Introduction

True-color image of the Earth's surface and atmosphere. NASA Goddard Space Flight Center image.
True-color image of the Earth's surface and atmosphere. NASA Goddard Space Flight Center image.
Physical map of Earth with political borders as of 2016

Geography (from Greek γεωγραφία, geographia, literally "earth description") is a field of science devoted to the study of the lands, features, inhabitants, and phenomena of Earth. The first person to use the word γεωγραφία was Eratosthenes (276–194 BC). Geography is an all-encompassing discipline that seeks an understanding of Earth and its human and natural complexities—not merely where objects are, but also how they have changed and come to be.

Geography is often defined in terms of two branches: human geography and physical geography. Human geography deals with the study of people and their communities, cultures, economies, and interactions with the environment by studying their relations with and across space and place. Physical geography deals with the study of processes and patterns in the natural environment like the atmosphere, hydrosphere, biosphere, and geosphere.

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Banff National Park
Banff National Park, Canada's oldest national park, was established in 1885 in the Canadian Rockies. The park, located 120 kilometres (80 mi) west of Calgary in the province of Alberta, encompasses 6,641 square kilometres (2,564 sq mi) of mountainous terrain, with numerous glaciers and ice fields, dense coniferous forest, and alpine landscapes. The Icefields Parkway extends from Lake Louise, connecting to Jasper National Park in the north. The main commercial centre of the park is the town of Banff, in the Bow River valley. The Canadian Pacific Railway was instrumental in Banff's early years, building the Banff Springs Hotel and Chateau Lake Louise, and attracting tourists through extensive advertising. In the early 20th century, roads were built in Banff, at times by war internees, and through Great Depression-era public works projects. Since the 1960s, park accommodations have been open all year, with annual tourism visits to Banff increasing to over 5 million in the 1990s. Millions more pass through the park on the Trans-Canada Highway. The health of the park's ecosystem has been threatened by heavy visitation. In the mid-1990s Parks Canada responded by initiating a two-year study thath resulted in management recommendations and new policies that aim to preserve ecological integrity.

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Friedrich Ratzel

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Mount St. Helens

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David A. Johnston
David Alexander Johnston was a volcanologist with the United States Geological Survey (USGS) who was killed by the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens in Washington. One of the principal scientists on the monitoring team, Johnston died while manning an observation post on the morning of May 18, 1980. He was the first to report the eruption, transmitting the famous message "Vancouver! Vancouver! This is it!" before being swept away by the lateral blast created by the collapse of the mountain's north flank. His work and that of his fellow USGS scientists had convinced the authorities to close Mount St. Helens to the general public and to maintain the closure in spite of heavy pressure to re-open the area; their work saved thousands of lives. His story has become part of the popular image of volcanic eruptions and their threat to society, and also part of the history of volcanology. Following his death, Johnston was commemorated in several ways, including a memorial fund set up in his name at the University of Washington, and two volcano observatories that were named after him. Johnston's life and death have been featured in several documentaries, films, docudramas and books about the eruption. Along with other people killed by the volcano, Johnston's name is inscribed on memorials dedicated to their memory.

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Thames Barrier
Credit: Photo: David Iliff

The Thames Barrier, the world's second-largest movable flood barrier, as seen from Silvertown on the north bank of the River Thames during normal operation, looking across to New Charlton. The barrier is located downstream of central London and its purpose is to prevent London from being flooded by exceptionally high tides and storm surges moving up from the sea. It needs to be raised (closed) only during high tide; at ebb tide it can be lowered to release the water that backs up behind it.

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Richard Dawkins

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