“But Geography isn’t a real science”

Yesterday I was having a conversation with a colleague who was looking for a PhD. As an environmental scientist, they said that they completely forgot to look in Geography departments to see what they were advertising as they never really considered Geography a “real science“. I felt a little compelled to write a bit about it when I was thinking about their comments last night.

Firstly, having covered now a few disciplines including physical geography, geology, palaeobiology and geochemistry, I can say they are highly interdisciplinary. In my time at the Geography department in Leeds I came across academics studying such a wide range of subjects from glacial and fluvial geomorphology to plant-atmosphere interactions to the effects of dissolved organic carbon on riverine environments to international policy and corruption in sustainability. In my degree alone, as geographers I find we are expected to be a jack of all trades master of none, I covered aspects of biology, chemistry, physics, geology, statistics, maths to name a few without doing a lot of them since I was in secondary school. I’ve seen some of my lecturers working on glacial outburst floods in the Himalayas, critical and vital work in order to protect the people living there, I’ve watched them use leaf stomata to track changing atmospheric composition throughout time and show the dangerous rises in recent times and i’ve seen them publish work for corporate companies such as Yorkshire Water on the danger of increased dissolved organic carbon in our upland areas.

Unfortunately  in academia, there is a lot of subject snobbery, I myself am guilty of it. “Why is that artist getting paid to do abstract work when it could go into medical research”. But as I was laid thinking last night, if all of us were physicists or chemical engineers, for example, the creme de la creme of academic subjects, who would write up books, who would report the news, who would sit in court and aid with the judicial system, who would go into homes and work with families on their social issues. I would have no clue where to start. So every subject is important in its own way I think. I just wanted to praise Geography a little bit because I do feel like we are told we will all become Geography teachers with no other options to us, and whilst this is an amazing and rewarding career for many, we Geographers are leading and aiding some of the most cutting edge and vital research as the world faces uncertain and scary times.

So you go Geographers and anyone in any academic subject, we work hard for little reward, little pay and little gratification. I think we all need to praise each other no matter what we do.

S.

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