The modification of the landscape by human beings
Image sequence to show the differences between a natural area and a human-modified one
A place that has not been changed by human activity.
This is a natural area that has been changed by man, which includes:
– Spatial structures: these include a change in the use of land in a geographical area to create an area that is totally different to its former state. Some examples of this transformation are agricultural and urban areas.
– Specific constructions: the construction of buildings, monuments, reservoirs and bridges creates an area with cultural, historical or aesthetic values, yet changes the original use.
The coast is the strip of land that meets the sea. These areas are usually considerably altered by man due to the strong influence of tourism, which has resulted in the urban development, and in some cases ruthless development, of the coast.
High mountain areas have been hardly changed by man due to the hard climatic conditions and the difficulty to access them. However, in recent years, a great deal of mountain villages have turned tourism into their main economic activity. This entails the construction of hotels, apartments, ski slopes, etc.
The impact of economic activities on the environment
Interactivity to know the impact of economic activities on the environment
Human activity and its impact on nature
Since its origins, man has had nature as its source of resources. For centuries, the consumption of these resources offered by the natural surroundings was more or less balanced, but the start ofindustrialisation (at the end of the 18th century) meant a change. The development of industry increased the demand for natural resources of all types and in increasing intensity, and with no thought to the danger of them running out.
The depletion of these natural resources is not the only consequence of their over-exploitation by mankind. We must take into account other effects such as pollution, deforestation,desertification, the loss of biodiversity, the destruction of ecosystems, etc.
The pollution and mistreatment of the lithosphere can be produced due to several reasons. Furthermore, the dumping of waste, which occurs on a daily basis, is negatively affecting biodiversity andecosystems. However, there is waste that can be recycled and therefore be re-used after being processed.
Fires and deforestation are also contributing to the destruction of our natural environment. Wood is a necessary resource, but we have to develop a collective ecological conscience to prevent the destruction of the forest mass responsible for the renewal of the planet’s air.
Phenomena such as acid rain, produced by the emission of gaseous pollutants, or the depletion of the ozone layer, which prevents ultra-violet rays reaching the Earth, are a result of human activity.
Air pollution causes very negative effects on the balance of the planet. The emission of gaseous pollutants is the main cause of thegreenhouse effect, which in turn causes global warming.
Water is one of the most precious resources we have. Dumping waste into seas and rivers, using pesticides and chemical productsthat filter into the subsoil, or oil tanker accidents that cause oil slicks, are some of the actions that contribute to the contamination of our waters.
Pollution and the nature conservation
Interactivity that shows the different ways that man pollutes nature and its serious environmental consequences
Environmental threats and the protection of nature
Human activities can become a threat to the conservation of the environment and, by extension, to people.
Pollution is the main cause of the degradation of nature. It is a process caused by the presence of harmful elements in the soil, water and air.
The increase in population and massive industrialisation have caused a significant impact on the environment given the huge amount of chemical products and hazardous waste released into the environment. This can affect the health and quality of life of mankind, as well as the balance of the ecosystems.
The use of non-renewable energies is one of the main causes of pollution. These energies are obtained from fossil fuels, such as petroleum, natural gas and coal, as well as uranium (used to produce nuclear energy).
As an alternative to this type of energy, we have renewable energies. Energy obtained from natural sources that are considered to be inexhaustible, such as sunlight, wind, water or the tides.
Deforestation represents a serious threat to nature. There are always significant economic interests hidden behind the massive and uncontrolled logging. Activities such as the timber exploitation and the extensive agricultural (extension of farmland) and animal husbandry (extension of pasture lands) activities threatens the survival of many of our forests and jungles.
On occasions, the forces of nature are unleashed and cause authentic natural disasters. Hurricanes, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions are natural phenomena that can cause major damage.
Regarding natural disasters, there are others caused by human action. Notably among these are the so-called technological disasters. Among which are those caused by fire, explosions, leaks of chemical substances and environmental pollution.
Oil slicks are one of the disasters caused by human activity. This happens when petroleum is emptied into the sea. The crude oil mixes with the water and impregnates everything, water, sea beds, beaches, flora and fauna. This results in the death of many animals and plants and represents a grave danger for the environmental balance. Removing this substance is very complicated.
Human activity on rivers
Interactivity that shows the human activities carried out on rivers
Mankind and rivers
Water is the source of life. This is why that since the beginning of time, man has tried to settle near rivers and lakes.
Along the banks of rivers such as the Tigris, Euphrates, the Nile and the Yangtze, great civilisations from antiquity arose, using the water to develop agriculture.
For our ancestors, rivers were the main resource for fishing long before they dared travel out to sea. Nowadays, rivers are also home to fish farms, where different species are bred for consumption.
Rivers with a higher discharge are also fluvial means of communication. If they are navigable, they permit the transport of people and goods. In other cases, such as high mountain rivers, even though they are not navigable, in the past they were used to transport wood from the forests in the highest areas down to the valleys.
