinguished by the decrease of variance due to the selected mode of functioning of the entities. Attractors correspond to these domains (represented by curved arrows). The domains with the increased potential of the organization corresponding to expressive levels of hierarchy are shown.


Let's make an important conclusion: Communication within entities, the components of which are also entities, covering all hierarchical levels, ensures the integrity of the entire geoenvironment. Relatively autonomous entities occur where communication is most dense.

Relatively autonomous formations are somehow manifested in the structure of the day surface in the form of areas with a characteristic structure - areas. Such components of the structure of the day surface (morphotypes) are also organized hierarchically, which creates a complex surface ornament. In Fig. 3 shows an example of such a surface.


Fig. 3. a) Favela Paraisopolis beside a fortified enclave in Morumbi, Sao Paulo [​ Feitosa, 2010: 18]; ​ b) Typological-topological scheme of localities (places, ​ grounds) and their graph. The hierarchy is shown by a graph. 

The presence of a hierarchy makes a complex world relatively stable precisely because of the plasticity that is achieved through multiscale, nesting hierarchy, and the number of such levels in different conditions will be different. In such environment there is a flow of organization that permeates the entire hierarchy. Th.A. Myers interestingly described the flow of the organization: «​My sensei explained to me that organizational flow was like a river that had many branches. It runs downstream from its source until it reaches the ocean. As with an actual river, there are blockages that hold up the flow. Some blockages are naturally occurring log jams, while some are created by busy beavers. Still others are inadvertently placed in the middle of the flow due to poor organizational policies or other management issues. Sometimes the pressure behind the blockage becomes so great that the flow circumvents the blockage becoming a work-around that can take far longer than the original stream​» [Myers​]. It should be important for the geographer that research in this direction is related to the landscape as the organization of the drawing of the day surface. 

Examples of the integrity of phenomena studied in geography

Consider the question more specifically. I will turn again to R. Inkpen: «​Philosophically this is a tricky question. Entities are the units we believe exist in reality. They are the things we try to study. How they behave, and why they behave in that manner, is what we are trying to explain. Whether they really exist as we think they do, however, is a more difficult issue to clarify. We may, for example, study a landslide and try to explain its behaviour by reference to smaller parts. By focusing on the component parts, does this mean that the landslide is not really the focus of study or the basis of explanation? Are not the component parts the focus of study and so the things that really exist and hence the ‘real’ entities of study?​» [Inkpen, 2003: 46]. The example with a shift is very representative: it is shown that the study of the properties and behavior of parts does not give an understanding of the behavior of the whole (more precisely, does not predict the behavior of the whole, because the interaction of parts produces emergent - unexpected - behavior). But such a phenomenon exists, so it should be studied at the level of the shear body as a whole, based on the fact that there is a close relationship between the components, which leads to a high level of correlation. By the way, this can be seen on steep sandy slopes, when the mass of sand suddenly begins to move coherently, resembling a current.

I will give other examples of entities which, at a certain point of view, are perceived as integrity.

Ravine. This entities have different structural and functional components, which, taken together, form a single body of the ravine. There is a «head» bounded by the advance front, which has «tentacles» - short finger-shaped erosion-suffusion incisions that perform the function of scouts, there is a «focal spot», where signals from the advance front are processed, there is a transit channel and a cone takeaway. The condition of the ravine as a whole depends on how closely these components are related.

Forest. «What is a forest?» - asks the question of B. Bennett [Bennett, 2001: 2]. Here are the questions he asks about this phenomenon:

«1. Is a forest a natural feature or one determined by convention and legality?

2. Does `forest' refer to an integral feature or can it be applied to an arbitrary region of land?

3. What type of vegetation can constitute a forest? (i.e. what species and how big must they be?)

4. How dense must the vegetation be?

5. How large an area must a forest occupy?

6. Are there any constraints on its shape?

7. Must a forest be self connected, or can it consist of several disjoint parts?

8. Must it be maximal or could it share a border with another region of forest?

9. Is a clearing a part of or a hole in a forest?

10. Are roads and paths going through a forest parts of the forest?

11. How should seasonal and other temporal variations be taken into a count?

12. If part of a forest is felled and subsequently re-grown, does it remain part of

the forest throughout?» ​ [​Bennett​, 2001: 2].

