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Geography (100)
Chapter 2

Chapter 2 Notes


Department
Geography
Course Code
GGRA03H3
Professor
Charles H
Chapter
2

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Chapter 2: Environmental Issues in CitiesA Brief History
The First Cities
-began as a shift from tribal communities and villages to larger, more complex, social,
economic and political systems
-the earliest cities were found in Mesopotamia
-the worlds first cities have arisen in regions where climate and soil allowed the land to
provide an abundance of plant and animal life
-this is necessary to support large populations
-the implementation of social power that directed labor and the production of a surplus
created cities
-agricultural surplus did not create cities, cities created agricultural surplus
The Rise and Fall of Mayan Cities
-the Maya lived in the area in Central America which now consists of Yucatan, Guatemala,
Belize, and southern Mexico
-has a population density several times greater than the average European city
-highly accomplished in astronomy
-permeated their lives and structured their cities
-cities were designed to coincide with astronomical rhythms
-many temples have doorways and other features that coordinate to celestial events
-large plazas were surrounded by the most important government and religious building at
the heart of the Mayan cities
-in the beginning of the 18th century, the great Mayan cities were abandoned as wars raged
and people fled
-the Mayan heartland had lost 95 percent of its population by 930 ACE
-this is known as the Mayan collapse
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-some believe that the war led to the decline, while others believe it was due to
environmental factors
-scientists suggested that a 200-year dry spell, starting about 750 ACE, caused widespread
droughts and a decline in regional rainfall
The First Cities Continued
-water was one of the most critical elements
-the first cities began in the river valleys
-water management was an important ingredient in the development of centralized power
-cities are a transformation of the physical environment to a built environment
-the environmental impact of cities is multidirectional
-the city transforms the surrounding area, affecting the natural environment
-around 2,500 years ago, the Zapotec Indians began building great city by reshaping the
Monte Alban, a 1,500 foot hill
-stepped platforms with walls were designed mainly for plain and fancy residence
-early cities referenced nature within the city walls
-parts of the city were dedicated to open spaces with gardens
-early cities also boasted large populations
-some were small in physical size but densely populated
-cities were challenged by urban environmental issues such as food and water supply,
disease and poverty, traffic congestion, limited housing and energy supplies
-humans transformed the environment by creating the earliest cities
-three important environment impacts are urban design, disease, and pollution controls
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Urban Design
-the layout and design of city spaces convey messages about how people view the natural
world
-connect to wider social issues of power
-most urban design resulted from the decisions of a few powerful individuals
-urban land patterns are ways in which urban society utilizes and defines their relationship
to the physical world
-many cities share common land use differentiations
-there are two land use patterns: walls and grids
-both symbolize deeper perceptions about the urban environment
-fortifications are found in almost any old city of great size and importance
-ranged from wooden palisades and stone walls to ditches and moats
-cities were walled for defense against the outside
-the walled served as a military device, a way to protect a citys market privileges, and to
control urban population
-also symbolized a clear line between urban and wilderness
-the cities without walls often ended with a few straggling buildings and then fields
-walls also served as status markers, reflecting the display of power by political, religious,
or economic elites
-walls dominated the visual landscape and the first structures seen when outsiders entered
the city
-walls send the message that urban space is separate
-another common feature is the imposition of the rectangular street grid on urban space
-the grid is a simple, rational order of packing the land, setting streets at right angles to
one another
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