North America


· Two countries make up the North American realm, the United States and Canada.

· Culturally - most trace their ancestry to Europe and is often called Anglo-America.

· Economically - both are highly advanced in development and the trade relationship is beneficial to both sides. The longest open international boundary on Earth is between the United States and Canada.

· North America is the most highly urbanized society and very mobile with superhighways, air travel routes, media, and telecommunication.

· There are stages of development reflected in the new age of North America.

1. Agriculture and rural life

2. industrial urbanization

3. postindustrial society and economy

· US and Canada are experiencing stage three through the domination of production, high-technology, and a global framework of business.

· Canada is larger than the US territorially, but the US has a greater environmental range.

· The majority of Canadians live in an east/west direction within 200 miles of the border.

· The US is a fragrnented state consisting of two or more individual parts that are separated by other territory or water. (Ex: Hawaii)

· Canadian population is smaller than US and is divided by culture and tradition such as the French in Quebec. (Francophones)

· About 60% speak English in Canada, 24% speak French, and 13% speak other languages. The other percentage is made of two types of people. First Nations are indigenous people of Amerindian descent (US counterparts are Native Americans) and Inuit people of the arctic zone (Eskimos). They make up about 4% of the total.

· Ontario is the most populous core province. Quebec is the second most populous area of Canada.

· Cultural pluralism consists of tow or more population groups living together practicing their own culture, but not mixing inside a single state. This division in Canada is between those of European descent and those of African descent. De jure segregation has been prohibited by the civil rights movement, but de facto segregation is still a big part of life in Canada.


1. North America’s Physical Geography

A. Physiography: (landscape description)

· Physiographic provinces are marked by uniformity or homogeneity in relief, climate, vegetation, soil, and other conditions of the environment.

· There are several provinces between the Rocky Mtns. and the Appalachians.

1. Canadian Shield - geologic core area contains North America’s oldest rocks

2. Interior Lowlands - covered by glacial debris laid by meltwater and wind of the

Pleistocene glaciation

3. Great Plains - extensive sedimentary surface rising westward toward the Rockies

· The Zone of Intermontane Basins and Plateaus contain 3 physiographic provinces. It is called intermontane due to its position between the Rockies to the east and the Pacific coast mountain system in the west.

1. Colorado plateau - in the north and forms the watershed of the columbia River

2. Colorado plateau - in the south has thick sediments and the Grand canyon

3. Central Basin-and-Range country of Nevada and Utah - (Great Basin)

contains several extinct lakes from the glacial period and the Great Salt Lake

· The coast mountain belt from the Alaskan Peninsula to Southern California is dominated by a row of high mountain ranges originating from the contact of North American and Pacific Plates.

· The major components include California’s Sierra Nevada, Cascades of Oregon and Washington, and the chain of highland massifs lining the British Columbia and southern Alaska coasts.

· The valleys in this area that contain dense populations are the San Joaquin-Sacramento Valley (central), the Cowlitz-Pu get Sound, and the Fraser Valley.

B. Climate

· Temperature varies latitudinally, which means it’s colder moving farther north.

· Interior remoteness from the sea, or continentality,causes temperature to vary the greatest.

· Precipitation declines toward the west, except for the coastal strip of the Pacific. The rain shadow effect is a result of this. Pacific air masses moving by winds carry moisture onshore but collide with the Sierra Nevada Cascades which forces the air to rise and cool to crest the mountain ranges. Major condensation and precipitation occur taking much of the moisture before they move across the interior of the continent. A shadow of dryness is produced by the mountains causing a large division between humid (eastern America) and arid (western) climates.

· An isohyet is the line that connects all places receiving exactly 20 inches of precipitation per year. This lines swings across the drought proned Great Plains because variable warm season rains of the Gulf of Mexico are unpredictable.

· In the humid area of America the westerly winds gain moisture from the Interior Lowlands and deposit it throughout eastern portions of North America.

· Many storms occur in this area and there are more tornadoes in the central US than anywhere else. The northern portion of the region, around the Great Lakes, receives large amounts of snow in the winter.

· Canada’s most moderate climates correspond to the coldest in the US.

· Agriculture is substantial and Canada is a leading food exporter (wheat), but the US is comparable even though the growing season is shorter.

· Soil and vegetation is also reflective of the division between humid and arid climates. Irrigation is vital in places with less rain for the soil to be supportive of the crops.

· Natural vegetation is referred to as forests when areas receive more than 20 inches of water annually and the drier areas are called rasslands.

C. Hydrography (Water)

· There are two major drainage systems that dominate North America.

1. Great Lakes (Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie, and Ontario)

2. Mississippi-Missouri river network

· The St. Lawrence Seaway and canals have made way for a link between the two for better navigability.

· Fall Line cities - Washington, DC, Baltimore, and Philadelphia - are located at the waterfalls that marked the limit to tidewater navigation.


A. Population in Time and Space:

· Slowly until after 1800, Americans and Canadians took charge of their continent and began settling frontier westward to the Pacific.

· Specific drifts of people and livelihood toward the South and West is the so called Sunbelt.

