Foundations of International Politics

By Harold Hance Sprout; Margaret Tuttle Sprout | Go to book overview

CHAPTER NINE

The Geographic Setting:
Images and Realities

THE EARTH'S SURFACE is the human habitat. With the aid of mechanical equipment men can fly through the air and tunnel beneath the surface. Experimental probings into more distant space, and the certainty of greater achievements on this new frontier, do not alter the fact that most human activities occur upon or relatively close to the earth's surface.

The oceans and connecting seas, continents and islands, lakes and rivers, mountains and plains, deserts and verdant landscapes which comprise the earth's surface have often been likened to a theatrical stage. Upon this stage from time immemorial the human race has enacted many plays. For centuries men have speculated regarding relationships between the properties of this earthly stage and human projects and accomplishments.

These relationships evoke a special interest in the student of international politics. Every political community (though not necessarily every political system) has a territorial basis. From a geographer's viewpoint, a state is "organized space." Territory is, by definitions, one of the absolute requisites of statehood (see page 81). In nearly all transactions between nation-states, including those in which some conflict of purpose or interest is involved, factors of location, space, and distance are nearly always significant variables. This sense of significance is embodied in the maxim: "Power is local."

Political demands are projected through space from one location to another. Such operations involve expenditure of energy and consumption of other resources. A state's access to essential physical resources may affect decisively its ability to impose its demands, and conversely its ability to resist demands, pressures, and attacks by other nations. In ways both obvious and not so obvious, the factors of climate appear to have affected

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