Geopolitics, in a sense, combines the study of geography with the study of politics. Geography refers to physical landforms, size, and resources while politics refers to the relations between or among states or regions. A geopolitical environment, therefore, refers to a region's political situation while considering the countries' geography, history, religion, culture, governmental structure, and socio-economic situation. The term may also be applied more narrowly to discuss a single country's political situation given their geographic realities, or more widely to consider the environment of an entire continent. The geopolitical environment of Africa or the Middle East, for example, is frequently discussed.
The term, geopolitics, is said to have been coined in the early 20th century by a Swedish political scientist, Rudolf Kjellen. Since its creation it has become a popular term used by political scientists, historians, environmentalists, and sociologists. In many ways, the analysis of a region's geopolitical environment attempts to get a sense of the various aspects that affect a region’s politics, culture, and industry.
Prior to the term being coined, historians, political scientists, and archaeologists often discussed the way the geography of a region shaped its people. For example, the geography of the Saudi Arabia, namely it's central location among the Asian, African, and European continents, is said to have greatly influenced its development in trade in earlier centuries.
The geopolitical environment of a country or region can also change over time. Even though the geography may remain static, the changing world environment can affect an area's political power. As the world is presently dependent on oil, areas rich in oil resources have more power. But, before the industrial revolution, and if alternative energy sources become common, oil-rich countries and regions may lose some of their political power associated with their oil reserves.
Alternatively, the geopolitical environment can change drastically as different countries grow more powerful. As China, for example, develops economically, its extensive resource of human capital and minerals, as well as its sheer size, combined with other geographic, historic, religious, and political factors can change the world geopolitical environment drastically.