It gives a strict logical definition of the forest on the basis of such a parameter as tree density (in this regard, the question arises: can there be such an option, such as park forest?), And provides a scheme of possible forest demarcations for a given distribution of trees (Fig. 3). In my opinion, the criterion should be something else - the ability of the stand to create and maintain an inland forest environment. This is very serious, because the presence of such an environment allows us to perceive the stand as a truly holistic formation. This is similar to the internal environment that every biological organism (and not only) creates. Other points concerning the structure of the forest should be added. First of all, it is the presence of areas with different conditions - from relatively stable to unstable, from old to those that are just beginning to be included in the life of the forest organism. The point is that the structure of the forest is polychrome, which allows, even with significant (but not critical) changes in external conditions to continue their activities, which should be referred to as vitality.


 Fig. 3. Possible demarcations of the forest for this distribution of trees [Bennett, 2001: 15]. 

In fact, the forest is a very complex natural formation, which is not reduced to the density of trees. You can plant trees that will not become a forest. The forest includes a large number of species of plants and animals (including microorganisms), which are tied to a complex system of interactions, as well as the soil that provides them with essential nutrients and the microclimate. And all this exists due to the large number of processes of different nature that occur on active surfaces. So we can offer an appropriate definition of the forest as a complex combination of active surfaces and relevant processes, which ensures the viability of such an entity as a forest.

City (metropolis)​. You can find many definitions of the city, most of which emphasize that it is a large settlement with a great variety of functions, you can also add that it is a service center for the inhabitants of a certain area, called the region. But I will give a slightly different definition: a city (megalopolis) is a settlement that during its development has undergone a regime with aggravation, which causes a high density of communication between anthropoactors. What is this mode? This is a «dynamic law in which one or more simulated quantities turn to infinity over a finite period of time​» [Режи́м з заго́стренням, Вікіпедія, 2019]. Such regimes correspond to the model of hyperbolic growth, although, of course, there are some limitations. The city will be characterized by a much higher density of people compared to towns and villages, which is what allows us to invent new features that can’t occur in smaller settlements. One of the most important points is not so much the density of people as the density of communication (because there can be many people, but there is no contact between them), which leads to the formation of a special - urban - environment. And it is its presence, as in the case of the forest, determines the integrity of the city-metropolis.

Landscape and relief as a whole. No less interesting examples of the whole are the landscape and relief. I do not mean the pseudo-landscape in the form of a natural complex, which was once invented by L.S. Berg (natural or geographical complex, then - geosystem), and the landscape as an ​integral image of the area, as the organization of the drawing of the day (visible) surface. ​You can also see the definition of ​ «​landscape​» on the site [Definitions for landscape, 2020]. Relief is an ​integral image of the configuration of the topographic surface, or a form of organization of the field of heights/depths (so the expression «relief shape» is incorrect), it is the organic component of landscape​. There are no landscapes and reliefs in nature, but there is a structure of the day (visible, sensory-perceived) surface. ​This means that ​there are certain processes (regimes) that lead to the formation of these structures, each of which is landscape-forming and relief-forming. Therefore, when I say that the landscape or relief is the organization of the pattern, the configuration of the surface, I mean that ​ they are «underpinned» by a certain holistic process (mode). So what do we have here? There are morphological elements that form the physiographic structure of the surface ​(but not landscape or relief)​, we perceive these components and form a mental image of this relevant area. This means that it is not the landscape or relief that changes, but the physical surface (visible, topographic), and when these changes reach critical values, our integral image of the surface jumps to another option: a new pattern is formed. Therefore, examples of nonlinear dynamics, evolution, as well as self-organization of relief and landscape are completely incorrect[10]. We do not walk or ride on the landscape or on the relief, for this there is a physical surface, which we divide into areas - areas with a relatively homogeneous surface structure. Landscapes and reliefs correspond to these localities (places, ​ ground​s). The structure of localities is also hierarchical - micro-, meso-, macro-, respectively, landscapes and reliefs form a hierarchical picture in our minds: localities, places, ​grounds of different levels are included in areas of the highest level of the hierarchy​. 

