In our latest blog post Mike Robinson, RSGS CEO, tells us why everybody should get in touch with their inner geographer!
Get in touch with your inner geographer
As Mark Twain once said, “Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it”. Weather, the most popular topic of conversation in the UK, is in the realm of geography, yet this sort of everyday subject is not associated with geography. People more often than not think of geography quite narrowly and negatively. But we all talk about the weather. We all live somewhere. We all rely on the planet ”“ on infrastructures, ecosystems, social structures”¦ and these all form the basis of geographical study. Isn’t everyone therefore a ”˜geographer’?
Geography is one of the most relevant, vibrant, compelling and current issues, yet, despite the breadth and vitality of the subject, it has struggled to shrug off its old, dreary, corduroy cloak, and has allowed itself to become bogged down in people’s prejudices and uncomfortable memories of oxbow lakes and capital cities.
When the RSGS was established, many of our most influential thinkers were polymaths or people who could innately understand the connections between people, places and the planet ”“ Geddes, Thomson, Bruce, Shackleton, Rosebery, Ogilvie, Geikie, Bartholomew, and many others. These people helped to craft and shape the study of geography, and to establish it as a fundamental subject within our schools, by capturing the interest, excitement and enthusiasm that people have for the world around them.
Over the past 130 years, the RSGS has hosted, worked with, written about and celebrated some of the most outstanding individuals in the fields of science, exploration, adventure, education and communication ”“ individuals with sparkling stories to tell, including names such as Nansen, Scott, Stanley, Hillary, Heyerdahl, Armstrong, Bonington, and Attenborough. We have been, and continue to be, actively engaged in many of the critical issues and concerns of the day ”“ from mapping and exploration, to town planning, flooding, energy, coastal erosion, and national parks.
Right up to the present, never a day goes by when there isn’t something of geographical concern within the news. The RSGS’s magazines help to display the breadth of the subject, with recent themes ranging from town centre regeneration to the future of forestry, from climate change to the legacy of major sporting events, from current issues affecting the Arctic to our relationship with modern slavery, from instability in the Middle East to the adoption of well-being measures as alternatives to GDP, and from the future of transport to the future resilience of our economy and environment.
Geography is weather and climate, oceans, volcanoes, rainforests and deserts, coral reefs, plate tectonics, population and migration, atmosphere, and ecosystems. It is food, agriculture, environment, transport, and sustainability. It is how we live, where we live, why we live there, and how we interact. It is our sense of place, our sense of community, and our sense of self. It is how the world works, breathes and interacts, and how trade and technology work. It is the whole of Earth’s history, the whole of Earth’s present interactions, and the whole of Earth’s possible natural and human future.
How can that not excite and encourage and inspire people?
If we want more joined-up and scientific thinkers in society at large, then we need more geographical learning. If we want more sustainable societies, then we need more geographical awareness. If we want greater tolerance and more international trade and co-operation, then we need greater geographical empathy. If we want to reinforce a fascination in the world around us, then we need more geographical interest. If we want progress without being surprised by its consequences, then we need more geographical research. And if we want people to have the drive, passion and knowledge to take better care of our planet, then we need more and more people to learn about the geographical sciences.
There are experts and there are amateurs, but we are all of us geographers in varying degrees. Maybe it is just in talking about the weather, decrying the rain or the wind. In finding a path, visiting a place, creating a home. In exploring the planet, choosing a meal, building a community. In planning a road, switching on a kettle, painting a landscape. In bringing up children, climbing a mountain, planting a tree. In teaching a class, writing a paper, learning a language. Or in building and defining a nation.
Geography is everywhere: it shapes us, it explains us, it is part of us.
If you are inspired to get more involved with RSGS or to become a member then you can find more information here.