Articles | Volume 67, issue 1/2
22 Nov 2012
 | 22 Nov 2012

Integrating physical and human geography in the context of mountain development: the Bernese approach

P. Messerli and L. Rey

Abstract. Time and again, discussions at the Institute of Geography in Bern regarding the choice of new faculty or debates about how to position ourselves scientifically have inspired us to re-examine our understanding of our discipline. The structural report, for example, which the Institute’s board of directors presented to faculty and university directors in 1994, describes our scientific self-conception as follows:

"Geography is concerned with humankind’s physical-material environment. As such, it is an environmental science. The physical-material environment is analysed according to a dual perspective: as a condition and constraint of humankind and its cultural development; and as a product and result of economic, social, and political processes. This dual perspective requires that the natural sciences as well as the social sciences and humanities be employed to access geography’s object of study. The natural science branches of geography examine essential parts of the ecosystem and associated productive, endangering, and limiting factors and processes; these branches use the methodology of the natural sciences and base their research concepts on the systems theories of the natural sciences. The social science and humanistic branches of geography investigate the economically, politically, and socioculturally motivated principles governing our use of the environment, as well as the significance of the physical-material world in the social constitution of the spatial arrangement of society. These branches of geography use the methods of the social sciences and humanities, applying the theories of both in their research concepts." (Direktorium des Geographischen Instituts der Universität Bern 1994: 1)