Concluding remarks

Let's try to deduce the main points of the raised question. Being in the World, we only do what we grind it, creating images of its fragments, because we do not have the opportunity to embrace it as a whole, at the same time we lose meaning. The result is our mistake. We block rivers by dams, changing the flow and preventing the migration of aquatic animals, we plow land in vast areas, cut down forests, destroying natural vegetation and biocorridors, ​ carry out prepared hunting​ , thereby significantly affecting the circulation of substances and even the climate, we ..., we. ..! And now we have decided to trade in land as if it were a product of our production system. When we explore the world or enter into industrial relations with it, we break it down into fragments, and then try to make them what we imagine as a whole. But nothing comes of it, because, being destroyed as a result of the analysis, split into fragments, the integrity is not restored. We face this in geography as well. What does geography have to do with? You could use the Definitions given on the site «National Geographic»: «Geography​ is the study of places and the relationships between people and their​ environment​s. ​ Geographer​ s explore both the physical properties of Earth’s surface and the human societies spread across it. They also examine how human ​ culture​ interacts with the natural environment, and the way that locations and places can have an impact on people. Geography seeks to understand where things are found, why they are there, and how they develop and change over time​» [Geography, RESOURCE LIBRARY], but I can't agree with that version. It deals with extremely complex phenomena that combine into a field of study - a geoenvironment in which abiota, biota and anthropota (as macroactors) interact to form entities that were first thought of as geocomplexes, then as geosystems, and now as geocholonsgeoorgs. The difference between these units is obvious: the former corresponds to static ideas and is the result of a mechanistic picture of the world, the latter are based on the relationships between components and reflect a system-dynamic approach, and the latter are the result of holistic thinking: ​ here the whole comes to the fore, which ​ determines, gives significance, certain values of the components. ​ Geocholonsgeoorgs are presented as a kind of subjects, moving in the «space» of possibilities, constantly producing information. The peculiarity of geocholongorg is that, in addition to functional modes, they contain modes that ensure the operation of information machines - those that produce information. This, in my opinion, ​ leads to the so-called deterministic chaos, which denies the possibility of predicting the behavior of natural formations: in nature, everything communicates, which makes communication the most important basis of integrity. Each subsequent option includes the previous ones, but it is the last of them that makes it possible to reflect the World without its disintegration. This view eliminates the need to allocate space and time, which do not really exist (these are only abstractions formed during the formation of civilization), because they are ​ organic ​ part of the organization that makes visible processes (Latin processus - movement), and only processes do the world diverse, changeable, therefore, available for perception and reflection in the form of images, models. Many processes are known in geography - from almost imperceptible micro- to global ​geoprocess, which determines the deployment of a special environment, the existence of which is the basis for the allocation of geography as an independent scientific field. ​Since the geoenvironment is multiscale, the question is: what formations of the minimum scale can be distinguished in it? They are not independent; on the contrary, they are difficult to connect. Yes, biota did not immediately shape the modern environment, there were a number of critical situations related to the oxygen content in the atmosphere, but over time the situation stabilized. We now have a powerful anthropologist who has also not yet incorporated his production activities into the global natural regime, which could cause a serious crisis. Nature will survive, humanity may not survive. But there is a significant difference between biota and man. Man is a unique branch of the evolution of Nature, as a result of which he became the bearer of the brain of the latter. The human mind allows us to predict the possible consequences of its own activities and move towards reducing risks, although to know does not mean to understand. And the understanding of this can arise only with a holistic perception of the situation, because there are important meanings that should become part of global human culture. This is the so-called ​ geoculture, the main features of which are shown in the work [Ковалёв, 2009]. We must finally understand that Man is not an essence, removed from Nature, which opposes it, fights against it; Man is a special organ of Nature. ​It should be borne in mind that such a phenomenon as intelligence could develop only in an environment with supercritical diversity and complexity. So, the question arises: what should be the complexity of the environment for this? It so happened that on our planet it was Man who reached the pinnacle of intelligence. This also applies to human language, the emergence and development of which has led to a sharp intensification of communication.

What conclusion can be drawn from what is written? Geography has nothing to do with the placement of anything in space: it is not a space-oriented discipline. Like other natural sciences, it has its own holistic field of study, covering all geotically organized phenomena. This means that to reflect such phenomena as scientific objects should introduce an additional dimension - the organization that has an informational nature. Such phenomena (objects) can be abiotic, biotic and anthropotic, and only this is the basis for the differentiation of geography. But in any case, it deals with wholes - a kind of subjects that are combined with the less organized environment and demonstrate a certain behavior. This behavior allows us to draw certain conclusions about the internal organization of such entities. The interaction of such subjects is carried out by exchanging signals, the perception of which is not mutually unambiguous. I think that it is the exchange of signals that leads to the emergence of integrity. This is the reason for the inclusion of information in the model as a consolidation of the choice made. Now we understand that geography deals with emergent phenomena and is itself emergent, it is a science of the second order.

