The Relationship Between Geography And International Relations Politics Essay

23 Mar 2015

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From this quote, it can be understood the importance of geography for regions, people, politics, economics, globalization and the study of International Relations. As a definition, it can be remarked that Geography is considered as the "study of spatial patterns in the human and physical worlds". What geographers do is the examination of how human and natural characteristics are distributed across the earth, what the relationship between them is and what patterns of behavior have those interactions.

As an example, it can be used in terms of nature the Hurricane Katrina, when most of the population of New Orleans started to live in other cities in United States, while the price of gasoline increased considerably. Another example would be the war in Iraq, where so many Iraqi people have dead, and much of the military force is formed by people from many places in the world.

In that sense, geography points on the study of interactions and flows between places in the world, not only physically but also Human, Systematic or Thematic and Regional geographic studies are made too. Those ramifications of Geography are called as Approaches to Geography [2] .

Starting with Physical Geography, it can be said that it is the study of the natural environment and its processes in Earth's surface: how climate changes, the distribution of landscape, the behavior and location of resources, hydrographic sources, ecology, soil surfaces for development, construction or life, and interactions between them that give people the idea of how is their intervention affecting the environment where they live in.

On the other hand, Human Geography studies the human relations according to their location, the way societies are when living in a specific place of the world. Due to the fact that human beings form large societies, they create physical and social environments where they transform their social structures and surrounding area where they live. These actions go towards the need of survival, and interests that people have in order to achieve general and specific goals. As branches of Human Geography, it can be mentioned Demography [3] , urban/rural changes, politics and economies.

Talking about Systematic or Thematic Geography, it can be stated as the study of the spatial relations and its effects relating it to Human Geography. That means the interactions of human groups with climate change, industrial development, health, migrations and urban growth.

Finally, Regional Geography concentrates on specific areas on Earth's surface [4] . It includes the study of soils, vegetation, landscapes and the linkage with culture, population, economy, politics, being both physical and human characteristics shapers of a "Regional Character" [5] . This concept involves the meaning of time, because regional linkages and boundaries change constantly from the point of view of geographers and also human collectivities.

In this way, Regional Geography allows to establish a "two-way interaction" [6] between region and people which is really important to understand the relationship between geography and many aspects in the international environment.

One of these aspects is globalization. As it is well known, globalization is transforming the world, making cultures get mixed and spread all over it. According to John J. Wild and his colleagues [7] , globalization changes also the national economies and standards of living (for better or for worse). The forces that drive globalization nowadays are changing profoundly cultures and political, legal, social and economic systems.

Global connections involve crossing "barriers or frontiers" with ideas, technology, culture, people, money, capital, and unfortunately crime and terrorism. Definitely, it is much more than the "expansion of trade and investment among nations" [8] . This definition takes people to have many debates against and supporting globalization, in terms of its influence on jobs and wages, labor and environmental regulation income inequality, national sovereignty, democracy and culture.

Now that globalization has been explained, Localization is also a very important concept to remark, and the best way to do it is with an example: it is not the same case if it is examined the way of living in France, and contrasted it with the conditions of living in Malaysia, Singapore or Peru. Ways of thinking and acting in those regions are so different, even if people have similar characteristics as human beings. That is why people in different areas have their local identities clearly defined, and the new ones that arrive are considered as external, though they start later to become so popular and widely accepted. That is what is considered the "Power of globalization".

Another aspect that involves geography and the international environment is the human impact on natural scenarios. It refers to the impact of the human activities (industrial, scientific, demographic) in the landscape, and environment conditions that make possible life on Earth. Towards this topic are well known the "efforts" that governments and non governmental institutions have done in order to preserve the environment.

Almost all people around the world have heard about the Kyoto Protocol in the United Nations Convention on Climate Change, and other conferences and meetings all over the world, to prevent or diminish the emissions and risks of contamination for life and human development.

Regarding at this topic, it can be stood out this expression said in "An inconvenient truth", the film made with the participation of Al Gore, that tries to "move consciences" towards global warming nowadays: "…Each one of us causes Global Warming, but we can change it with the products we buy, the electricity we use, our cars. We have the solution in our hands. We need determination to make them work…" ¿But, there is actually a real conscience of the damage human beings have done to the Earth, or it is only a political strategy to obtain greater benefits?

