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How does geography affect the people that live there?

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Greg Jackson, M.A. eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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There are countless ways in which geography affects people. It is a key factor in influencing the way of life of people in a given region. Local resources determine the food people eat which in turn influences the overall health and nutrition of a population. Sure, food from other regions is often imported, but often a region's cuisine is determined by what is readily and affordably available and what has been traditionally consumed for generations.

Natural resources of a geographic area also play a role in the local economy. For instance, a region with ample petroleum reserves can grow wealthy off of this by exporting it to regions that lack such reserves. Take a look at the United Arab Emirates, for instance. A century ago, this country was little more than a backwater. Then, after the global need for petroleum surged, it has steadily grown into one of the wealthiest nations on the planet.

Strategic geographic locations also affect the people who live there. The tiny nation of Singapore is wealthy because it lies along an important shipping route. The Poles have endured repeated invasions and conquests because they inhabit a country with few natural defensive barriers in between other strong nations.

Geography plays a part in someone's relationship with the physical environment. Rising ocean levels are threatening to displace people who live in low-lying coastal areas. People who live in temperate climates must adapt to changing seasons several times a year while those in the tropics do not.

Sometimes being situated near many other cultures affects the culture of the place itself. The island of Taiwan, for instance, has been influenced by the Chinese and Japanese as a result of various conquests and migrations which has given it a culture all its own. On the other hand, more isolated peoples in places like far-flung Polynesian islands or Madagascar have developed cultures more endemic to their location.

Many more examples could be given considering that geography is a vast field with a multitude of ramifications. Suffice it to say, that nobody on earth is immune from the influence of their geography.

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kapokkid eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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As the previous poster pointed out, geography had a great deal to do with how certain communities developed. Civilizations that developed in places with large, flat and fertile fields were very different from those that developed around a coastal region dependent on fishing or a mountainous region that had to find other ways to supply food, etc. These of course also determined how they built homes and how they interacted with other civilizations.

In a modern developed country like the United States, geography now often plays a role in choices people make about where to live. Boulder, Colorado is very popular amongst people who enjoy hiking in the mountains or riding bikes in the same. Florida is popular among people who want to live near a beach and the ocean. Some of the constraints imposed by geography in the past are no longer as powerful given the construction of transportation and other infrastructure to distribute goods and services regardless of geography.

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Geography determines the physical conditions in which one has to live. These conditions include topography, soil type, climate patterns, natural resources, vegetation, ecosystem, etc. Different places have different geographical features and influence the life style and habits of the people residing in that region.

For example, someone living in Hawaii does not have to worry about snowfall or excess cold weather and hence has no need of warm clothes. Compare that to someone residing in Siberia or the Himalayas, where snow is a part of life and warm clothing is part of life. Other examples are the flood-prone parts of India, or hurricane-prone Eastern Seaboard of the US, or earthquake-prone regions of Japan. The type of housing required would be different in all these cases. The type of vegetation that grows in a place is also a function of its geography and determines the food habits of the people residing there.

Many people even base their career choices on their geographical location.