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What Are The Five Themes of Geography?

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  • 0:04 What is Geography?
  • 0:49 The Five Themes
  • 2:52 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: David Wood

David has taught Honors Physics, AP Physics, IB Physics and general science courses. He has a Masters in Education, and a Bachelors in Physics.

After watching this video, you will be able to explain what geography is and describe the five key themes that make up geography. A short quiz will follow.

What Is Geography?

Geography is the study of the physical features of the earth, including how humans affect the earth and are affected by it. Geography deals with physical aspects of the earth: the composition, the layers of the earth, the atmosphere, the plants and animals, mountains, rivers, and other landforms. But it also analyzes how humans have affected those physical features and how the arrangement of those features has affected humans. Why do humans settle where they do? How do humans impact the environment? How do the physical landscapes create human conflict? All of these things are covered by geography.

Since geography is such a large subject, with so many topics, it makes sense to split it into key themes. Today, we're going to briefly discuss the five main themes of geography.

The Five Themes

There are five main themes of geography: location, place, human-environment interaction, movement, and region. Collectively, these five themes encompass the whole of the subject of geography.

Location is kind of like the first step in understanding an aspect of the earth and involves providing a reference to describe where a particular place is on the earth. This could be an absolute location, where a location is based on a definitive reference that rarely changes, such as latitude or longitude, or an address. Or it could be a relative location, where a place is described relative to its environment or its connection to other places.

Place is a description of the physical and human characteristics of the location being studied. This could involve describing the mountains, valleys, rivers, beaches, and the living organisms that inhabit it. It also includes human features, like land-use, infrastructure, and communications.

Human-environment interaction is the study of how humans affect the environment and how the environment affects humans. Humans can have positive impacts on the environment or negative ones. And we can even disagree about whether an impact is positive or negative. Human geography is a complex and varied topic in itself.

Movement involves describing and discussing the effects of anything that moves across the earth. Very often, this is related to humans: movement of humans themselves, goods, services, immigration, and so-forth. The migration of animals can also play a part, especially when looking at changes in a landscape over long periods of time.

Region is about classifying the parts of the earth. We humans love to draw borders and put names, labels, and categories on things, even when those borders and labels are mostly made-up. Region considers how the land is split up into continents, regions, countries, counties, states, and cities.

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