Intervention: Critical physical geography

Rebecca Lave, Matthew W. Wilson, Elizabeth S. Barron, Christine Biermann, Mark A. Carey, Chris S. Duvall, Leigh Johnson, K. Maria Lane, Nathan McClintock, Darla Munroe, Rachel Pain, James Proctor, Bruce L. Rhoads, Morgan M. Robertson, Jairus Rossi, Nathan F. Sayre, Gregory Simon, Marc Tadaki, Christopher Van Dyke

Research output: Contribution to specialist publicationArticle


A recent opinion piece rekindled debate as to whether geography's current interdisciplinary make-up is a historical relic or an actual and potential source of intellectual vitality. Taking the latter position, we argue here for the benefits of sustained integration of physical and critical human geography. For reasons both political and pragmatic, we term this area of intermingled research and practice critical physical geography (CPG). CPG combines critical attention to power relations with deep knowledge of biophysical science or technology in the service of social and environmental transformation. We argue that whether practiced by individuals or teams, CPG research can improve the intellectual quality and expand the political relevance of both physical and critical human geography because it is increasingly impractical to separate analysis of natural and social systems: socio-biophysical landscapes are as much the product of unequal power relations, histories of colonialism, and racial and gender disparities as they are of hydrology, ecology, and climate change. Here, we review existing CPG work; discuss the primary benefits of critically engaged integrative research, teaching, and practice; and offer our collective thoughts on how to make CPG work.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Number of pages10
Specialist publicationCanadian Geographer
StatePublished - 2014


  • anthropocene
  • critical human geography
  • physical geography
  • transdisciplinarity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Earth-Surface Processes


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