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Analyzing Spatial Organization of People, Places & Environments on Earth's Surfaces

Analyzing Spatial Organization of People, Places & Environments on Earth's Surfaces
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  • 0:02 Why is Spatial…
  • 1:12 People & Places
  • 3:02 Environments
  • 4:57 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 why studying spatial organization is important and describe aspects of the spatial organization of people, places, and the environments on the Earth. A short quiz will follow.

Why is Spatial Organization Important?

Spatial organization is the way a group or phenomenon is arranged on the surface of the Earth. Perhaps people are concentrated into cities or perhaps they're more spread out. Perhaps there are more rivers north of the Equator than south, or perhaps the truth is completely different.

Whatever the spatial organization may be, in geography, we're interested in how things are arranged on the Earth. In particular, geographers like to split things into functional regions, or areas defined by business and economic activities around a focal point or node. A functional region can be thought of as an area where the focal point has influence. The focal point, be that a business or central government, has links to the surrounding area, and these links can be analyzed. This is a really useful way of looking at how the world works and how it is interconnected. If we can see how things are spatially organized, we can next ask the question: 'Why are they organized that way?' And that is what geography is all about.

People & Places

Understanding the distribution of people and places tells you something about how people work. People tend to organize themselves into towns and cities, with far fewer people elsewhere. A population map of the Earth's surface would show certain key hubs with everywhere else being pretty quiet. This tells you something about how humans form communities.

You might also notice that certain parts of the world have more people than others. This might tell you something about the spread of natural resources around the world or perhaps the stability of governments in those areas. But we also know that as countries become more successful, population seems to stabilize and even decrease, as people choose to have less children. And so, perhaps the distribution of people and places can tell you something about a country's worldwide success.

There is a lot you can learn from understanding the distribution of people and places. If you looked at a remote-sensed image, such as an aerial photograph, it can be hard to interpret what you're seeing. Is it a city? Or an area of agriculture? Or a mountainous region? If you understand how people and places (including businesses) are distributed, answering this question becomes easier. If you see a grid of roads, looking like neat boxes, it's probably a city. If you see boxes that are larger and green or yellow in color, you may be looking at farmland. And if you see winding roads that seem to take inefficient routes, you're probably looking at a mountainous area with windy contour-following roads.

You might also see patterns in the locations of cities and towns. Follow a highway and you might notice that there's usually a major town or city every certain number of miles and that number varies by country; different countries have different norms. So, there's a lot you can learn from analyzing the way people and places are distributed.

Environments

Looking at a world map, it's also noticeable that human settlements vary by climate. Temperate climates have a lot of settlements, and warm and wet climates have a fair few settlements as well. But anywhere dry is a problem because humans need water. And colder places tend not to be very popular either. So that begs the question: 'How are the environments of the Earth distributed?'

The Equator of the Earth is an imaginary line moving east to west around the Earth that is halfway between the North Pole and South Pole. Since the Sun is overhead at the Equator more than anywhere else on the Earth, it is the hottest part of the Earth; the Sun's rays are highly concentrated. The North Pole and South Pole on the other hand are the coldest. In between are so-called temperate areas, where there are no extremes of temperature and precipitation.

But precipitation isn't as simple as temperature. There are deserts with hardly any rainfall near the Equator and frozen deserts near the poles. This is all about the way the Earth's weather patterns and air and water currents flow. When water is evaporated from the Earth, it moves in those currents from place to place. When that water is finally released from the clouds in the form of rain, it may have traveled hundreds of miles. The places where this moisture is taken tend to be wet, and places that mostly lose moisture tend to be dry.

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