Why Study Geography?

Geography is defined by the Oxford English dictionary as "The study of the physical features of the earth and its atmosphere, and of human activity as it affects and is affected by these, including the distribution of populations and resources and political and economic activities." Within this definition is the principal reason in which I chose to study the subject as the role of human interaction with each other and within the environment is dynamic and essential to understand the functionality of the world. Although I've always found the subject intriguing, a 2014 trip to Uganda highlighted four major aspects of Geography that were relevant, useful and especially interesting to me.

The first was that of human activity within a city/society completely juxtaposed to my own. How the availability of basic amenities and public services (education, health, judicial systems) can vary so much, dependent on the social, economic, political condition of a locality, region or even nation. The geographical theory behind human interaction within their environment and the understanding of human activity to predict potential consequences or ways in which poverty, malnutrition or natural disasters can be eased or negatives impacts minimised are some of the main reasons I find the subject so interesting; essentially it holds the key to these issues.

Left: Vast densely populated shanty town on the outskirts of Kampala, Uganda. Right: Primary schoolchildren making their way to school in Jinja, Uganda.

Secondly, the divisions between working sectors in Uganda was fascinating in the fact that an increasingly greater number of secondary (textile factories shown below) and some tertiary sector jobs were clearly visible which demonstrated the gradual economic development of the country. Furthermore, having the chance to interview and interact with working age Ugandan people highlighted an evident shift in the quality of life for the majority of the public. The interesting part about this is that after speaking to these people we can then correlate what they said to updated HDI (Human Development Index) rankings or other quality of life indicators to examine this change on a national level.

Textile factories in Kampala, Uganda.

Thirdly, the geographical concept of sustainability and especially sustainable development was a topic that was clear in both rural and urban parts of the country and it was only after seeing it in action first hand did I understand its importance. I witnessed and was involved in multiple exchange and education schemes, in which NGO's are targeting vulnerable Ugandan adolescents and point them in a direction of education and potential careers rather than the gang-affiliated lifestyles that they may have been involved with in the shanty towns dotted around Kampala. Moreover, this scheme, and many others like it, can be attributed to the ever improving sustainable social situation across central Africa.

Photo taken at 'The Street Child Project' on the outskirts of Jinja, Uganda.

Lastly, the incredible natural beauty and variety of land-forms from the perspective of physical geography cannot be overlooked. Although Uganda falls into the Savannah biome and has a predominantly tropical climate, it has a spectacular range of natural landforms and features, including Murchison falls (shown below). Similarly, to the point above, multiple management schemes were in place in order to encourage and instill a sense of importance over sustainable development in the national park, in order to protect unique flora and fauna.

Photos taken at Murchison Falls Natural Park, Uganda.
Created By
Alistair Dalton

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