I will end this speech with the statements of C. McDougall: «​The suffering of our

earth, of humans, of our systems of interactions... is our forgetting of wholeness.

Like any great journey it starts at the beginning…with finding the space inside you that is whole and cultivating that.

When any system, relationship, enterprise, person, or work of art becomes whole

there is an instant gnosis…and an instant relaxation. Yes. This. Ahh…yes…this…

This is what we seek» [McDougall, 2018].

We live in a world divided. A world that is seeking wholeness. It is the perfection of humans in Universe that we are divided. It keeps us hungry, inventing, searching, seeking.

Christine McDougall, On Wholeness - Integrity, minimum viable systems, better worlds for all..


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[1] It is worth getting acquainted with the work of VL Thomas of the middle of the last century, which raises the question of changing the face of the Earth under the influence of human activity: Thomas W.L. Mans role in changing the face of the earth. The University of Chicago; Chicago Illinois; 1956. – Рр. 1232. - https://archive.org/details/in.gov.ignca.5089/page/n17/mode/2up. 

[2] Synergy (ancient Greek συνεργία - complicity, joint action) - strengthening the effect of interaction of actors, as a result of which the effect of joint action significantly exceeds the sum of their individual actions, as well as: «the combined effects of two or more organisms to produce a greater result than each would achieve individually. Synergism in nature includes altruism, reciprocity, functional interdependence, mutualism, and parasitism» [Auerbach, Updated April 25, 2017]. These effects are manifestations of the whole. I like the way you can represent synergy mathematically: 2 + 2 = 5. Synergism is the opposite of antagonism.

[3] It is better not to talk about biological (because biology is the name of a scientific discipline), but about biotic integrity, similarly - anthropic and geotic (in relation to geography) integrity and organization.

[4] The author understands information as a choice made in conditions of uncertainty, which leads to a change in the structure and behavior of the subject involved in this process. 

[5] I want to pay attention to M. Bakhtin's views on space and time. In The Forms of Time and the Chronotope in the Novel, he wrote: «The chronotope determines the artistic unity of a literary work in its relation to reality. Therefore, the chronotope in the work always includes a value moment, which can be distinguished from the whole artistic chronotope only in abstract analysis. All temporal-spatial definitions in art and literature are inseparable from each other and are always emotionally and colorfully colored. Abstract thinking can, of course, think of time and space in their separation and distract from their emotional and value moment. But living artistic contemplation (it is, of course, also full of thought, but not abstract) does not share anything and is not distracted from anything. It captures the chronotope in all its integrity and completeness» -


            Even more interestingly spoke about space and time the theoretical physicist, Professor R. Dijkgraf [The end of space and time]: «Space and time are not the basis of any of our reasoning, space and time themselves appear as a result of these reasoning». –


[6] Thus, R. Inkpen, considering the known concepts of the evolution of the slopes of Davis, Penk and King, writes the following: «Although differences in the three theories can be partly related to the different locations of their production, as noted by Thorn (1988), the three theories do illustrate a commonality in their use of time. All three are time-dependent; that is, all three presume that change will be progressive over time and the nature of the form of the landscape will change over time» [Inkpen, 2003: 18]. But this is not the case: what happens to the slopes, as well as to other formations, allows us to introduce the concept of time and use it as a parameter. The whole set of processes acting on the slopes simultaneously or in sequence is combined into a single slope-forming process. 

[7] The task of geographers of this branch of geography is to assess how correctly socio-economic formations are inscribed in natural regimes. 

[8] The following definition of the field of geomorphology is quite correct. It is worth noting that the study begins with «looking at landscapes» «Geomorphology is the study of landforms, their processes, form and sediments at the surface of the Earth (and sometimes on other planets). Study includes looking at landscapes to work out how the earth surface processes, such as air, water and ice, can mould the landscape» [What is Geomorphology, BSG], which is relevant for all levels of geographical research. 

[9] «Biogeography is the study of the distribution of species and ecosystems in geographic space and through geological time» [Biogeography, Wikipedia, 2020]. I will add that "ecosystem" is an ecological concept, respectively, biocentric. It is a systemic image of a community of biological organisms in a certain environment.

[10] Examples are the following works by J. Phillips: Phillips, J. (1995) Nonlinear dynamics and the evolution of relief. Geomorphology, 14, 57 – 64; Phillips, J.D. (1999) Divergence, convergence, and self-organization in landscapes. Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 89, 466 – 488.


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