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Theory is what has shaped the world and, "without theory geographers would have little significance to say about the world." (Graham, 2005). Geographical theories have had a major impact on the world as it is understood today. Geography can be split into two categories: physical - the study of geography as an earth science; and human geography - the study of processes that make human interaction with environments. Both of these areas have produced theories which have shaped the world. The theory of evolution was an attempt to explain life on earth, a theory still being proved today. Global warming is one theory of physical geography that has potential to shape the future of earth. Without geography it seems that there would in fact be little to say about the world as we know it.
Geographical theories are important in the world and help give an understanding of how the world works. To prove a theory you need testable knowledge. Theories prompt investigations into complex activities that take place in the world such as the world being round. Both physical and human theories prompt investigation, and both aspects of geography still need research. Without research into theories, nothing would be proven and an understanding of how the world functions would not be achieved. Without this, people would have little understanding and knowledge about the world. A positive impact of the creation of a theory is creation of a job, as investigations into theories need to be researched giving teams of people jobs that can cover a wide aspect of roles. It is human nature to be curious about the world. Without curiosity we would not question anything and new things would never be discovered. For example, many years ago people believed the world was flat until Christopher Columbus explored and accidently found the American continents and a realisation that the world was round. This sparked more questions about the world and more theories were created as a result. Satisfying human curiosity is important: people want to know the truth about the world and how it works and theories provide possibilities and answers to questions. Theories and peoples curiosity not only gives explanation for the world we live in but allow the population to change and make progress. Geographical theories are the catalyst for change. Once a theory is tested and proved with evidence to back it up then change can occur.
One man that created such theories was Charles Darwin who was born 12th of February 1809 and lived till 19th April 1882 (BBC 2009). Darwin created a human theory in geography to explain life - Darwin's theory of Evolution- a complex theory that included many parts. Darwin believed that all life was related and that one species had been created from another. There are however, doubts behind Darwin's theory of evolution especially among religious leaders. Darwin's theory was taken from an old theory of Ancient Greek philosophy and he added the idea of 'natural selection' (All about science 2009). Natural selection is where a species develops an advantage over other members of that species. This advantage would be passed on to the advantaged young and over time this new advantaged species would become dominant and the less advantaged would die out (All about science 2009). Darwin's addition was the survival of the fittest. Darwin's theory was a progressive theory that would happen over a long period of time rather than overnight. He believed that: " Natural selection acts only by taking advantage of slight successive variations; she can never take a great sudden leap, but must advance by short and sure, through slow steps."(All about science 2009). Survival of the fittest meant those species that were weaker would not survive and life would continue with species adapting to change. Humans and species now have to adapt and change to an ever changing environment. This means that those species or humans with defects or qualities of weakness are given less chance of survival. This however, is the way life was intended and is a way of preventing over population. This is true of plants and animals in the wild. Animals that are weak or injured are left to die whereas the stronger animals or plants become dominant. A clear example of this is in the lion kingdom. A smaller lion has less dominance and less chance of survival. There is often fighting among male lions for control of prides and the less dominant lion will lose the pride meaning it is the survival of the fittest that will control the pride. This is also applicable to humans and is the natural way of selection; the strongest is selected. Those people with defects or weakness such as disease are less likely to survive. In order to preserve the species there must be an adaption. With humans medicine and genetics can now interfere with this which preserves life sometimes longer than it was intended. This breaks the code of the survival of the fittest as the weak are cured. Despite this, it seems nature has a way of restoring the balance. Nature is such a powerful force and despite the technological advances in biochemistry and understanding cells, trying to change natural defects, weaknesses or illnesses is still an ongoing battle because nature adapts too.
Studies to prove Darwin's theory led to a better understanding of natural selections, adaptability, changing environments, and the impact on species of vegetation and animals. Without studies on Darwin's theory there would be no knowledge of how humans and species adapt to changes. Changes occur every day and without adaption, human defects and weaknesses could be incurable. This provides explanation of why certain humans and species survive in certain environments that they were not able to survive in before. Adaptions have helped humans survive when they would have been less likely to survive before. Prevention of disease and genetics has underwritten Darwin's theory.
The study of Darwin's theory of evolution also left many people questioning his theory. With new studies in modern biology showing complex movement in cells many now believe that Darwin's theory is not the whole explanation for life (All about science 2009). Despite this, his theory still applies in certain areas and the basic survival of the fittest is true.
To understand survival, the processes in physical geography need to be explored. Without the theory of global warming, the world would warm up and there would be no change to prevent it. This prompted major studies to discover if this was in fact the case and to find out what was causing this to happen. Theory acts as a method of making improvement and is vital to increase knowledge. Knowledge is important in the world; greater knowledge means greater power. Once a theory has been proved and there is evidence this influences a government impacting on government policy. The consequence is a direct influence on peoples' lives and certain polices can mean strict laws. The change in government policy caused by a theory is to improve the world but both a theory and a change in policy can have massive impacts on society. The importance of having theories is evident; not only does it instigate change but informs the public who need knowledge.
Global warming is just one physical theory which has impacted on knowledge about out the world. Harrison (2005) suggests that we can define physical geography as the study of "natural elements that constitute landscapes"; physical geography covers climate and weather and one such element is global warming. The increase of the earth's average temperature has been a theory for many years now. The question is, is global warming trend normal with climatic changes or are higher levels of green house gases influencing global warming and playing a role in causing it (National Geographic 2008). Most of the world scientists agree that the earth is heating up due to global warming; intensive research has been carried out to investigate the likely effects of a rise in temperature across the globe.
Ever since global warming became an issue there have been investigations into the causes and consequences. Because of uncertainty, research into this issue has reached high levels. One theory is investigated; then another theory is promoted such as the changes in the global temperature are caused by atmospheric changes. New theory means more research is required. It seems that scientists are forced by peer pressure and the political agenda to make statements that often lack common sense. As a result of global warming not only is there a rise in temperature, but temperature rise leads to a rise in sea levels. As temperature rises the sea expands as glaciers melt as a result of the heat (National Geographic 2008). Temperature rise also puts species at risk. Risk from disease and heat waves are ways that a higher temperature can impact on certain species. Global warming accelerates rainfall which will have direct effect by flooding land in certain areas. (APEC 2007) Plants and animals will also be affected as temperatures rise; certain species will migrate to colder areas such as mountains. Some species will not survive which could affect agriculture and lead to a possibility of food shortages (APEC 2007). Research into global warming has left scientists with various answers but with no direct cause. By preventing greenhouse gases global warming may slow down although much of the damage is already caused and will be difficult to reverse.
Many countries have now taken action to help reduce levels of global warming with most European countries taking action to reduce greenhouse gases. An IPSOS Mori survey carried out in 2007 showed that people still believe that scientists were still questioning climate change. This means that people do not believe the theory of global warming has been proven yet.
"Without theory geographers would have little significance to say about the world". This statement made by Graham (2005) seems accurate. Theories promote change and an understanding of how the world has been created; both physical and human geography play an important role in offering explanations. Without knowledge of the world there would be no improvement or ability to adapt. Physical and human geography are very much linked and Hamnet (1996) suggests that human and physical geography are the two types of geography now widely accepted. Charles Darwin helped shape the world with his theories and without investigation into theories a crisis like global warming could occur without any realisation of the damage to the planet. Theories are greatly beneficial as long as there is evidence to back them up. Geographical theory, both physical and human, unleashes the potential for creative thinking, and allows society to realise that, in order to survive, there must be adaptability and change. And without theory there would be little knowledge and little to say about the world.