How People Interact With the Environment

How People Interact With the Environment

The relationships among nature, culture, and security have long been acknowledged. A few examples are:

  • the differences in the power of land- and sea-based states
  • the advantages and disadvantages conferred on security activities by topography and climate
  • the challenge of getting fuel and food to armies on foreign soil
  • the risks to soldiers posed by unfamiliar viruses and bacteria

The geographer's interest in interactions between human society and the natural environment is also long-standing. This determinism reached its peak during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, with theories later felt to be deeply flawed. Geography retreated from environmental determinism, and indeed, much of geography shied away from theory. Until very recently, an off-hand comment about the weather making you feel blue would elicit a smart response from other geographers, to the effect that you must be an environmental determinist.

The human-environment tradition redefined itself as the study of human impact on Nature, rather than the other way around, and basically stood environmental determinism on its head. The book, Man's Role in Changing the Face of the Earth created an ecological sensibility in geography and the resurgence in interest in the environment. The human-environment tradition in geography is relaxing its inhibitions about theorizing the impact of Nature on society, perhaps establishing geography as one of the dominant disciplines in the study of natural hazards.

The philosophical aspects of environmental determinism aside, humans' response to environmental conditions requires consideration. Related to geography redirection to humans' impact on the environment, an emerging area for geographers is environmental security, or the relation between the environment and the security of humans and nature. During the 1990s, security dynamics established during the decades long Cold War began to lose importance. At the same time, increasing evidence about the magnitude of human-generated pollution, ecosystem alteration, and resource depletion was becoming a political issue. Perhaps addressing challenges posed by new forms of environmental stress and scarcity was the logical next phase of a well-established defense tradition. A significant number of people within the national security community—including researchers, policymakers, and high-level officials—began to take this idea seriously, and act upon it.

Activity: This activity will test your knowledge of the material presented in this section. You will be asked to briefly explain how the interaction of people with their physical and cultural environment influenced the settlement patterns of the ethnic Albanians in Kosovo.

Follow this link to open the "How the people of Kosovo interact with the environment" activity in a new window where you will complete the activity. After completing the activity and reviewing your results, you should close the activity window and return to the lesson material.