· The US has always attracted a steady influx of immigrants and assimilated them into the societal mainstream and have not favored relocating even though the evolving economic geography has favored different placed over time.

· Major migrations have been:

1. still-continuing westward shift but not with the southerly Sunbelt deflection

2. rapid growth of metropolitan areas

3. movement of African Americans from the rural south to urban north

4. influx of immigrants from outside the US

1. Pre-Twentieth Century Population Patterns

· Spatial distribution of US population is rooted in the colonial era dominated by England and France.

· The French sought to organize fur trade while the English wanted to establish settlements along the coast of northeastern seaboard.

· After the Revolutionary War, western frontier was open and soon settled after finding the soils of the interior lowlands were favorable to farming. This triggered the growth of trans-Appalachian agriculture.

· Culture hearths- primary source areas and innovation centers from which migrants carried cultural traditions Into the central US.

· Railroads were a huge part of the second half of the 19th century.

2. Twentieth-Century industrial Urbanization

· The US industrial revolution took place almost a century after Europe, but within 50 years it surpassed Europe as the world’s mightiest industrial power.

· Two levels of urbanization occurred simultaneously:

1. macroscale (national) - a system of new cities swiftly emerged, specializing in

collection, processing, and distribution of raw materials and manufactured goods linked

together by the railroad

2. microscale (local) - individual cities prospered in new roles as manufacturing centers,

generating an internal structure that still forms the geographic framework of central cities

3. Evolution of the US Urban System

· Based on cities providing goods and services for their hinterlands in exchange for raw materials.

· There are 5 epochs of metropolitan evolution based on transportation technology and industrial energy

1. Sail Wagon Epoch 1790 - 1 830 primitive overland and waterway circulation:

oriented to overseas trade with Europe

2 The Iron Horse Epoch 1830-1870 arrival and spread of steam powered

railroad; national urban system began to take shape with New York as primate city by


3. Steel rail Epoch 1870-1920 spanned the industrial revolution; increasing scale

of manufacturing, rise of steel and auto industries in Midwestern cities, introduction of

steel rails enabling trains to travel faster and haul heavier cargo

4. The Auto Air Amenity Epoch 1920-1970 later part of LIS industrial

urbanization and the maturation of national urban hierarchy; automobile and airplane,

expansion of white collar lobs locational pull of amenities (pleasant environments)

5. Satellite Electronic Jet Pro ulsion Epoch 1970--- newest advancements in

information management, computer technoloaies. global communications. and

intercontinental travel; metropolises along the Pacific and Atlantic coasts

· American Manufacturing Belt which contained the lion’s share of industrial activity in US and Canada is the most notable regional transformation due to industrialization and the growth of the urban system.

4. The Changing Structure of the US Metropolis

· The growth process was identified by four eras of intraurban structural evolution:

1. Walking Horsecar Era produced a compact pedestrian city

2. Electric Streetcar Era expanded along new outlying trolley areas with invention

of electric traction motor

3. Recreational Automobile Era was marked by impact of cars and highways and

improved the accessibility of outer metropolitan areas causing suburbanization

4. Freeway Era saw the full impact of autos and expressways pushing suburban

development outward

· Ghettos are intraurban regions marked by an ethnic character. It is an inter-city poverty zone and involuntarily segregated from other income and racial groups.

· Outer cities are the non central city portion of the metropolis. The rise of the outer city has

produced a multi-centered metropolis consistng of the traditional CBD and coegual suburban downtowns.

· Suburban downtowns consist of a concentration of maior urban activities around a highly accessible suburban location

· Urban realms maintain a separate, distinct economic, social, and political significance and strength

B. Cultural Geographv

1. American Cultural Bases

· Powerful values and beliefs were as follows

love of newness - emerging suburbs societal acceptance desire to be near nature - country life aggressive pursuit of goals firm sense of destiny (American Dream) individualism freedom to move

· Most Americans felt they could attain higher acceptance in society throuah hard work and perseverance.

· American Dream is home ownership. affluence. and total satisfaction.

2. Language and Religion

· More than 1/8 of the pop, in US sneaks another language other than English.

· The South and New England are known for their distinct accents.

3. Ethnic Patterns

· Hispanics have passed the Blacks in growing population. They rose 13%.

· African Americans are concentrated in South. but many reside in the Metropolitan Belt and west coast.

4. The Emerging Mosaic Culture

· A mosaic culture is an increasingly heterogeneous complex of separate, uniform tiles that cater to more specialized groups than before. People are only wanted to interact with others iust like them threatening our democratic values.

C. The Changing Geography of Economic Activity

I. Maior Components of the Spatial Economy

· Productive Activities:

primary - workers and environment come into direct contact - mining and agriculture

secondary - manufacturing sector - raw materials are finished products tertiary - services including activities from retailing. finance, education, and office based jobs

quaternary - dominant sector - collection, processing, and manipulation of information

2. Resource Use

· Mineral resources are located in Canadian Shield. Appalachian Highlands. and scattered areas throughout the mountain ranges of the West

· Fossil fuels are oil, natural gas. and coal.

3. Agriculture

· The von Thunen model of production zones includes 7 rings.

