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Geog 111 Lecture Outline: Introduction to Human Environmental Interactions
Update: 9/9/05

Warning to those of you using and printing this set of lecture outlines: There are many images in this set of outlines, so it may be slow to load and print! I usually won't have this many images in lecture outlines.

Human Environmental Cycle

1. Human Environmental Relations: Introduction

Three different ways the relationship between humans and the environment has been understood

1a. Environmental Determinism: environment overpowers and shapes culture

Civilization in the United States (ca. 1920)

A perspective that was largely the result of colonial and racist beliefs:

But with very old and not so nasty origins:

Greek World Climate Zones (ca. 100 BC)

Environmental determinism has been strenuously criticized

Asian Rice Terraces

Many examples of major environmental modifications by humans in all cultures

To reiterate: environmental determinism is an inadequate way to understand the relationship between humans and the environment.

1b. Human/Cultural Determinism: culture overpowers and shapes the environment

The 'we are wrecking everything in the environment' perspective

Cobalt pollution in Western US stream

Clearcut in Western US forest

Also criticized

Foods of the world: closely related to what grows in particular areas

The natural environment does shape our human and cultural activities

To reiterate: human/cultural determinism is an inadequate way to understand the relationship between humans and the environment.

1c. Human Environmental Interaction

Human Environmental Cycle

Important role of human agency: cycle of interaction

The relationship between humans and the environment is a complex, two way relationship - we can shape the environment and it can shape us.

1d. Symbolic Relationship between Humans and the Environment

Wilderness: natural vs cultural meanings

Wild area (Pennsylvania)

2. Human Environmental Relations: Examples

Examples: climate, vegetation, landforms

2a. Climate

Koppen World Climate Regions (McKnight fig. 8.5)

Climate influences humans and cultures

Micro-climate adjustments (top) and macro-climate adjustments (bottom)

2b. Vegetation

Plant Communities or Biomes (McKnight fig. 11.10)

2c. Landforms

For Next Time...

Handout: Read a short article about Centralia Pennsylvania

Visit the Centraila WWW sites listed below for additional information, and type up one page:

Centralia and the Anthracite Region online:

Centralia PA: Place Taste and the Taste of Place

A Brief History of the Centralia Mine Fire

2d. Human Environmental Interaction: The Centralia Mine Fire

Mine fire, underground in Centralia Pennsylvania

Watch Video: about 30 minutes

Comments: Centralia Mine Fire

Look at the historical context of human/environmental relations in Centralia.

Location of Centralia: Anthracite coal region in Pennsylvania

Centralia Fire, ca. 1980

Centralian, and mine fire collapse that almost swallowed him up, ca. 1980

Centralia as a microcosm: development of a complex human and cultural situation centered around an environmental problem

An update on Centralia

Centralia ca. 1981

Centralia ca. 1995

Sign in Centralia ca. 1980

Moving out of Centralia ca. 1980

Boarding up Centralia ca. 1980

Tearing down Centralia ca. 1980

Roadside, near Centralia ca. 1980

Burn area ca. 1995

Sign in Centralia ca. 1999

Burn area, Centralia ca. 1999

Burn area, Centralia ca. 1999

Downtown Centralia ca. 1995

Near Downtown Centralia ca. 1995

Propped up Row House ca. 1995

Propped up Row House ca. 1995

Centralia Mine Fire ca. 1995

Centralia Mine Fire ca. 1995

3. Human Perspectives on the Physical Environment

Human Environmental Cycle

Next: undertake a more methodical understanding factors in the human environment

Human activity in the natural world has increased greatly

There are many different ways of understanding the relationship between the environment and humans: vary over time, through space, and in all cases these are human concepts: they are not natural to the world

Resources: anything in the natural world that is useful to humans; a cultural appraisal of the natural world, as different cultures (and the same cultures at different times) assume certain things to be resources and others not

Middleton Table 2.1: Classification of Resources:

Resources in the Natural Environment

Resources in the Human Environment

Middleton: all environmental issues can be seen as the result of a mismatch between extrinsic resources and natural resources; they stem from people deliberately or inadvertently misusing or abusing the natural environment.

4. Human Forces Behind Environmental Issues

Interactions between humans and natural environment results from our attempts to satisfy real and perceived needs and wants

Middleton fig 2.1: Human Forces of Environmental Change

Human behavior leads to

Look at driving forces and mitigating forces with the example of population and how they lead to environmental change


Historical concerns about population and natural resources

Imbalances in power and wealth may be more significant forces driving negative changes in the environment.

5. Human Induced Imbalances

Imbalances created and maintained by economics, culture, and society

Exploitation and Dependency on the Global Scale

Key idea: that imbalances - economic and political - are important driving forces behind environmental change

6. Interest in Environmental Issues

Human interest in environmental issues: not recent

Colonial Era: Environmental Interest 1600s thru 1800s

Middleton table 2.4: 20th century Western Environmental Thought

Some extremes...

Pro-science and anti-science approaches

All these swirl together around any given environmental problem

7. Sustainable Development

Sustainable development: an attempt a compromise between economic development, the creation of wealth, and the exploitation of natural resources on one hand, and stewardship and conservation of natural resources and the natural environment on the other

Why has this become a popular idea?

Human impact on the environment has reached a threshold: more people accept that we may be seriously damaging the environment we need to survive

Middleton fig 3.3: how human society interacts with the environment

Alas...sustainable development is a complicated and controversial term

7a The Idea of Sustainable Development

Origins in a Report: World Conservation Strategy (1980): All economic development programs should

Developed further by the Brundtland Commission: United Nations, 1983

Sustainable development draws together environmental, social, and economic concerns: basic guiding principles:

7b. Valuing Environmental Resources

Not everyone agrees with the idea of sustainable development, but it is an influential idea: work on sustainable development

ex) Environmental Economics: the world is based on money and costs and benefits and thus treat the environment in this manner

7c. Growth and Development

Key issue in sustainable development: relative roles of

Bruntland Commission 1987: sustainability achieved with a 5 to 10 fold increase in world economic activity in the next 50 years; to meet population growth

Within the context of sustainable development: growing influence of idea that we can improve human lives and society (development) with very slow or no economic growth by being more efficient and careful with our use of resources

Sum and Conclusions

Introduction to Earth's Physical Environment

What is Geography? and what is this course...

An overview of Earth's physical environment

An overview of the manner in which we Classify the Environment

The idea of Natural Systems

Time and Space and Environmental Change


Introduction to Human Environmental Interactions

Three general views of the relationship between humans and the environment

Human Environmental Cycle

Examples of human environmental relations

Overview of more key ideas and concepts

Next: Introduction to the Course Project

Then: Maps

E-mail: Geog 111 Main Page and Course Description krygier teaching page. krygier top page.

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