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Geography and Its Relevance in the 21st Century

The argument that geography no longer matters in the 21st century does not hold. Despite the communication, trade, and infrastructural barriers that globalization has broken, the world cannot get to a position where humans can regard geography as irrelevant. Even with the proliferation of globalization, global problems such as climate change, war, and conflict, poverty, as well as diseases and epidemics affect different geographical locations differently. For instance, while the American east coast and the Caribbean islands experience hurricanes year in year out, Japan is ever wary of volcanic activity and tsunamis as North African countries experience prolonged periods of drought. From a climatology perspective, using climate change as a course-based theme, geography matters because different regions face different imminent perils of climate change.

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Climate change, according to the National Geographic (2019a), is the long-term shift in global as well as regional weather conditions and climatic patterns. Climate change manifests in the long-term change of temperature and rainfall regimes, as well as the typical weather patterns of a place. From a personal understanding of climate change, geography matters because culture and climate are intertwined, and if geography affects one of them, then it affects the other as well. According to Hulme (2015), the relationship between culture and climate appears everywhere from the way people dress to the people’s economic activities and recreational activities. The relationship between geography and climate is both direct and indirect. For instance, while regions around the equator receive relatively warm weather throughout the year, regions outside the tropics enjoy fluctuating weather regimes as temperature varies across the year. Additionally, geography predisposes some regions to particular economic activities. For instance, the Middle East and Arabia are geographically predisposed to oil reserves. Consequently, fracking and other oil drilling practices are common in this region, leading to a lot of carbon emission – often associated with climate change – into the atmosphere.

There are numerous broad as well as case examples drawn from climate change effects that can help explain why geography matters. One of the effects of climate change is the melting of glacier and polar ice due to global warming. However, such global effects pose localized problems to people living in different geographical locations. According to the National Geographic (2019b), despite the worldwide and extensive melting of ice, there is geography-specific disappearance of glaciers such as in Montana’s Glacier National sPark, where glaciers have reduced from over 150 in 1910 to less than 30 today. Out of the melting ice and increased precipitation globally, sea levels continue to rise at the rate of 0.13 inches per year (National Geographic, 2019b). Despite the global rise in sea level, different countries face different challenges due to this rise. Some alarmists even warn that some islands and archipelagoes in the Australasia region will eventually get submerged if sea levels continue to rise as climate change persists.

Other than the global cases that geographically localize climate change effects, there are more specific cases to bolster this position. Due to climate change and global warming, warmer global temperatures have resulted in localized effects of climate change. Some regions are likely to receive more rainfall and storms than they did in the past, and the resultant runoff is likely to flood the floodplains of some regions and not others. According to Flavelle (2019), hurricane Dorian was the third of its kind to hit North Carolina in four years, while the city of Gatineau has seen two 100-year-floods between 2017 and 2019. Putting the hurricanes and the floods aside, the frequency of these calamities within specific locations shows just how vital geography is. As Flavelle (2019) reports, the Canadian government is even advising Canadians living in the floodplains of Ottawa River to consider moving. Perhaps the Canadian government has become wary of the number of times Gatineau has flooded and perhaps has become afraid that it is a tendency that will continue in the future, leading to much spending in disaster mitigation. While North Carolina and Quebec experience heightened precipitation, some regions in the world are experiencing more desertification as climate change persists.

Conclusively, it is inarguable that globalization has transformed the world into a global village by breaking communication, trade, and transportation barriers that existed before. However, such knowledge is not reason enough to dismiss the relevance of geography in world affairs. Drawing from climatology and climate change as a course theme, there is evidence to support the fact that geography matters in opposition to the argument that it no longer matters. Climate change manifests in the long-term global alteration of weather conditions and climatic patterns. Despite the global outlook of the effects of climate change, different regions experience these effects differently. As polar ice and mountain glaciers melt, they disappear from regions they previously existed, exposing more landmass. Conversely, as sea levels rise, some regions face the threat of submersion. Moreover, as some regions experience storms and floods, others are battling desert encroachment as climate change sets in.


Flavelle, C. (2019). Canada tries a forceful message for flood victims: Live someplace else. The New York Times. Web.

Hulme, M. (2015). Climate and its changes: a cultural appraisal. Geo: Geography and Environment, 2(1), 1-11. doi: 10.1002/geo2.5

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National Geographic Society. (2019a). Climate change. Web.

National Geographic Society. (2019b). Effects of global warming. Web.

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