Geography at Shasta College
Shasta College's Geography Department offers students the opportunity to develop an understanding and appreciation of our complex world. We offer courses that meet a range of different student needs. Many of our courses meet general education transfer patterns for both the University of California and the California State University systems. Some also transfer directly to Geography Departments at California universities for students interested in pursuing a degree in geography. Furthermore, the Shasta College Geography Department maintains relationships with faculty in geography programs across the state, but in particular at our two primary feeder schools, CSU Chico and Humboldt State University. In addition to transfer-oriented courses, we offer field courses designed to enrich student experience through exploring the diverse cultural and physical landscapes of our region. Finally, we encourage student involvement in extracurricular activities such as conferences and off-campus activities and forums.
Geography: An Overview of the Discipline
The field of geography is rooted in the universal curiosity about the world around us, and the differences that occur from place to place. Geography seeks to answer questions about our world. Where is it? What is it like? How did it come to be this way? What is it related to? While its roots can be traced to the earliest recorded human history, whether in the form of cave paintings or Egyptian tablets recording the first property boundaries. The Greeks applied their elegant systematic logic and mathematical principals to create maps of the Mediterranean and interpret the movement of celestial bodies. Despite its ancient lineage geography is essential to addressing contemporary human-environment concerns, from population growth and globalization to global climate change and natural resource exploitation. This broad charge was succinctly stated by Richard Hartshorne who wrote: "geography is concerned to provide accurate, orderly, and rational description and interpretation of the variable character of the earth surface".
A hallmark of geography is its interdisciplinary nature. James Parsons said "Geography, so magnificently interdisciplinary, seems an ideal vehicle for the joining of hands of science and humanism, including the taking of moral positions on environmental and spatial issues. The unifying concern with place and space provide the rock upon which geographers congregate. By focusing on spatial (i.e., distribution across space) aspects of phenomena, geographers serve the universal need to better plan for human activities on Earth. With the explosion of geo-spatial technologies such as satellite imagery, global positioning systems (GPS) and geographic information systems (GIS), geographers have a wealth of new tools and techniques.
As geographers analyze the character of places, what differentiates them and how they interact with other places, we look for patterns and processes, connections and contexts. Geography's traditional branches, physical and cultural, provide a jumping off points.
- Landforms - mountains, valley, plateaus
- Geology and Soils - mineral and energy resources; agricultural capability; geologic hazards
- Water features - oceans and seas; coastlines, rivers, lakes; water resources
- Climate - long term patterns of temperature and precipitation have a profound affect on human habitation
- Biogeography - distribution of vegetation, lifeforms
- "Human forms superimposed on physical landscape" - Carl Sauer
- Demographics - changes in population influenced by natural increase and immigration.
- Cultural features include language, religions, cultural traditions such as food, art, music, rituals
- Ethnicity – bloodlines
- Ways in which people make a living - "Modes de Vie"
- Adaptation to climate, terrain, and other physical characteristics
Geography now recognizes 5 themes that serve to guide inquiry:
- Human-Environment - people and their interaction with nature
- Location – “address” of a place
- Place – tangible and intangible characteristics that uniquely define a place
- Region – geographic areas that share some uniform characteristics
- Movement - physical materials, animals, people
As the world advances into the 21st century, a daunting array of challenges loom: swelling populations, wealth disparities, idealogically-driven conflicts, infectious diseases, climate change, mass extinctions, and others. Geographer's will, indeed must, play a central role in helping to shape a healthy future for our home planet and her inhabitants.