What is an environment?
There are many different definitions and perceptions as to what an environment is, but the simplest is “the surroundings or conditions in which a person, animal, or plant lives or operates” and “the natural world, as a whole or in a particular geographical area, especially as affected by human activity.”(1)
How Humans Impact the Environment
Like all living things human beings are an integral part of the environment, and because of this they are subjected to the control and restraints that the environment implies. Change is a natural phenomenon that occurs within the environment and is an essential part of it, this is because the environment has been created in such a manner that it can under normal circumstances; the environment is adequately dynamic enough to accommodate these changes. Therefore there are some environments that experiences continual change and adjustments, this is referred to as a dynamic equilibrium.
However there are times when the level of change is so great, that it exceeds the ability for the environment to adapt to it which leads to environmental disruption. These large levels of environmental change sometimes occur naturally, however as the human race has evolved they have become the main cause behind the environmental change, disruption and deterioration. Alongside this evolution and development of humans, other factors such as society’s attitude towards the environment and its mechanics have assisted in this affect.
Due to the modern technology based society, there is an abundance of knowledge and information available, but there are limitations in terms of the amount of change the environment can facilitate. Because of this available information it has become common knowledge to most, that the earth’s resources i.e. minerals and commodities which society depends on such as air, water, soil, vegetation and animals which are believed to be part of the natural environment are finite.
However these resources have managed to survive throughout the years through efficient recycling system which is a natural manifestation of the environment in order to maintain stability. Unfortunately these recycling processes have been consciously and unconsciously disrupted by human activities such as the disruption if the carbon cycle, which has had an impact on global warming. Another example is the disruption of the sulphur cycle, which is related to the cause of acid rain, and water shortages and water pollution.
It is believed that in the past, the human race had a much better relationship with the environment compared to the current time. This theory may to some extent be true, but it is evident that the relationship was not easy and the environment was not always favourable towards the humans. However due to the superior mental ability of the human species, it has allowed us to challenge the environment through the use of available resources from the environment which led to human beings becoming the dominant species. These resources that aided in human survival has also aided in the change of the environment from slightly too considerably as time passed by.
In prehistoric times, when the last ice age was coming to a close, the human race’s survival depended on hunting and gathering of necessities e.g. food.