How have people's changing perceptions of geographic features led to changes in human society?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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One way to look at this is through the lens of people's attitudes towards environmentalism.  Attitudes towards environmentalism (which is a part of human society) have changed as people's perceptions of geographic features have changed.

In "primitive" cultures, geographic features tended to be seen as facts of life or even as sacred.  A mountain or a forest or a river was there and there was nothing that could be done about it.  You might see it as a manifestation of a god or a spirit, but you would, at the very least, just think of it as something that you had no control over.  In these times, people believed in a sort of primitive environmentalism.

As society progressed, people came to look at geographical features as challenges or opportunities.  They came to think that the environment was something to be exploited.  If a hill was in a "bad" place, you could dig a tunnel through it or even simply knock it down.  If a river was not behaving "properly," you could dam it.  This changed human society to a society in which the environment was seen merely as something that existed for human convenience.  This led to a great deal of exploitation of the envrionment.

In recent times, some cultures have been moving back the other way towards having more respect for geographical features.

So, the way we look at the environment (environmentalism or opposition to it) has changed over the years.  This has changed our society and the way that we relate to nature.

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