Are Physical Geographers concerned with the Digital Divide?   no comments

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For this weeks reading, I have focused on Physical Geography. I have attempted to learn about the key concerns and research angles Physical Geographers focus on, and identify mean that they might consider and possible approaches towards the Digital Divide. Initially this may sound bizarre, why would the Physical Geography be relevant for an essay on the Digital Divide. Hopefully by the end of this blog post, you will have a better understanding as to why I have selected this subject, and have a clearer picture for my focus towards this essay in terms of Physical Geography and the Digital Divide.

Physical Geographers are concerned with:

1) Understanding the world better; how processes have become how they are; testing and refining theories related to these processes (Example processes include tectonic activity, climate change and the biosphere).

2) Understanding the effect we (humans) have on the environment from living in it and drawing the natural resources from it.

3) Predicting future changes of the environmental change, as well as measuring and monitoring these changes

4) Understanding how to manage and cope with the Earth’s systems and its changes

Geographers study the Earth in two periods of time; Pleistocene and Holocene. The Holocene Period, 11700 years ago to the present, is a significant period of time where humans have colonised globally, forming and building upon new relationships with the environment, for example agriculture and deforestation. Humans have taken control of plants and animals (genetic engineering and domestication) and over the years farming communities have rapidly grown. Agriculture, particularly farming, has enabled technological innovation to take place. As the more farming communities developed, the more food they could produce and provide for other societies that have little/no food production and instead focus on technology development. However, this has enabled the ability for humans to shape and transform the planet further and has brought consequences including soil erosion and impoverishment.  Deforestation affects the eco system; it releases more Carbon Dioxide (CO2), a greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere. CO2 is a significant factor for global warming, effecting the temperature of the Earth, and currently concentrations are higher. This Climate Change is a great concern and research aspect for many Physical Geographers. Studies demonstrate that humans are contributing greatly to the issue of global warming; for example burning fossil fuels and biomass interferes with the Global Carbon Cycle. This is evidenced by the global climate models used. They demonstrate that when anthropogenic production of greenhouse gases is included in the stats, signs of global warming then appear. Developing countries makes up 5/6ths of the human population and will keep on increasing in population. This will result in burning more fossil fuels. Even if the richer countries have stabilised and decreased dependency on them, it will not necessarily be enough for protecting the environment. However if renewable resources are used and pushed by the developing countries, this may have a better impact of development for the environment.

Physical Geographers believe the future depends on the social, political and economic development but predicting these impacts is difficult.

This research has left me pondering on the following points:

1) To improve the digital divide it is only going to encourage humans to carry out current processes that affect the environment such as further deforestation to create more urban areas, and further fossil fuel burning to be able to use the technologies and carry out functions that are all deemed to better living standards?

2) Do the physical geographers actually want the digital divide to vanish – or at least not until it is known that it can be bridged without affecting the environment severely? As shown by the new NIC’s India and China, they are currently globalising at such a rate and without consideration for their emissions which are greatly impacting the environment.

3) Can it only get worse regarding the impact on the environment, to enable it to get better in terms of the digital divide? But then will it be too late to save our planet?!

4) Will closing the Digital Divide enhance Poverty instead of improve? -will it be a vicious circle of developing countries trying to develop, urbanise and become more technology based, a necessity for living (food) will be a struggle due to lack of food production countries, and as the environment will also be affected, it will be difficult for those farming communities still in existence to still be able to farm, thus preventing everyone that benefits/relies upon food production from others, to actually not improve/maintain quality of life and increase poverty?

Written by Sophie Parsons on November 11th, 2013

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