Emma Hide believes Geography is a fascinating subject and enormously helpful for Christians concerned about our world and its people
Geography is much more than colouring, maps and field trips; it’s everywhere! Within the first five minutes of watching the news, you’ll encounter various geographical topics: climate change debates, the impact of international trade on national economies, and energy resource controversies.
You may have several questions about Geography: What do students learn at GCSE and A-level? Why study it? Can it enrich your child’s faith? And what challenges may it pose?
This article answers these important questions, helping you support your child as they learn about the people and environments that inhabit our world.
Geography serves as a bridge between natural science, social science, and humanities. At its core Geography is about understanding how places and spaces are shaped by the two-way relationship between people in societies and their environments.
Human geography places more emphasis on the role of people in shaping places, with common topics including Globalisation, Urbanisation and Population Dynamics. Physical geography focuses more on the natural world and includes topics such as Water and Carbon Cycles, Glacial Systems and Coastal Landscapes.
Both human and physical geography explore the interplay between people, societies, and their environments. For instance, when studying natural disasters, students analyse how physical factors (e.g. volcano type) and human factors (e.g. land use) shape a disaster’s impact.
For me, Geography has always been about understanding the world in order to drive positive social change. Its broad scope allows you to find a cause that matters to you deeply.
As a child, I was moved by adverts on endangered species and famine in West and East Africa. I felt a sense of helplessness when watching animals and people suffer, and wanted to find a way to make a difference.
Studying Geography at GCSE and A-Level taught me how human and physical factors interact, creating landscapes, disasters, and issues like climate change. I explored how responses to these issues require critical and sensitive consideration of multiple factors, including politics, culture, environment, and economics.
At university, Geography equipped me with critical thinking and knowledge of poverty and UK politics, enabling me to shape social policy as a Policy and Public Affairs Officer at a debt-counselling charity. Geography paved the way for me to make a positive impact on the world. And it may well offer the same for your child.
How can Geography enrich faith?
Studying Geography helped enrich my faith in countless ways. Here are three ways your child may grow in their faith through learning Geography:
1. Learn to steward creation responsibly
In Genesis 1 humans are granted “dominion” over the flora and fauna across all the earth. Translated as ‘rule or power over’, dominion involves using and developing the world’s resources (such as water and energy) in a responsible, godly manner that benefits both humans and non-humans.
Geography fosters awareness of environmentally sustainable and socially-just practices, enabling thoughtful and informed stewardship.
2. Experience awe and wonder at His creation
Geography deepens understanding of how the natural world works, for example how continents are formed. This can give students a sense of awe at the complexity and brilliance of God’s creation. It can also foster a deeper appreciation of nature. I remember being fascinated by Dorset after learning about coastal features.
Both these things point students towards The Creator of our complex and beautiful world. After all, how else can we explain the complexity and intricacies of the natural world, or the inherent beauty of creation?
3. Become equipped with skills and knowledge to “Do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed” (Isaiah 1:17)
Geography reveals patterns and drivers of global and local inequalities and injustices, such as the disproportionate impact of climate change on vulnerable communities.
Armed with this knowledge, students can advocate for the oppressed and seek justice for all creation, human and non-human.
What difficulties might Christian Geographers face? How can you help your child overcome these?
While I’ve found Geography to be complementary to my faith, I’ve also found points of tension. Working through these has grown my faith and trust in God. Here are some areas of difficulty, and ways you can support your child through them:
- Anxiety and lament over our broken world
Geography highlights social and environmental injustices which can invoke difficult emotions, including feeling overwhelmed. For example, I remember feeling distressed and hopeless after first hearing the current and projected impacts of climate change.
Encourage your child to name and express their emotions in this area (this is a critical part of healthy processing). Manage exposure to challenging content, especially impactful videos. Remind your child that God is also moved by injustices, and partners with us in our sphere of influence - there’s no need to solve everything alone!
For more tips on managing anxiety over climate change see this article.
2. Anger over why God allows natural disasters
Your child may experience anger at God over natural disasters. After watching ‘The Impossible’ - a film about the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami - I felt angry that humans should suffer from disasters not caused by themselves.
However, I’ve realised that natural disasters are essential for our planet’s health. For example, hurricanes often bring rain to drought-prone areas and help regulate the earth’s temperature.
The negative impacts of such events are largely caused by human factors (i.e. our falleness), such as poor infrastructure, poor land-use planning and poverty. More recently human-driven climate change is also serving to exacerbate events. Realising this can help geographers focus on tackling factors within our control, such as efficient hazard warning systems.
For more tips read this article.
3. Channelling righteous anger
Your child may experience righteous anger: a justified response to the injustice and sin in our broken world. Repressing this can cause issues for children, and hinder righteous action.
Instead, encourage your child to express and channel their emotions positively and practically. For example, fundraising for a cause they care about, volunteering with a local wildlife trust, or helping at a food bank.
Learning more about Geography
Hopefully this article has shown what a relevant, dynamic and meaningful subject Geography is, and how you can support your child to grow in their faith as they study it. If you and your child would like to learn more about Geography, I’d recommend the following resources:
Simon Reeve Documentaries, BBC iPlayer
Interesting documentaries that respectfully explore how different people, cultures and natural environments interact together to create different places. It does include some mild language, so perhaps review first or watch together.
Down to Earth Documentaries, Netflix
Actor Zac Efron travels around the world learning how to live sustainably from different cultures.
“Costing the Earth” podcasts, BBC Radio 4 (on Spotify and BBC Iplayer)
Collection of podcasts about different geographical topics including climate change, deforestation and green tourism. Encourage your child to pick a topic they’re genuinely interested in!
Emma Hide Tutoring
I offer A-Level Geography tutoring sessions to support students of all backgrounds, learning styles and grades to excel. You can find more here.