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In our final episode of Crash Course Geography we're going to take a look towards the future, and to do that we'll need to revisit our fundamental geography tools: space, place, and human-environment interactions! We'll talk about the rise of the digital world and virtual spaces, the continued impacts of globalization and the Anthropocene, and even ponder new ideas like geoengineering. As we've said many times in this series the Earth is a beautifully dynamic place, and human innovation and our desire to claim and create our own places will continue to build new landscapes and futures. Thank you all so much for joining us on this journey across our extraordinary home planet!

0:00 - space-time
1:10 - intro
1:17 - virtual spaces
3:15 - place and globalization
4:48 - the slow city movement
5:57 - data landscapes and surveillance
8:51 - human footprint
9:38 - geoengineering
11:10 - series wrap-up
12:26 - outro


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CC Kids:

Hi and welcome to Crash Course physics. Today we’re going to jump into the space-time continuum. Just kidding! Though science fiction writers and physicists aren’t the only ones exploring space-time, which is when the three dimensions we see in space are represented together with time. Geographers and physicists are both trying to describe the world and tell the stories of the Earth, so it makes sense that  we share some of the same vocabulary.

As geographers when we talk about space-time, we mean more that space and time are becoming one -- the distance between different spaces doesn’t matter as much, and the time it takes for ideas or people to diffuse from one location to another is getting smaller and smaller. Like in our episode on industrial geography we talked about globalization, and how in a globalized world the movement, flows,  and connections -- whether economic or political or social or cultural --  have made it seem like we’ve compressed time and space, as the geographer David Harvey once said.

As how we live and work changes, our spaces, places, and human-environment interactions are being reorganized on every possible scale. In this final episode, come with me as we start to tell the  stories of geographies of the future. I’m Alizé Carrère, and for the last  time, this is Crash Course Geography. [Intro music]

 Virtual Space (1:17)

For our last episode of Crash Course Geography, it seems fitting to come full circle and revisit our fundamental geography tools: space, place, and  bananas -- I mean, human-environment interactions.

Throughout our journey through this series, we’ve talked about lots of different types of space. But basically, space refers to all the features  and relationships that occur in a given area. And now the digital world has created a  (somewhat) new virtual space with its own landscape or technoscape where we can interact without necessarily being physically together.

Like, it takes many people to pull an episode of Crash Course Geography together. Our field producer Neil and I shoot this in  Miami, Florida with our editor Madeline and producer Brandon zooming in from Colorado and Indiana. And they work with our writers and consultants April and Zohra in Ohio and Kelly our fact checker in Massachusetts, and Tuna who does our sound design in Montana. And of course the Thought Café team with Meg and Tenzin  illustrating the series from Ontario, Canada  and Monique animating it from Sao Paulo, Brazil.

We work as a team from many  different locations and time zones. And while we’re each located in  an absolute or specific space,  we’re also simultaneously in a relational space  that’s connected through social media and the virtual world to lots of other places when we’re interacting with each other. Like during a zoom meeting I might be paying rapt attention of course...and ordering a library book or placing a take-out order for lunch. Or maybe I’m out doing errands but also chatting  with my sister and the chickens in France. So many different kinds of spaces  are converging all at once.

And that means how we think about space in geography has changed and will change in the future. We’ve broadened our concept of space and the spaces we navigate daily because all of these different types of space have become an integral part of our lives. They influence and impact each other and will profoundly change how we live, work, shop and play.

Right now though, in the early 2020s,  we don’t know the whole story of virtual space. There’s still a lot to study in  geography because these virtual spaces can also be filled with power struggles and  possibilities, just like physical spaces.

 Place and Globalization (3:15)

And as our understanding of space changes and grows, we also have to think about another core concept: place and what that means in the future. Place is an area in a space that humans have given meaning to or have become attached to in some way. So places are like locations plus so much more -- they’re also the setting of everyday life. We experience places and they exist  because we exist, which makes place a social construct that is unique to particular people and which can change over time. As space and time converge, today more than ever,  places are linked to other places and regions in a global rather than a local context and are highly interdependent.

Like New York City and London in some ways are more closely linked as important economic places than say New York City and my hometown Ithaca, a little bit upstate. In fact, globalization has made some people afraid that we’re heading towards a world where global consumerism will make every place the same.

Whether we're in Denver or Dubai, we're confronted with the same airport, hotel, or office and with the same shops, the same brands, and the same products. Some people find that this homogenization, or blending together, makes them feel placeless and dislocated. But other people find that same-ness comforting. And another school of thought says that these brands are globally ubiquitous, but are being adapted in different ways to meet the tastes, desires, needs, and culture of locals.

Either way, this means that places aren't lost. But it does mean that the people who live in places affected by globalization -- so most of the world -- do need to decide what it is they want their place to be, whether that is reasserting identity and claim to a territory in order to recreate a specific time and place in the past or a new vision of their future.

 Slow City Movement (4:48)

Like the slow city movement, which is a grassroots response to globalization and an example of people trying to recover a sense of place. The goal of slow cities, or cittaslow, is to develop places that maintain healthy environments, good food, sustainable economies and a vital community life based on seasonal and traditional rhythms. Like Damyang County in South Korea, which has improved its physical environment by restoring its traditional gravel pathways and creeks and has strict building regulations to make sure new construction is in line with the town's historic character. Residents can learn traditional arts and crafts and there is a daily and weekly market for local products and for farmers to sell produce.

Defending territory is a placemaking force, and it's a way we show we're attached to a specific location and have created a place we feel we belong. So in some ways, globalization has made local settings more important than ever before.

And even though globalization seems overpowering, there are still so many local differences in what resources are available or how the space is organized. So really, places are constantly under construction as people respond to the opportunities and constraints of wherever they are. Which means as geographers, we'll continue working to understand what makes people, places, and regions different from one another.