Now is time to speak about International Relations. As is well known, International Relations is the "study of human interactions through national borders and factors that affect those interactions" [9] . Thereby, Geography can be defined in terms of International Relations as the study of the geographical characteristics that affect directly or obliquely the international actors, such as states, civil society, NGO's and intergovernmental organizations.

It has to be taken into account that the aspects mentioned before are part of International Relations as a hole, but it was absolutely necessary to define each one of them to have a clearer idea of what they are. Now, inside International Relations there are aspects as globalization, environmental issues, but also there are other ones like: regions and cultural geography, society, race, gender and ethnicity, population distribution and dynamics, politics, development and human rights.

Continuing with the environmental issues, there are four important problems in the environment that concern people in the world. The first one is the impact of farming and mining. These activities have in the recent years increased soil erosion, and contamination due to the toxic wastes sluiced to land, going together with changes in species, both fauna and flora. The second problem is the ozone depletion caused by the toxic gases that people leave to the air, making the ozone hole grow more every single day. The last two ones are acid depositions [10] and natural hazards, such as earthquakes, hurricanes, storms, mudslides and problems in coastal zones.

In terms of regions and cultural geography it is important to state the influence of language as a way of communication among people, and it is a very important factor in geographic diversity, it builds a shared identity in communities and groups of people, the same way religion and races do.

In race and ethnicity, ethnic groups for example establish a common identity, recognized by themselves and by other people outside the ethnic groups according to elements as language, religion, tribe, nationality or race, and the share of a strong link between members [11] .

Following this sequence of ideas, the next topic in the International Relations and Geography is population distribution and dynamics. How migration, population densities, distribution, poverty and wealthy affect the international environment?

Demography, the branch of Human Geography that studies those effects, is in charge of analyze the social, economic, cultural and politic connotations that have this phenomena. They play an important role in the economic and social structure of a country, and also when planning the main policies and practices in the world [12] . The big dilemma now is to adjust population dynamics to the existent structures, or on the other hand, modify the structure of the International System to the tendencies of the demographic growth [13] .

As population increases faster every single day, it is necessary for the International System to take into account demographic variables to create new policies in terms of migration, jobs and wages, security, going towards development strategies, especially in third world countries.

This quote said by Sauvy, explains perfectly the relationship between Demography and International Relations: "Demography, science that studies population, is everywhere and nowhere. Devoid of natural frontiers, it can be extended or restricted conventionally" [14] . As Demography studies the effect of populations in International Relations, and it has to be entirely with humans, it does not have natural borders but interferes absolutely in the International System and its way of working.

When talking about politics, it is necessary to call the concept of Political Geography, which is the study of the influence of political organizations or movements in the world regional geography. The main objective of Political Geography is the "relationship between Population, State and Territory" [15] . This branch of geography is structured in three levels, as follows:

The State where are studied all cohesive, coercive and breakup forces in a specific territory.

Over the State, international relations are located, as the study of political and geostrategic processes in the area.

Finally, under the State (but not less important) is located the study of the political geography of communities inside the territory, and their relations of power between the communities and the state. [16] 

In the political ambit it is essential to mention also the importance of other organizations such as United Nations in the ways of government in regions. The term "governance" appears affected by the influence of those organizations as regulators or cooperators in the International System.

These organizations also work as network builders that function across country borders, giving birth to a process called "the stretching of politics". [17] 

The last one of the aspects related to International Relations and Geography, is Development and Human Rights. It considers the differences that erupt when analyzing some regions that have higher or lower material and personal well-being indexes, and those studies take into account for example the complex interactions of people with natural environment, the historical growth of population, the evolution of political systems, economics and Human Rights [18] . From that point, these phenomena can give an idea of how Human Rights in the International system have evolved into the established guidelines of Human Rights today in the world.

Concluding, all aspects mentioned before link Geography with IIRR in a way that is impossible to mention IIRR without mentioning Geography, since it talks about aspects that are essential for the understanding of International System. Geography can be considered as a helpful tool since IIRR is a multidisciplinary science.



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