Glencoe: World Geography
Chapter 1: How Geographers Look at the World
Geography is the study of the earth's physical features and the living things that inhabit the
planet. Geographers use many tools and methods to study and understand the world's places. By
investigating the relationships among human activities, the earth's physical systems, and the
environment, the study of geography can contribute to a better future for the world's people.
Those who study geography use different ways of looking at the world or
the essential elements of geography—the world in spatial terms, places and regions, physical
systems, human systems, and environment and society. When geographers study the earth in
spatial terms, they focus on where places are located. Location can be expressed as absolute
location or relative location. Geographers also group places, or particular spaces with physical
and human meaning, into regions with similar physical or human characteristics. The study of
Earth's physical systems involves the effects of natural phenomena and ecosystem on the earth's
surface. Geographers also look at human systems to see how people settle the earth, form
societies, create permanent features, and move from place to place. Human-environment
interaction focuses on the relationship between people and their physical environment.
The Geographer's Craft
Physical geography and human geography are the two major branches
of geography. Geographers use research methods and tools to study places and human activity,
including direct observation, mapping, interviewing, statistics, and technology. Scientific
instruments, such as satellites and computers, gather and organize data that is used by
geographers, planners, and governments. Computers have revolutionized the process of
mapmaking, providing much greater precision and making rapid changes possible. Geographers
study the relationships among the physical and human features of the earth by using other
disciplines such as history, government, culture, and economics. Geography skills are useful in
many different careers, which often require a combination of training in geography and other
areas of study.
Chapter 2: The Earth
Planet Earth is part of the solar system, which is made up of the sun and the many objects that
revolve around it. Earth's structure has been and continues to be shaped by powerful forces
within the earth as well as exterior forces such as wind and water.
At least nine planets revolve around the sun. Earth is the third planet from the sun,
one of the four inner planets closest to the sun. Planets are classified as terrestrial planets, such as
Earth, or gas giant planets. Thousands of other smaller objects—asteroids, comets, and
meteoroids—also revolve around the sun. Earth is the largest of the inner planets. 70 percent of
the earth's surface is water, and about 30 percent of its surface is land. Seven large landmasses
called continents feature landforms of varying shapes and elevations.
Forces of Change