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Lecture 5

Geography 1400F/G Lecture 5: Lec 5 – Humans Impact on Natural Systems

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Geography 1400F/G
Godwin Arku

Lecture 5 – Humans Impact on Natural Systems - Human geographers are now doing research to expose human impact on the environment - E.g. Doing GIS for global warming - Why is it important? - We make decisions about the environment (e.g. Transportation, etc.) Introduction - The relationship between humans and environment is a 2-way relationship - We impact the environment and the environment also influences our way of life (e.g. what we can do, where we can live, and etc.) Human-environment interactions - Every human activity has an impact - Environment impacts human activity - Humans can be blind to their impact - Humans have become the active and dominant agents of environmental change - Every human activity has a direct or indirect impact - May be insignificant, but in a long period time it will become significant - Humans are agents of change, particularly because of their increasing population - More need for transportation, etc. - Environment can refer to water; oil spillage  no way the water can be cleaned up to its original state - Humans do farming or plantation that alters the environment - Need chemicals to grow food o The chemicals will lead to deterioration of the landscape - Generate garbage - Canadians produce more garbage than anyone else (because of economy) Global perspective - A global perspective is employed in geography because of the fact that “everything is related to everything else” - One cannot change one aspect of nature without directly or indirectly affecting other aspects. - This is one of the principles in human geography - E.g. What is happening in the US can affect Canada - Because everything is related, we tend to take a global relationship between human and environment Concept of systems and ecology - Systems Definition: sets of interrelated parts linked together form a unified whole o Useful to describe a wide range of phenomena and offer a simplified description of what is a usually complex reality. - Ecology Definition: from the Greek – ‘eco’ comes oikos, house or place to live, and ‘logy’ meaning ‘study of’, comes from the logos o 'Study of house', study of organisms in their homes - Whatever happens to one part of the system can affect the other component of the system Ecosystems - Ecosystem: a community of living organisms (plants, animals, microbes) in conjunction with the non-living components of their environment (air, water, soil etc.) interacting as a system - Link together through nutrient cycles and energy flows - Ecosystems as network of interactions - Can be any size but exists as an overlapping web- no distinct boundary - ‘everything is connected’ = planet as ecosystem Humans as simplifiers of ecosystems - Humans are active and dominant agents of environmental change - Any human change to an ecosystem is usually a simplification, and a simplified ecosystem usually is vulnerable. - Humans activities include: o Farming (e.g. clearing of forests) o Buildings of dams o Building cities o Oil or energy exploration etc… - Of all the living organisms, human are the most prominent agent of change - Whatever humans do to the system changes and it cannot be brought back to the original state  simplification - Farming = for food - Buildings of dams = for energy - Presently, one of the most urgent issues facing us is the need to change the way we live inside our ecosystems. - Domination can be illustrated in our use of energy and our high valuation of technology - Because there is a need for energy, we are causing a lot of impact on the environment - Energy = the capacity to do work - For every human activity, we need energy Energy and technology - Energy is the capacity to do work. - Countries in the more-developed world generally use more energy per capita than do countries in the less-developed world. - Technology is the ability to convert energy into forms useful for humans - Human survival depends on our retaining access to appropriate energy sources - As a country in the developed work, they tend to use more energy per capita because they are more industrialized (more industries and more factories) - Technology is helpful but is also harmful in the use for the environment Natural resources and human values - Humans continually evaluate physical environments. - As human culture changes, so do those evaluations. o Something only becomes a 'resource' if humans perceive it as useful in some way: ▪ Technological ▪ Political ▪ Economic ▪ Social - Resource division: o Stock resources versus Renewable resources - Resource only becomes resource when there is human use o Technologically it can be exploited, political will, economic reasons, and social need - In a given resource, it can be divided into stock vs. renewable - Stock resources = fixed in quantity; take a long time to form o E.g. Oil - Renewable resources = the ones that can be renewed over a long period of time; not fixed in quantity; at any given point, their quantity can be changed form time to time because they can be renewed Renewable energy sources - The biggest technological challenge of the early 21st century is to decrease our reliance on non-renewable fossil fuels as sources of energy - Renewable Options: o Hydroelectric, nuclear, solar, wind, and geothermal Arguments in favour of the use of renewable energy: - Environmental Reasons: o Impact of burning fossil fuels (on atmosphere) o Impact of fuel extraction (think Alberta Oil Sands) o Consequence of global warming – burn carbon dioxide - Economic Reasons: o Coal, oil, and natural gas will become more expensive as supplies become scarcer o Creation of renewable energy infrastructure as economic driver o Resources for energy will become more expensive - Political Reasons: o Pressure exerted by voters increasingly aware of environmental issues ▪ Strong movement to move towards environmentally friendly resources o Need for national economies to be self-sufficient in energy ▪ No repeats of Gulf War o Need to diversify in order to reduce dependence on particular suppliers of energy sources o Argument to shift from non-renewable to renewable Renewable energy progress - Clean Energy Policy: o No Federal Policy o Provinces Driving Force o Some successes o Wind in Ontario & Quebec - Ontario and Quebec are the leaders in making efforts Renewable energy progress - In 2004, coal is a major source of energy from coal exploitation that releases a lot of of carbon dioxide - By 2012, most plants have been shut down and its dependence on coal reduced Compared to our neighbours - Despite our efforts, we live in a global society - The use of coal is extensive in a number of US states o E.g. West Virginia, Indiana, Wisconsin - You can see a clearly difference between Canada vs. US - Not every society is making the same effort The current debate: three contentious issues 1. Relationships between the environment and the economy - Market forces unlikely to solve environmental problems o Can control any impact of human impact on the environment OR market is only driven by profit and does not care about environmental impact - Economic growth leads to reduction of environmental problems – if accompanied by good governance 2. Environmental problems are increasingly affecting relationships between countries - US/Canada, Britain/Norway, Brazil/Guyana - Tensions between countries because of environmental comcerns (use of water and oil) 3. Behaviour of individuals as group members (ecocentric versus anthropocentric): - 1. Ecocentric world view – we all connected, and work with nature o Because we are connected, whatever affects something will affect us all - 2. Anthropocentric views – humans are source of all values; land exists for human use; energy and resources are unlimited o Use the land as much as you can, there shoul
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