What does it mean to be a Geographer?
I’m asking for a few minutes of your time, indulge me for moment, away from the glossy leaflets, the surprisingly interesting lessons that have come your way, PowerPoints that raise subjects to God-like status, the potential applications for future careers, combinations of complimentary subjects, the past achievements of students, the trips, the hard sell. What does it mean to be a Geographer?
I often think back to when I found my geographical eye, probably not the result of one event but many, but someday it opened. Some people find it, others never do, perhaps it’s a gift, perhaps love, maybe interest. You can study for it, you can train it, but sometimes it just appears. Take the test, look through the window, what do you see? If only objects, then I’m afraid you may not be one of us, but it you see politics, conflict, inequality, the power of nature and the power of man to imitate, then perhaps you’re a natural.
The problem with the eye is that once you’ve found it, it becomes impulsive, addictive, consuming. Nothing is ever the same. Watching the news becomes a field trip, the world becomes local, the conflict enters your living room, environmental destruction is like a loss of a dear friend, the natural disaster is no longer an act of God but a symbol of the power of the earth. Your mind races through the causes, the impacts, and the effects. It becomes hungry for more, but the problem is the feast is too plentiful, like eating from a king’s table, indulge yourself, but be happy that there is always more.
Soon it becomes a lifestyle choice, the supermarket visit becomes a conflicting battle of ideology, the coffee becomes an issue of fair trade, the trainers become a symbol of workers’ rights, a holiday becomes an issue of human rights, it’s so hard to switch it off. Your body becomes an entity, an instrument; your senses feed from the environment, the walk outside represents a journey through a contested landscape, the rain and wind becomes not a hindrance but a joy, a refreshing reminder of nature’s concern.
Symbiotic in its nature, it grows, it controls you, and it plays with the emotions. It makes you angry and hunger for the just cause, it makes you weak at knees at the power of nature, you become one within its all-encompassing power, it empowers and disarms; it makes a friend of a stranger.
Will geography make you interesting? Maybe. Will it make you employable? Maybe. Will it make you a better person? Maybe. But geography is more than an exam, more than a grade, it’s a continuum of knowledge passed from generation to generation, for the length of human life, it’s a proud tradition carried from the ancient libraries of Babylon, it’s nourishment for the soul, it’s an interest that will never die.
Finally, you realise that everything is geography; nothing escapes its conquering march. Stand to the side and it passes you, sit in its path, and it will sweep you along in its raging waters. Ignore it and it’ll haunt you.
Best of luck Year 11 for the future.