In what situations might human-environmental interaction benefit humans?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Human-Environmental Interaction is one of the five themes of geography.  It has to do with how people adapt to their environments and how they change them.  Human-environmental interactions are most likely to benefit people when the people are in control of those interactions and when they are careful not to change their environments too much.

Without human-environmental interaction, our societies could not exist.  We depend on our environments (and the changes we make to them) for everything we have.  The fact that these interactions make our societies possible implies that most of them benefit us.

Interactions are more likely to benefit people when people are in control of them.  Sometimes, we are not in control of our interactions.  An example of this would be when an earthquake occurs or a hurricane hits land.  These kinds of interactions can devastate parts of human societies.  By contrast, interactions are much more likely to benefit us when we control them.  Examples of this include damming rivers to give us electricity and to allow boat traffic, building roads and railroads across the land, and farming to produce food.

However, there are times when human-controlled interactions do hurt us.  This generally happens when we change the environment too drastically.  Sometimes, we change the environment in ways that are harmful to human life.  A clear example of this is when we pollute our air and our water.  Perhaps the most important example of this is global warming from human sources.  These changes have, on balance, not benefitted us.

Thus, we can say that most of our interactions with the environment help us and that these interactions are most likely to be beneficial when A) we are in control of them and B) we do not change the environment too  drastically.

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