I hinterland
2. vegetable/fruit
3 Dairy

4. Dairy - solid

5. grains

6. livestock and general farming

7. grazing

4. Manufacturing

* Industrial production has been dominated by the Manufacturing Belt because of it’s access to the Megalopolis national market and the proximity to industrial resources.

· Economies of scale are the savings accrued from large scale production where the cost of manufacturing an item is reduced.

5. The Postindustrial Revolution

· Postindustrialism is the advancing technological and information economy rising the US and much of Canada.

· Technopoles are planned techno-industrial complexes that innovate, promote, and manufacture the hardware and software products of the information economy. Silicon Valley has been named the first technopole.


Canada is comprised of 10 provinces and 3 territories.

· The Atlantic provinces are - Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland. Quebec and Ontario are the two biggest provinces. Prairie provinces are -Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta. British Columbia is the tenth province.

· The territories are Yukon. Northwest. and Nunavut which means "our land".

A. Population in Time and Space

· The inhabitable zone of a permanent settlement is called the ecumene. Canada’s population clusters lie along the Southern border.

1. Pre-2Oth Century Canada

· French were the first to colonize Canada and their laws, land-tenure system, and Catholic Church dominated

· Canada means settlement and was named such after the American War for Independence. This war lead to much division between the French settlers and the newly arriving English refugees.

· In 1867 an act guaranteed Quebec rights in the Parliament and court as a French speaking territory.

2. 20th Century Canada

· In 1 886. the Canadian Pacific Railway was completed and spawned settlement into the Prairie Provinces whose wheat-raising economy expanded.

· Urban development in Canada can be broken down into three eras.

1. Frontier-Staples Era - encompasses century long transition from frontier mercantile economy to staples (producing raw materials and agricultural goods for export canada had no single primate city because Montreal and Toronto had emerged as I leading cities.

2. Era of Industrial Capitalism - achieved US style prosperity

A major stimulus was US corporations investing in canadian branch plants such as

automobile plants

3. Era of Global capitalism - rise of additional foreign investment and transforming into

a post industrial economy and society

B. Cultural/Political Geography

· Canadian French and English speaking citizens have been at odds for guite some time. Quebecers feel they are second class citizens and have wanted to secede from Canada. but they can not reach a maiority vote.

· Devolution is the process by which regions within a state demand and gain political strength and growing autonomy at the expense of the central government. Canada is experiencing devolution and national unity is under siege.

C. Economic Geography

· Canada has a rich resource base and is leading as an agricultural producer and exporter. New technologies make productivity high, but labor reguirements cause less farm workers.

· Canada’s tertiary and guaternary sectors employ more than 70% of the workforce and are creating many new economic opportunities.

· Trade relations also play a strong role in the economic future. The US-Canada Free Trade Agreement (1989) initiated a phasing out of all tariffs and restrictions.

· A reqional state is a natural economic zone defying old borders an is shaped by the global economy that it is a nart of.



· The North American Core included the Manufacturing Belt. The region was the leader curing the century between the Civil War and the close of the industrial age and is still the geographic heart in which manufacturing is still very important.

· The Maritime Northeast consists of upper New England and Atlantic Provinces of Canada. Development has centered on fishing and recreation tourism in the winter.

· French Canada contains the settled southern nart of Quebec and bordering French speaking neighbors. Narrow rectangular farms, long lots, are laid out perpendicular to the St. Lawrence allowing each farm access to a routeway.

· The Cnntinental Interior extends across the center of U S and sou southern Canada and agriculture is predominant raising wheat and corn.

· The South consists of Kentucky through the bayous of Louisiana and from West Virginia to Florida. Many problems surrounded the South after the Civil War, but the growth of beef, soybeans, poultry, and lumber has helped the growth of this region. There is still much poverty and economic problems. One positive aspect is many are retiring in areas of the South.

· The Southwest contains Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona and is a bicultural regional complex, and sometimes refereed to as tricultural to include not only Anglo Americans and Mexican Americans, but Native Americans also.

Rapid development is based on a three prong foundation.

1. availability of electricity to power ac s

2. sufficient water for large numbers in dry environment

3. autos for people to spread out further

The Dallas/Ft.Worth-Houston-San Antonio triangle has become one of the

most productive postindustrial complexes, specializing in business-info, health care services, and high tech manufacturing.

· The Western Frontier stretches east-west between the Rocky Mtns and the Sierra Nevada Cascades, the north-south reaches from Grand Canyon country to the Canadian Rockies. The Las Vegas Valley is the fastest growing area in the western frontier due to advances in technology and communication.

· The Northern Frontier covers 90% of Canada and all of Alaska consisting of very harsh weather. Ut contains one of the Earth’s storehouses of mineral and energy resources because the Canadian Shield covers 2/3 of the eastern part.

· The Pacific Hinge consists of the Pacific coastlands of the US and Canada. It has good climate and delighiful weather. The land is very productive in California’s Central Valley. Accommodations for large population and economic growth came after the WWII era. Environmental hazards such as droughts, flooding. mudslides, brushfire, and earthguakes, occur in this area.