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Carl Sauer - Essay Example

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Carl Sauer led the field of cultural geography from the Berkeley School of Geography, advocating ‘humane’ use of environment as seen in rural cultures. He said cultural, physical and human geographies adapt to their environments and made cultural landscape geography the science’s main branch…
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SAUER Carl Sauer led the field of cultural geography from the Berkeley School of Geography, advocating ‘humane’ use of environment as seen in ruralcultures. He said cultural, physical and human geographies adapt to their environments and made cultural landscape geography the science’s main branch.
His idea of ‘human cultural action’ indicates culture provokes action, responses and adaptation by humans. “Culture is the agent, the natural area is the medium, the cultural landscape is the result. Under the influence of a given culture, itself changing through time, the landscape undergoes development, passing through phases, and probably reaching ultimately the end of its cycle of development. With the introduction of a different … culture, a rejuvenation of the cultural landscape sets in” Sauer (1925), The Morphology of Landscape.” University of California Publications.
French regional geography is an example of how the various political, cultural, military, historical and economic upheavals of the country are etched on the landscape. Sauer says (Northern Mists) the hundred years war lost ports and ravaged country sides and Napoleon’s wars left bitter memories. Culture and landscape altered after the French revolution. Through colonies, use of tobacco spread and immigration continued unabated. “Place is crucial to human geographers, therefore, because it is the individuals’ learning context, the arena in which they learn to be humans and then act as such,” Rawling (1996, p.65).
Agriculture did not originate in Europe and did not improve much. “Fields were plowed and planted principally in order to raise grain, which supplied the starch and a good deal of the protein in the diet of the people” Sauer (1981, p. 31). Most grown foods came from colonies. “Dairying is the foundation of north European husbandry … Fresh and sour milk, curds, butter and cheese provided, together with grain a cheap and sufficiently balanced basic diet,” (ibid, p. 36). There existed a good balance between climate, man, livestock and vegetation.
Darwin’s determinism was an immense contribution to cultural geography. Environmental determinism, or Climatic Determinism, indicates physical environment determines culture. With a slight difference, Darwin and Sauer are speaking the same language. David Livingstone’s tradition conveyed the idea that research interests in history are more significant than physical geography. Livingston (1992), says: “But beyond this corpus of technical work, the interest in faraway places also spawned a popular literature designed either to make the stock-in-trade crafts of the geographer known to a wider public, or to keep readers abreast of global discovery and the most up-to-date international inventory,” (p.93).
It interested Sauer to find arts and artifacts, how they materialised at particular places and how they moulded the physical experiments. Quest of cultural geography continues with particular emphasis on ecology and environment. “We remain a part of the organic world, and as we intervene more and more decisively to change the balance and nature of life, we have also more need to know, by retrospective study, the responsibilities and hazards of our present and our prospects as lords of creation,” Sauer (1954, p.104). Read More
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