Greetings, young geographers! Welcome back to school and a new academic year.
When you care about your world, you are using geography. A good geography education can make you a more powerful agent of change. It’s not just about location and Google maps. Discover how!
For far too long, you have been mistakenly thinking that geography is not an important subject … it’s not a ‘scoring subject’, you can’t get jobs if you study geography, it’s boring, it’s of no use to life, and such other wrong notions are still quite widespread even among many teachers!
If you have been reading this column regularly, I hope you have gotten rid of such notions. I hope you have a better understanding of the power of a good geography education.
To find out and reinforce your knowledge of the power of geography, you need to meet a wide variety of geographers – students and professionals alike. You need to interact with them, find out what they are doing, how they view and use geography in their lives, and so on.
If you just stick to your textbook for studying geography, you will never understand the power of a good geography education.
We need you!
Engineers have built and launched many satellites that observe Earth from hundreds of kilometres above. These satellites send back data that we can’t collect from the surface of Earth. They are much more efficient. They help us learn a lot about things such as: the health of crops, distribution of poverty and wealth, safety and security of our borders, predicting weather, planning for extreme environmental events (typhoons, earthquakes, floods, etc.), monitoring pollution levels, and so on. We need geographers to interpret these data, create accurate and useful maps, and interpret the maps so that we can have better development.
These days, we hear a lot about conflicts in the world – countries at war, insecure borders, ethnic strife, and lack of communal harmony. Yet, in a myriad ways, a lot of ordinary people like us, in many neighborhoods such as ours, are showing us that peace and cooperation are quite possible and important. This is all about making a place for cooperative living. They show us that it is possible and practical. And very important. In India, we call this ‘communal harmony.’ Yet, we rarely, if at all, hear about the important work that goes on in reducing conflict and increasing cooperation.
Geography is also about human relationships, as my colleague Dr Muthatha Ramanathan always emphasizes. When we realize this, we can shape the kind of place we live in – that is geography in action! It is what we call ‘Citizen Geography.’ And when we do this consciously, we are acting as ‘Citizen Geographers.’
A doctor who understands the geography of the disease and the patient she is treating is that much better at her work. An ambulance driver who is knowledgeable about the geography of his town or city can help to get patients to hospital more quickly and safely. A teacher who understands geography beyond the textbook inspires generations to open themselves to thinking innovatively.
Where will all these geographers come from? From among you!
If you equip yourself with a good geography education, you will become powerful agents of change for the better at all scales – from your home to your neighborhood, town, state, country, and the world.
We need you!
For three days in July, you will have many opportunities to meet geographers such as yourselves – school students – who have done geographic research in their own neighborhoods and will report on their research; i.e., to learn about the power of geography.
You will also get to learn some geography concepts through games and workshops.
And you will get to meet and hear some internationally renowned geographers talk about what being a ‘Citizen Geographer’ means to them. You will learn how you can be part of a more sustainable world as a geographically educated citizen of not just India, but of the world.
You may also have an opportunity to participate in a special project where you get to design an ideal geographically informed neighborhood. This will give you an opportunity to work in teams with students from other schools. (But you have to register early for this!)
Above all, there will be no competitions!
Who is a Citizen Geographer? Anyone who makes a positive difference in the world around them and makes their own place a better place, is a Citizen Geographer.
You may not realize it, but every act of help is based in geography and its application. As I said at the beginning of this article, ‘discover how!’
And how do you do this? By participating in the International Geography Youth Summit – 2017, 7–9 July, at the Army Public School, K Kamaraj Road, Bengaluru.
Visit http://www.tigs.in/IGYS-2017 to register (there are three steps and you must complete all three).
A version of this article appeared in the Deccan Herald Student Edition in June 2017