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“Europe” stretches from the Portuguese coast on the Atlantic to the West, to Russia’s Ural Mountains in the East, and from the Arctic region in the North, to the coast of the Mediterranean Sea to the South. Its climate is affected by the currents of the Atlantic and by the Gulf Stream of the southern United States. The Mediterranean Sea, which borders, Spain, France, Italy, Greece, Slovenia, Cyprus, Malta, Croatia, Albania, and Montenegro (Turkey also borders it, but could be categorized as either European or Asian), has a definite warming influence on those countries, making life in those southern regions temperate and highly popular for tourists.
Much of Europe, however, experiences greater variations in temperature, in which one could find oneself dressing for two different weather patterns within the same town or city in the same day.
Europe is blessed with a climate that is highly conducive to agriculture, which has made farming a major industry throughout much of Europe. Agriculture sectors in Spain, France, and Italy, for example, are very important to those countries’ economies, as has historically been the case in Ukraine. Spain, France and Italy, of course, have vibrant vineyards that produce much of the world’s finer wines (although Chilean and South African wines ought not be ignored), while Ukraine’s wheat fields have long been among the most productive in the world.
To the north, especially the Scandinavian countries, but also the northern coasts of Germany, Poland, Russia, and the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, the populations have adapted over centuries by focusing on fishing, including industrial scale fishing and whaling, focused on the frigid waters of the North Sea, North Atlantic and the myriad smaller seas and waterways throughout the region, especially the Kattegat and Skagerrak.
While Western Europe is dominated by the oceanic currents, however, Eastern Europe, excepting Ukraine, which borders the two, is characterized by drier and usually hotter climates, although Russia’s winters are notoriously brutal. How East Europeans have adapted to their climate is more difficult to describe, because the level of environmental degradation in much of the former Soviet Union has devastated the geography. Much of that degradation occurred in the former Soviet Republics of South Asia and the Caucasus, but the damage to Kazakhstan’s Aral Sea from decades of neglect and abuse are causing it to shrink, and Lake Baikal, far to the east and technically part of Siberia, nevertheless has suffered from decades of environmental pollution – an unfortunate development given that Lake Baikal is the largest fresh-water reservoir in the world. Desertification of southern Russia has resulted in serious long-term ramifications for the tribes that have historically called those regions home.
Europe’s diverse climate and geography centuries ago forced inhabitants to adapt to their surroundings, and most of them have done so. The resulting effects of pollution caused by industrialization – acid rain over the ancient forests of Germany that have killed many trees being a case in point – resulted in a much greater appreciation on the European continent for the problem of environmental degradation. Europeans will either continue to adapt to their climate, and the changes that are occurring, or they won’t – not unlike every other region of the world.
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