Geography week creates awareness


    By Kathleen Waterfall

    The geography department, along with the National Geographic Society, is sponsoring the National Geography Awareness Week on campus this week.

    “The goal of the awareness week is to help people be more aware of the importance of geography in everyday life,” said Brandon Plewe, associate professor of geography. “It”s to help people be more aware of what we do as a department and what our students do in geography.”

    According to, Geography Awareness Week was established 14 years ago by the National Geographic Society to promote awareness of the importance of geography and its relevance to almost any other subject.

    An issue many people involved in geography face is the misconception people have about what geography truly is.

    “When I used to tell people that I was a geography major they would say, ”Oh, so you know all or your capitals,”” said Alyssa Walker, a geography minor from Queen Creek, Ariz. “But there”s so much more to it than that.”

    Matthew Shumway, chair of the geography department, said the misperceptions people have about geography keep them from understanding the kinds of things geography involves and its relevance in everyday life.

    “Geography helps you appreciate the earth a lot more and it gives you an appreciation of the environment and the complexity of the world,” Shumway said. “It”s understanding the reaction between people, cultures and the physical environment and how those things work together. Since we interact with different people in the world, our interaction should be based upon those understandings.”

    In order to help students and faculty better understand what geography is really all about, Alexander Murphy, president of the Association of American Geographers and professor of geography at the University of Oregon, will speak at BYU.

    In an article titled “Awash in a Sea of Geographical Ignorance,” Murphy addressed the need for geography in today”s world.

    “The issue is not just whether people know the names and locations of capital cities or rivers-a common misconception of what geography is all about,” Murphy stated in the article. “The question is whether voters and decision makers understand the geographic context within which events are situated. Because American society is based on democratic participation by the population in decision-making, it is imperative that Americans have some understanding of these things. Yet, by and large, we do not; and our ignorance puts us in a very poor position even to begin to evaluate the geopolitical consequences of current U.S. policies.”

    Murphy will present his lecture “Coping with a Changing World” at 11 a.m. Thursday. He will also present “Transboundary Issues in Europe” at 9 a.m. Friday. Both addresses will be held in 250 SWKT.

    An informational booth about what geography has to offer, including cartography, landform geography and economic development, is located on the main floor of the Wilkinson Center. The booth will be available through Friday, Nov. 21.

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