The Relationship Between Humans And The Environment
The Relationship Between Humans and the Environment
Nearly everything that a human does is in response to the environment. Our lives are defined by what is around us and what we find in front of us, whether this means accepting, dealing with or changing it. This has been the pattern since primates first stood up and became Homo erectus, and has continued until we considered ourselves doubly wise. The shape of the land affected where humans moved. Weather was something with which to contend. Fire affected humans until they conquered it – and herein lies the core of the relationship. The earth affects humans, and humans affect it back, viewing characteristics and patterns as problems and challenges, and finding a solution.
This is why it matters: we don’t know where we should go unless we know who and where we are. We don’t know either unless we know where we’ve been. We need to know where to go.
The earth and its inhabitants make up a system, and a change to a part of it affects the rest. What we do at one point in time will affect what we have later. As such, it’s important to look at the way that humans have affected the environment in our history (and before), and to try to figure out the results of such changes. (It’s necessary to keep in mind that not all impact by humans has been negative impact.) Some of the ways humans have changed the environment have been with fire, agriculture and hunting, and for the purpose of making energy useful.
“Permanent occupation” of humans in Europe did not occur until 80,000 years ago, when the continent was no longer covered in an ice sheet (Ponting). Even then, however, the climate was harsh and though it supported life, it was not an easy life. To survive this environment, humans would have needed fire for warmth. Scientists disagree on when humans first tamed fire, as it’s difficult to prove firstly that a piece of evidence is really from fire, and secondly, that this fire was set intentionally by humans (Science). The most accepted time for the first use of fire is approximately 200,000 years ago (Science). However, researchers from the University Rennes in Paris have found evidence of an “ancient fireplace” from approximately 465 years ago. If this is confirmed, this would be an incredible find (Science).
What is known is that humans used fire for a variety of purposes, such as agriculture and hunting. Humans learned that if a forest was cleared of undergrowth, it was easier to hunt for animals in the forest. In the Australia of 50,000 years ago, there were large animals – termed the megafauna – that the indigenous people hunted for food. Soon after humans arrived on the continent, however, the megafauna disappeared. There are several possible reasons for the extinction. One particularly dramatic one is that humans’ extreme use of fire, perhaps uncontrolled, caused the climate to become more arid, and making it impossible for some megafauna to survive. Possibly, the plants that...
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Read this essay to learn about the human being, a rational and social partner in environmental action!
Man and environment are inter-related. The environment influences the life of human beings and also human beings modify their environment as a result of their growth, dispersal, activities, death and decay etc. Thus all living beings including man and their environment are mutually reactive affecting each other in a number of ways and a dynamic equilibrium is possible in between the two, i.e. human beings (society) and environment are interdependent.
The different social structures like industrial, agricultural, religious, aesthetic etc. have developed during various stages of human civilization and these structures represent human being’s accumulated cultural resources based on natural environment.
If the natural environment helped in the development of different structures of the society on the one hand, the existence and quality of environment now rests on the responses of these social structures to the environment on the other hand.
The burning issues like quality of environment, disruption of earth’s natural ecosystem, environmental degradation and pollution, ecological imbalances, depletion of resources etc. can be approached and solved only after considering the value judgments which may be determined by taking into account the consequences of ‘environmental improvement programme’ on the entire society and society’s response towards the improvement programme. Actually all these depend on the interest and desire of the society in improving the quality of environment.
The interaction between environment and society depends largely on the social and political system. Even the capitalistic and socialistic systems perceptions and reactions to the environment are quite different. The differential interactions are due to uneven distribution of natural resources, uneven economic and social development, dissimilarity of demographic factors, varying view points of the governments and individuals towards environment etc.
Continuous and exceedingly increasing rate of rapacious exploitation of natural resources, industrialisation, technological growth, unplanned urbanisation and profit oriented capitalism by the developed western world are responsible for grave environmental crisis and ecological imbalance not confined to their own countries but to the whole world.
The socialistic system of government gives more emphasis on the social importance of natural resources and environmental problems and the urgent need to tackle, these problems. Marxism preaches to organise society’s control over the rapacious exploitation of natural resources and to develop harmony between man and nature. The emphasis on rational exploitation of natural resources and ecological balance was in the constitution of USSR.
The changes in the relationship between man and environment depend upon the change in organisation and attitude of society. To improve environmental standard and to maintain ecological balance, the followings are some issues before the present civilized society.
1. Rapid population explosion:
Puts tremendous pressure on the natural resources and environmental quality. This is due to the fact that population growth leads to poverty which directly or indirectly declines the environmental standard.
2. Rational use of non polluted water resources:
The restoration of water quality of our water bodies and their optimum uses are the challenges before the present society.
3. To sustain and increase agricultural growth:
Without damaging environment. The over cultivation of soil, results in nutrient deficiency, lack of organic matter, soil salinity and damage to physical structure of the soil.
4. To check soil erosion:
The soil erosion can be prevented by the restoration of land or soil resources which are directly or indirectly related to strategies for the management of land, water and forest.
5. Restoration of forest resources:
The forest resources are depleting at a very faster rate in order to meet growing need of timber and farmland for the increased population. Vast forest areas have been converted into barren waste lands. So it is the need of the present society to restore our forest resources possibly through social forestry and afforestation programmes.
6. To check pollution:
The overexploitation of natural resources, intervention of bio-geochemical cycles and trace element cycle, extraneous release of matter and energy etc. cause serious environmental hazards.
In addition, continuous green house gas emission, hazardous chemicals of industry and agriculture, nuclear arsenals; radioactive wastes and biotechnological misuse lead to global catastrophism. So the prevention of pollution is of prime importance for the present society. Considering the above issues, it is clear that the fate of human being depends on how he is managing and overcoming the above problems.
Some possible ways of tackling the problems and maintaining environmental standard are:
(a) Taking effective measures for population control.
(b) Optimum use of natural resources.
(c) Conserving and protecting biodiversity.
(d) Creating public awareness about the benefits and implications of environment.
(e) Giving top priority for environmental protection.
(f) Developing ecofriendly technological processes.
(g) Promoting sustainable agriculture which will not harm the environment.
(h) Using bio-fertiliser or ecofriendly fertilisers.
(i) Using minimum amount of pesticides and insecticides.
(j) Developing waste land by adopting afforestation programmes.
(k) Developing suitable biotechnology to clean up hazardous wastes in the environment.
(l) Choosing suitable technique to treat the pollutants before their discharge into environment.