In this course you have been introduced to many types of landscapes, both natural and built, and the interactions between humans and those landscapes. As you have learned, the relationship is such that each impacts and shapes the other. This writing assignment will challenge you to use the knowledge you have about learned about those interactions and interpret a human landscape as a geographer would – sometimes called “reading the landscape.”

Though you will be given some information to work with, you must also think critically about this landscape. You will consider what is happening on the landscape and why? How are people using their environment and, in turn, how are their actions shaped by it? What global forces are at play?

Getting started

You will need the latest version (at least version 5) of Google Earth™ installed on your computer.

A side note:
If you have difficulty installing Google Earth™ on your computer and you have access to a campus computer (at State’s main campus), all computers in the Geography Lab (Room 201) and all general-use campus computers (for example, in the library or union) have Google Earth™ already installed on them.

Once installed, launch Google Earth™ and in the “Layers” menu, open the “Global Awareness” layer (that is, click on the + next to “Global Awareness”). You will notice a list of international organizations whose aim is to promote public awareness about global issues. For this assignment, you will be using the “The Earth from Above with GoodPlanet” layer, so check the box next to it and then double-click on that layer (see image below).

Layers panel.

The Layers panel in Google Earth™.

Google Earth™ will fly you to North Africa, where you should see many icons (an aerial photograph of crops in the shape of a heart, see image below) across the map. Each icon represents the location of a photograph taken by Yann Arthus-Bertrand for his project “Earth from Above,” which encompasses over 500,000 aerial photos of the human landscape from 100 countries. Click on an “Earth from Above” icon in Google Earth™ to view the photograph and read about the photo subject and location (in the caption beneath the photo). Double-click on the icon to zoom into the satellite image on the Google Earth™ map to explore the photograph’s surroundings. You can add other layers to learn more about the area.

The Google Earth™ map with the “Earth from Above” layer turned on. Each heart icon marks the location of an aerial photograph taken by Yann Arthus-Bertrand.
The assignment

For this assignment you are asked to choose one of the “Earth from Above” photographs, so that you can interpret and discuss it as a geographer would and think critically about the information provided by the Google Earth™ layer about the photo location.

First, you will need to choose one of “The Earth from Above with GoodPlanet” photographs from either the continent of Asia or South America. This photo can be located in any country of Asia or South America, in any location there is a photograph. You are strongly encouraged to look at many images – consider photographs from countries such as Colombia, Paraguay, India, Bangladesh, and so on- before deciding on one.

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Include the following in your response:

1. The photograph’s title. Be sure to state the photo’s location (that is, town, country) if the title does not include this information.

2. The latitude and longitude coordinates and elevation of the photograph’s location.

3. A summary of both the natural and human landscapes shown in the photograph. In other words, describe with an adequate amount of detail what the photograph is showing or capturing.

4. A discussion of the human-environment interaction(s) captured in the photograph.

How are people using the land?
Why are they using the land in this way?
Are there environmental limiting-factors, social/cultural factors, economic factors, et cetera, influencing the use of land at this location?

Refer to concepts you have learned about in this course to explain your answers. Also, be sure to use not only your perspective as a global citizen (that is, someone not from that country or region), but also a local perspective. In that same regard, you should include why the two perspectives might differ from one another.

5. Lastly, consider the information you are given about the photo. There is a subject and location in the caption provided below the photo and also a comment (often linked with an associated website) above the photo. Briefly state whether or not you used this information when writing your paper and why. Then, address the possible motivations of the photo author, Yann Arthus-Bertrand, and the GoodPlanet Foundation (chaired by Arthus-Bertrand) to provide the information that they do.

It may be obvious at this point, but not all of the “Earth from Above” photographs will work for this assignment. Some photographs will work far better than others. Choose a photograph that allows you to address all of the questions in #4 above. Take your time in selecting a photo; there are plenty to choose from.
Also, you may want to do a little outside research on the location of your photograph. Remember to cite any sources you use in the construction of your response.

Technicalities:Crafting a short, concise response is often harder than a long response! Responses should be kept between 600-800 words. At the very beginning of your response, please type your word count in parentheses, for example: (Word count: 699).

Be sure to use correct spelling, punctuation, grammar, and fully answer the question to gain maximum points on this assignment. These assignments are worth 20 points each and will be graded based on how well you answer the question (see the associated grading rubric in the Writing Assignment folder) and meet the criteria provided for you on the grading rubric. Writing quality, however, is very important and will weigh significantly in determining your grade.

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