Understanding the Global Community – Geography – Human Geography

>>>>Dean Grillot: So now that we’ve explored
physical geography and how we can understand the global community and our physical planet
from that physical perspective, let’s think about human geography and the way in which
humans interact with their physical environment, which can lead to all kinds of different outcomes.
So now clearly, humans live on planet Earth. And our physical environment is full of things
that are really available to all of us: air, water resources, open spaces, these are what
we refer to as the global commons. The global commons are those environmental aspects that
are available to all human beings or those living on the planet—humans and wildlife. Now one of the things we really must consider
is what we call tragedy of the commons. And that is because these common spaces—common
assets of planet Earth, our common environment is available to all of us—that means that it’s
subject potentially to harm from some of us. There’s this problem between self-interest
and what’s good for the collective. Now one of the interesting aspects of the global
commons, because the environment, these environmental assets are available to all of us, is that
we don’t necessarily all equally protect it. This can be referred to as the tragedy
of the commons—where self-interest might get in the way of protecting a global asset
that’s in the global or collective good. Now let’s think about some ways in which
humans can actually have an impact on our global commons. Human settlements, for example,
by nature actually have an impact on nature. Humans who come together around different
resources: bodies of water, fresh water, various types of, of things that they live off the
earth, they, they grow food, they engage in practices that actually can effect—have
a negative impact on the global commons. So human settlements are one way in which human
beings can have an impact on our global commons, on our physical geography, on our global environment. Now of course when we talk about human settlements,
we also have to talk about human displacement and the ways in which people migrate and move
around. Sometimes they move around because they want access to other resources, because
they’ve depleted resources somewhere or they’re just moving to a different geographical
location. Humans do move and migrate. But humans are also forced to move and migrate.
Sometimes war, natural disaster, other types of tragedies might force humans to move and
congregate in ways that’s even more detrimental to a global space. Now population growth also has an impact on
our planet Earth–on our human environment, physical environment. Population growth obviously
requires additional food resources and other natural resources to serve that growing population.
So population itself, as the population grows, that can put pressure on the global commons
and on natural resources. Many countries in many locations in fact deal with food insecurity—the
lack of proper access to enough food. We’ll deal with this issue in a separate discussion,
but keep in mind that this is one way in which human settlements and human populations can
have an impact on our global commons and our global environment. Now there are a number of other ways in which
humans can have an impact on their physical environment. One of those is deforestation.
That’s when humans cut down trees in order to graze cattle, graze livestock, grow food.
This deforestation of course removes what we call a carbon sink from our environment.
Trees are a carbon sink; they suck in all of the carbon, the carbon dioxide that we
are producing in our environment. And as you remove trees, you also remove a way in which
we can absorb and get rid of that carbon in our environment. So deforestation in and of
itself is a way in which we contribute in a negative way to our global common spaces. Another way that humans can have an impact
on the global commons and contribute to this tragedy of the global commons is by overusing
land and contributing to this process we call desertification. Desertification has to do
with the spreading of un-arable land, land that is not really useful, has been depleted
of its nutrients and isn’t as useful to produce food. So this, of course, leads back
to this problem of food productivity and leading to food shortages, but it can also lead to
increased natural disasters like extreme flooding, for example. Water resources can be contaminated
by human waste, animal waste, toxic run-off through agricultural and industrial output
and pollution. This affects water resources. This of course limits or may limit access
to clean water for drinking, for cooking, for agricultural practices, basically for
all kinds of human use and consumption. And finally, humans have an impact on the global
commons by burning fossil fuels, which pollutes the atmosphere and traps gases within that
atmosphere, leading to climate change as the earth can warm. Through various types of industrial
activities, we burn these fossil fuels and we produce gases like carbon and methane,
which gets trapped within the atmosphere and creates climate change through global warming. Now many of these negative effects of human
life on planet Earth may be avoidable. Think about how you might reduce your negative impact,
reduce your carbon footprint. What could you do? Could you reduce, reuse, recycle? Give
some thought to what you could do and what the challenges might be in overcoming the
tragedy of the commons. Tell us what you think.


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