Mark Twain 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. And we all rely on the planet, on infrastructures, ecosystems, social structures… all forming the basis of geographical study. Isn’t everyone therefore a ‘geographer’?
Geography is one of the most relevant and compelling issues, yet, despite its breadth and vitality, it has struggled to shrug off its old corduroy cloak, and has allowed itself to become bogged down in people’s uncomfortable memories of oxbow lakes and capital cities.
When RSGS was established, many of our most influential thinkers were people who innately understood the connections between people, places and the planet. These people helped to shape the study of geography, and to establish it as a fundamental subject within our schools, by capturing people’s interest and enthusiasm for the world around them.
For 130 years, RSGS has worked with and celebrated some of the most outstanding individuals in the fields of science, exploration, education and communication – people like Scott, Hillary, Armstrong and Attenborough, with sparkling stories to tell. We have been engaged in many of the critical issues and concerns of the day, from mapping and exploration to town planning, flooding and national parks.
Right up to the present, never a day goes by without something of geographical concern in the news. Geography is weather, climate, oceans, volcanoes, deserts, populations, migration, atmosphere, and ecosystems. It is food, agriculture, environment, trade, 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 the whole of Earth’s history, the whole of Earth’s present interactions, and the whole of Earth’s possible natural and human future.
If we want more joined-up thinking, we need more geographical learning. If we want more sustainable societies, we need more geographical awareness. If we want more people to have the drive and knowledge to take better care of our planet, we need more involvement in geographical sciences.
There are experts and there are amateurs, but we are all geographers in varying degrees. Maybe just in talking about the weather. In visiting a place, creating a home, choosing a meal. In exploring the planet, bringing up children, learning a language. Or in building and defining a nation.
Geography is everywhere: it shapes us, it explains us, it is part of us.
Mike Robinson, Chief Executive, RSGS