 Data and Surveillance Landscapes (5:58)

One of the areas our new understanding of space and place are on display is the new world of data. Many of our interactions are part of information spaces made up of data points that are controlled by just a handful of organizations. And data is the new oil.

Whether we're shopping, in school, at work, or simply taking a walk, we can leave a virtual trail or digital footprint through websites we visit, messages we send through different platforms, and even cameras -- whether it's a security camera at a local store or your neighbor's doorbell monitor.

In this surveillance landscape our locations and our identities are used to extract data. And like oil, extraction means profit. This new round of extraction is called surveillance capitalism, and nowhere is this surveillance more obvious than in our urban spaces.

Today's cities are also smart cities, saturated with cameras and sensors that secure homes, workplaces, and everything in between, with the goal of making our cities safer and more efficient. But creating smart cities also means we're letting a massive amount of data be collected. These technologies have the ability to collect granular data on local weather, pollution, and traffic patterns. And they can also collect personal data as we move through public spaces -- personal data that can be commercialized.

But just because we can doesn't mean we should. Or at least,  doesn't mean we should without at least first thinking critically about which communities may benefit most from technological solutions -- and who might be harmed, instead. Like as cities become more focused on security, that might also mean new ways to manipulate, segregate, and keep surveillance on our most marginalized and vulnerable social groups.

We need to think about how spaces and infrastructure will be provided in the future and the roles that technology, data, and privation will play in shaping our cities. If all this is sounding a bit dystopian, I'm with you. But as geographers, we can study these new spaces and economies and ask questions about the relationships and pattern that they form.

 Ownership of Space (7:48)

In fact, environmental geographers have studied what happens when we restrict access to public spaces and the problems that creates in great detail. When communities stop being in charge of their own spaces, it amplifies negative consequences - like when fisheries start being privately owned, it ends up consolidating and limiting who can catch fish. By restricting access, we also lose out on a lot of community knowledge, which can include informal practices that help reduce impacts on a resource. And the world of data is no different.

Some communities are pushing back on surveillance and all the data collected by private companies by arguing for more data to be open access. This turns data from a private good to something that is held in common and that we care for as a public good, like water in a watershed.

Communal data also gives under-resourced communities new outlets to claim space and power. Like through efforts like open geographic data or the effort to map previously silenced patterns, through projects like Mapping Prejudice.

Though our current surveillance landscape and an open data future aren't the only two options for how we can deal with data. And as geographers we can help figure out how those options affect spaces and places.

 Anthropocene (8:52)

And finally, the third core geography concept is human-environment interactions or all the ways humans connect with and live within the environment and the impact the environment has on lives, choices, and experiences of people.

As we enter the third decade of the 21st century, the human footprint extends over the vast majority of Earth's surface. In fact some people call our current geological era in Earth's history the anthropocene. It's the period where human activities like agriculture, industrialization, and urbanization have had far reaching effects on Earth's ecosystems. And this is an important piece of recognition for geographers, because it means our work has renewed relevance as more people recognize the idea that the natural world is inextricably linked with the human world.

But the anthropocene holds both promise and peril and it's important how we think about it. For instance, let's consider geoengineering, or the active manipulation of the Earth's climate in order to counteract the effect of Climate disaster. Geoengineering solutions like carbon capture actively push carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases from the atmosphere into Earth's crust, so it can't trap heat in the atmosphere anymore.

And reducing the amount of carbon dioxide we put into the atmosphere is a goal that's socially and geographically dispersed. That means countries and societies must all participate to reduce the carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions.

But another geoengineering solution -- solar radiation management which is when we reflect a small amount of the energy from the Sun back into space rather than letting it reach us on Earth -- is the inverse. It's adding aerosols or space reflectors to our atmosphere, rather than taking them away.

Geoengineering the climate like this requires advanced technological capabilities. It also means a small group of states or private companies would be able to manipulate the climate of entire regions however they wanted. So as geographers, we've got a lot of work ahead of us helping the world navigate whether we can or should drastically manipulate the physical environment in new ways to suit human needs. And because geographers are experts on the relationship between physical and social processes, we can help evaluate the consequences or potential benefits of manipulating our environment.

The anthropocene requires us to radically rethink the idea of nature and even humans and our relationship with each other. What is just and what is equitable, both socially and spatially, are still important questions, because there are power relationships bound up in who will be the winners and losers, or who gets to decide what is beneficial and what is harmful.

 Summary (11:11)

So throughout this series we've talked a lot about the different patterns and processes that shape our world and how deeply they're affected by the past. But nothing is set in stone. And as we've said many times, the Earth is a beautifully dynamic place, and human innovation and our desire to claim and create our own places will continue to build new landscapes and futures.

Whether it's climate change, data landscapes, or understanding the movement of people and ideas, power and economics, geographers are right there, getting their boots muddy or digging through archives and big data. We're helping to explain the relationships between the physical and social forces and the outcomes those interactions generate in order to tell all the stories of the Earth.

And with that, we've made it to the end of our journey -- around the world and back again, learning about things like volcanoes, glaciers, agricultural patterns, and the movement of language and religion, and, of course, bananas. It has been an honor to be your companion along the way -- with the help of so many friends -- and I hope that understanding a bit more about both physical and human geography has given you new perspectives to ponder, and a renewed sense of awe and wonder about our extraordinary home planet. Thank you so much for joining me on this journey.

Thanks for watching this episode of Crash Course Geography which is filmed at the Team Sandoval Pierce Studio and was made with the help of all these nice people. If you want to help keep Crash Course free for everyone, forever, you can join our community on Patreon.