In several parts of the world, rivers have become the habitat for millions of people who have adapted to living on their waters. In these areas, the traditional dwellings are boats or constructions upon pilings (stilt houses).
These communities, especially in Asia, also have river markets, assembled upon small boats. People gather on them to buy the goods that are on offer.
In order to live next to the rivers and get the most out of their waters, mankind has also learned to build different infrastructuressuch as canals, dykes and reservoirs. Hydroelectric plants are frequently found next to reservoirs as they use the kinetic and potential energies from the water currents and falls.
Finally, it must also be taken into account that rivers can also be anarea for leisure. Activities can be practiced such as sport fishing, water-skiing or adventure sports, like rafting and canyoning.
Video on climate change, the responsibility of the human being, its consequences and possible solutions
The water problem
Two thirds of our planet is covered by water, but the majority is in the seas and oceans. The amount of freshwater is limited, which is why it is necessary to conserve it and make good use of it.
Furthermore, not all freshwater is potable, in other words, it is not fit for human consumption. Therefore, it is necessary for it to undergo purification processes in specially built plants.
Climate change also influences the availability of water. The increase in the temperatures and the decrease in precipitation that has been occurring on Earth over recent decades has worsened two serious problems: the lack of water and its quality.
The over-exploitation of the water resources and their pollution are the main causes. Therefore, it is necessary to consume water in a responsible manner, not waste it or dump contaminating waste or products into rivers, lakes or seas.
It is also necessary to install treatment plants along rivers to ensure that the water reaching the sea is free from dirt and pollution.
Image sequence to help know the different proposals to achieve the sustainable development of the world economy
Ecological conscience and sustainability
Until not long ago, it was believed that it was possible to continue producing at the same rhythm without fully depleting the natural resources. Today, it has been more than demonstrated that it is not viable to continue producing in this manner.
Human activities influence the environment in a negative manner and can even represent severe risks and cause phenomena such as the greenhouse effect, the cause of global warming. It is for this reason that several worldwide entities such as the United Nations Organisation (UN) and ecology organisations began talking about a form of progress that would be more respectful of the environment:“sustainable development”.
The expression “sustainable development” or “sustainability” refers to the use of the natural resources that we have without wasting them and trying to get the most out of the materials that we use.
Over the last few decades, many campaigns and initiatives have the carried out to expand the ecological and sustainable conscience. In many countries, legislation has been toughened against pollution and laws have been passed to promote recyclingand the selective collection of waste.
However, these laws and initiatives are usually insufficient to halt the impact of our activities on the Earth. This is why we all have theresponsibility of trying to reduce this impact in our hands in order to conserve our planet for future generations. To do this, it is useful to remember the three Rs: reduce, re-use and recycle.
Video that shows the consequences of exploiting natural resources in the Amazon
The threat of deforestation in the Amazon Rainforest
Deforestation is the result of the over-exploitation of the forests by mankind. This causes the disappearance of the forest mass due to several reasons:
– The extraction of wood from forests and rainforests.
– The increase in areas dedicated to farming.
– The opening of new areas of grazing land.
– The creation new urban spaces.
One of the regions of the planet where deforestation is advancing most rapidly is in the Amazon Rainforest. This is an enormous region of South America covering 7,500,000 km2, which covers almost all the Amazon river basin. The majority, almost 60%, is located in Brazil and the rest is divided up between Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia and Guyana.
Among the causes of the deforestation in this area of the planet are, in addition to those already mentioned, the desire to exploit the mineral and petroleum resources in the region.
All of this, in addition to causing significant environmental damage, this also threatens the survival of the indigenous communities and their traditional way of life.
You and the environment
- What is the environment?
- Why the environment needs your help
- Making changes
- How you can help the environment
- Make less impact on the environment
- What else can you do?
- Dr Kim says
When we talk about our environment we mean everything in the world around us which can affect our lives.
When we talk about the environment we mean everything in the world around us that surrounds and affects all life on earth, including the air, food chains, the water cycle, plants, animals and other humans.
Five basic needs of human beings from the environment are oxygen, water, food, shelter and warmth.
We get these from the planet on which we live.
- We breathe oxygen from the air
- We get water from the rain which fills our lakes, rivers and creeks and which we store in dams, reservoirs and water tanks.
- We get food from the plants, animals, fish and birds.
- We get shelter from the materials we take out of the earth and from plants that grow in the earth (trees) to make our homes.
- We get warmth from the sun, fire, power (electricity, gas, oil) and our clothing.
Apart from warmth and light from the sun, these all come from our planet.
But over the years the human population has grown and grown.This has had a huge impact on the environment of our planet.
This impact has caused changes which have affected our atmosphere
- by polluting it (too much smoke, carbon dioxide and other ‘green house gases’ such as methane),
- by making holes in the ozone layer which protects us from some harmful rays of the sun
Everything living on the earth has basic needs. Humans have caused so many changes that many living things cannot get what they need. Some of the changes have led to the extinction of many kinds of wildlife (animals, plants, insects, etc).
