Main basic elements and objectives of geography
Every subject that is taught to children has certain basic elements and fundamentals.
These basic elements and fundamentals are responsible for the limitation of the subject-matter of any specific subject and these also influence the subject-matter of a specified subject.
To understand a subject these fundamentals are essential. Like any other subject, the knowledge of these fundamentals is essential for the teaching of geography.
Thus to have a correct idea of these fundamentals, a proper explanation of the geographical environment of a particular country is essential. The following five are the basic elements of geography.
(i) Natural conditions
(ii) Formation of the surface of earth or land
(iv) Vegetation and agricultural products
(v) Human element or human activities
All these five elements taken together are known as geographical environment and these elements are mainly responsible for the geographical control. In the following pages an attempt will be made to consider all these elements in detail.
(i) Natural conditions or physical conditions
We can say that physical conditions are another name of geographical conditions. Other things are developed on the basis of physical conditions. The physical conditions are governed by the formation of the surface of the earth or land.
The creation of atmosphere depends on physical conditions and the atmosphere or environment has a profound influence on the life of the inhabitants.
Thus it becomes of prime importance to have a thorough study of natural conditions. To have a correct and balanced idea about a country it is essential to have a fairly exhaustive idea of natural conditions existing there. In olden days it sufficed to learn the names and the laws that guided the physical conditions however in present age it has lost its importance.
Modern geography lays more stress to find out the various causes responsible for bringing about different changes in physical conditions. At present it is generally agreed that in the beginning earth was very hot and it was just like a solid mass of fire.
Slowly and slowly it cooled and during this process of cooling the surface of earth was formed. Thus the cooling process had its effect on the surface of earth. These changes were brought about by certain factors.
If a land is situated much more away from the equator (e.g. northern most and southern most part of earth) then it is likely to be covered with snow for the whole of the year and if a land (or country) is situated near the equator then its climate is likely to be very hot. Similarly we can say that deserts are hot and dry throughout the year. If a region is situated near a sea shore then its climate will be temperate.
(ii) Formation of the surface of Earth or Sand
When the earth was cooling down a crust was formed and at certain places wrinkles were formed. These wrinkles had elevations at certain points and were deep at some other points. Those points that had elevations later grew up into mountains and those points which were deep later on became oceans and valleys.
In order to maintain itself nature created plains at some places and it gave rise to plateaus at other places. To make any changes in nature is beyond man’s capacity, however slight changes in nature can be affected by man but such changes are in consequential.
The formation of surface of earth now forms the part of study of geology but geography cannot altogether ignore it. It has to be studied because the formation of earth is mainly responsible for the climate and produce of that land.
In the plains which are formed by rivers we find good agricultural produce and the hilly areas and plateaus are not suitable for agriculture. The old rocks are comparatively richer in mineral wealth such as coal; iron ore, silver etc. and the newly formed rocks are richer in oil.
The formation of land has played a vital role even in the development of human race and civilization. Since human life is influenced by the formation of earth so geography has to take it into consideration. The study of inter-action of man and the nature is taken up in geography and such a study is of vital importance.
The various agencies that are responsible for bringing about continuous changes in the surface of the earth can be broadly, classified as (i) External agencies and (ii) Internal agencies.
External agencies include wind, rain, flowing water, ice, sun, glaciers, heat of sun etc. Internal agencies include such phenomenon as earth-quack, eruption of volcano etc.
The changes caused by these agencies became visible only after a long time say after about hundreds or thousands of years. There was a time when people of Greece had erected Ghats near Crete but now the place is very high from sea level.
In India the Tharp desert appears to be spreading and Government of India is making all out efforts to check this expansion. A large scale tree plantation has been undertaken to check the spread of this desert.
It is one of the important factors that influence the geographical conditions. It is one of the basic elements that controls and influences the physical features. It influences agricultural products, living conditions, food habits, traditions and customs.
In India we find that Punjab occupies top position in production of wheat, West Bengal in production of rice and tea is produced in Assam. This can be easily explained on the basis of climatic conditions existing in those regions.
The effect of climatic conditions is direct and discernible. ‘Various trades and industries have localized and established due to climate and its influence. The factors that influence the climate can be summarized as under:
(a) Distance from the equator.
(b) Distance from the sea shore.
(c) Elevation from the sea level.
(d) Conditions of wind and its direction.
(e) Location of the mountains, their direction and heights.
(g) Formation of the land.
All these factors are responsible for the climate of a particular place.
(iv) Vegetation and Agricultural Products
The vegetation and agricultural products are influenced to a large extent by the climate of the region. Those areas which have rains all through the year have dense forests and in dry places and deserts there is very little vegetation.
Wood industries are most likely to be set up in the forest areas. Some big industries which get their raw materials from forests are also most likely to be established in such areas.
In alluvial soil we get good agricultural produce which is not possible in plateau lands. Thus we find that natural factors are responsible for the fertility of land.
We also find that if the temperature of a place is near about 80° and if the rainfall average of the area is about 80″ in year then such a place is suitable for paddy and jute production. Since such favorable factors do not exist in the land formed by river Indus so the production of jute and rice in this area is not possible.
The steel industry was established in Tata Nagar because of the availability of iron ore in that area. Not only mineral wealth but even the animal wealth is influenced by climatic conditions. The monkeys, beers and dears are found in dense forests and camels in deserts.
We do not find tigers and lions in mountain areas because of unsuitability of such a climate to lions and tigers. Yaks are found in Tibet and Reindeers in Tundra because of suitable climatic conditions existing in those regions. Those places where we find good vegetation are also found to have a good number of animals.
(v) Human Element or Human activities
Man is a social animal and thus forms part of animal life. The mode of living and food habits and even his life style are influenced by the climatic conditions of the region.
He makes use of mules and Yaks in mountains for carrying loads where as for the same purpose he employs carts and other animals in plains and camels in deserts. Camel is considered more useful in deserts because it requires only a limited quantity of water.
More over us find that people living in temperate climate are harder working as compared to those living in warm and hot countries. It is because of favorable climatic conditions that people living in temperate countries have made more progress and people living in very hot or very cold countries could not progress.
Science has been able to make certain small changes in the natural conditions but they are only of marginal effect.