We are beginning to realize that our basic human needs are being affected also.
A lot of people have worked out ways that are likely to help our environment and we are already starting to make a difference. We all need to try to change our ways to help the environment and ourselves.
Use less water
- Have showers rather than baths. Short showers use less water and also there is less use of energy to heat the water. Have 3 minute showers by wetting yourself, switching off the water while you soap all over and shampoo your hair, then turn the water back on and rinse under the shower, and then turn it off. (Not keeping yourself clean is NOT an option.)
- Clean your teeth by putting water into a glass. Use the water for wetting your toothbrush, rinsing your mouth and cleaning your brush.
- Help your family save water by using a watering can to water plants and vegetables in the garden rather than using a hose. Maybe you could help recycle the water from the washing machine.
- Use a bucket of water to wash your bike, or the dog.
- Help your school save water by switching off taps properly and using the water fountain for drinking water.
Use less power
- Things to do so you won’t need to run the air-conditioner:
- Keep doors and curtains or blinds closed in summer during the day to keep out the heat.
- Open doors and windows on summer evenings to let cooler air into the house.
- During winter open curtains and blinds during the day to let in any sunshine, then close them in the evening to keep in the heat.
- Don’t switch on lights during the day.
- Switch off the computer, tv or radio if you are not using it.
- Use the new light bulbs. 15 watts in a new bulb is equal to 75 watts in an old one. They last longer too.
- Switch lights off when you leave a room.
- Turn your TV or computer off at the wall rather than use power by leaving it on standby.
- At school remember to switch off lights when the room is empty.
- Walk or use your bike whenever it is safe to do so.
Make less rubbish
- Help make a compost heap or start a worm farm to use up food scraps.
- Sort out the garbage into what can be recycled and what can’t. Use the recycle bin. You can find out where to recycle what by looking at this site. www.recyclingnearyou.com.au/
- Save computer paper by printing on both sides.
- Recycle clothes, toys, books and games by giving them to another family, charity shop or putting into a charity recycle bin at the supermarket.
At school you could
- recycle the uniform you have grown out of at the uniform shop
- use the recycle bin for paper and cardboard
- maybe start a school compost heap or a class worm farm.
Make your pet environmentally friendly!
- If you have a cat, keep it inside at night. Cats like to hunt and many small native animals are killed by them. Put small bells on its collar so that it can be heard.
- Clean up after your dog when you go for a walk. I know it’s yucky but if you use a plastic bag you’ll keep your hands clean, as well as the ground where others want to walk, and you might stop disease spreading.
- If you no longer want your pet rabbit, dog, cat, or even goldfish don’t just dump it. These animals can all survive in the wild, by taking the food of native creatures or killing animals, birds, fish and insects. Help protect our wildlife by finding your pet a new home or talking to your vet about what you can do.
- Have your dog or cat de-sexed so that there are not lots of unwanted baby animals brought into the world. Perhaps you could make sure you only have boy rabbits, or only girl rabbits – so they do not make babies.
- If you can’t find a bin, take your rubbish home.
- If you are fishing, be careful that you don’t leave hooks or bits of fishing line around. You could harm fish or other water creatures. Put the fish back if it’s small – it needs to grow up or there won’t be any more fish!
- Stay off sand dunes at the beach so that they don’t get damaged.
- Looking for small creatures at the beach is fun, but be sure to put them back under cover or they could die.
You can find out more about our environment.
- Here are some sites which will help you.
- You could talk to the ranger at your nearest national park.
- You could get involved at school or at home with one or more of the many organizations around who are trying to help our environment. Here are a few of them.
- Find out how you can help look after the land at
- Find out how you can help look after the land at
- “Plant more trees, they give us oxygen and shade.” Damian
- We take our rubbish home if we can’t find a bin. Rubbish can hurt animals in the bush.”Kate
- “Cleaning up after your dog is yucky, but how would you feel if you stepped in it?”
- “Dad put a hose on the washing machine so all the water comes into the garden and waters the plants.” Ryan
- “I get all the stuff that I can recycle. I rinse them out and put them in the recycle bin. If they have a 5c deposit on them I save them in a box then take them to the recycle place and I get the money for them,” Brooke
- “I turn the lights off when I leave a room.” Dallas
- “We have a timer on the shower. You have to be quick if you wash your hair.”
- “We make compost with food scraps then we put it on the veggies. We have solar power too.” Maxine
For us to be healthy we need to live in a healthy environment. The small changes each one of us can make will add up to big changes which will help make our environment healthier now and in the future.
Another basic need for humans is contact with other humans. Everyone is unique and special and we all need to learn to live with each other. We can do this by respecting and accepting each other’s differences, caring for each other and learning to work together to help ourselves and our environment.