Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Environmental Change

Defining Environmental Change
Source: Geo Connexion
Environmental change can be gradual occurrences (e.g. movement of tectonic plates) or events that takes suddenly and frequently place and are catastrophic (earthquakes and tsunamis). Human-induced environmental change, such as habitat loss, climate change, acid deposition, and burning fossil fuels occur. Many people see environmental change as discrete, but environmental change is continuous and takes place every day, albeit at a small, intangible way. All systems and species (humans and non-humans) of earth are interconnected and interdependent, and influence each other in a complex way through human-induced change or natural change. Human activities influence the earth and its ecosystems. When something change in one system, it inevitably lead to a chain reaction in another. Environmental change doesn’t take place in isolation, it takes place, either gradually or fast.
Environmental changes affect all of us and has already begun and changing weather patterns will prevail. The difference is how one will respond to it by either trying to protect the environment or to accelerate such change by continuing with an anthropocentric approach. Whether people give a priority to the protection of the environment and to change their environmental behaviour to counteract environmental change and their overall habits, is based upon individual values and an individualistic environmental worldview.
One thing is certain, environmental change adaptation is increasingly seen as both a necessary and urgent.
Is environmental change always damaging and destructive in nature?

We live in an absolute breathtakingly beautiful world with an abundance of natural landscapes, ecosystems, and species. Unfortunately human beings are destroying our natural home by daily making the wrong environmental choices and by living unsustainably.
Environmental change is twofold. Natural environmental change can take place through different timescales, including long-term and gradual occurrences (e.g. changing geographical phenomena such as movement of tectonic plates and mountain building) and events that takes suddenly and frequently place and are catastrophic by nature (volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, and tsunamis).

Today environmental change is a hot discussion topic. Environmental change is such a vast, complex concept. Peoples’ perspectives with regards to environmental change and its impact vary greatly. To some it can be seen as an obstacle and challenge and influences one’s overall thinking about environmental change and believe that any earthshattering change in the environment will have a significantly negative effect on species. However, in contrast some people also view it in a positive light with an abundance of creating new opportunities.
The general perception is that environmental change is always destructive and damaging as evident by the numerous media coverage (videos, articles, and photos) on the topic and people are just being made highly aware of overall increasing environmental changes and its accompanying changes and what this could mean to them recently through media and greater knowledge. However, it isn’t as simple and environmental change can’t be solely classified as damaging. It is widely accepted that climate is always changing, albeit at a slow and gradual (natural progressive changes) or fast (human-induced changes) pace which is either caused by natural events or manmade activities (rapidly accelerating the change).
The earth and climate has always evolved and takes naturally and gradually place for example, slow movement of the continents (plate tectonics). All of the environments on Earth change over time. Certain geological and climatic forces have shaped the Earth’s environment over the last millions of years. We have had ice ages and warmer periods. Natural systems are extremely adaptable and resilient to these changes are caused by variations in Earth's climate.  

Source: PA Times
Humans have always had a significant impact on the environment. Because people are emitting CO2 at an astonishing fast rate, so too has environmental change taken rapidly place at an astonishingly unprecedented rate. An aftermath of making the wrong environmental choices is the occurrence of environmental change on a large scale. Many times people perceive environmental change as infinitely devastating which causes detrimental damage to, i.e. human beings and animals living in the vicinity but also on a global, wider scale. People view present-day global environmental change as an indirect impact of climate change. The current rise in temperature is significantly higher than previously because there is a higher level of greenhouse gas emissions which leads to higher atmospheric CO2.
One of the greatest strengths human beings possess is our fantastic ability to adapt. But, due to the rapid acceleration of technological and environmental changes, a rapidly escalating population (exceeding the carrying capacity), we won’t have enough time to adapt to the sudden changing conditions and will not be resilient enough to cope with it. The natural environment doesn’t have enough time to replenish and restore itself.   
The composition of the Earth’s landscapes and its essential life support systems are dramatically altered by human interference and the climate system is also changed on a global scale. It has detrimental implications for humans and other life on earth. These changes modify the ecological relationships between living things and influences the overall value and quality of ecosystems.
Species are affected by environmental change, so much so that it could lead to their extinction. Even though species are acceptably adaptable, they are still vulnerable when there is a sudden change in the environment. Their survival depends on their manner in which they are able to adapt and tolerate environmental disturbance, if they are able to evolve concurrently with these changes, and to reproduce satisfactorily. Slow changes give these species time to adapt to these changes.
Large-scale human-induced environmental stresses (which are hazards for humans and other living organisms), lead to environmental change, such as habitat loss, climate change, stratospheric ozone depletion, acid deposition, burning fossil fuels, conversion or clearing of forests, irrigation, loss of biodiversity and destruction of ecological habitat, mining, manufacturing and consuming chemical products, changes in hydrological systems and the supplies of freshwater, stresses on food-producing systems, urbanization, altering temperature (low and high), changes in global precipitation, gases (e.g. ozone, CO2, methane, oxides of nitrogen), land degradation, fuel wood crisis, and water variation (drought and flooding). Human behaviour (and our resource consumption) is negatively influencing the atmosphere, oceans and landscapes.

Source: ICJ Project
The most vulnerable people to changing environmental determinants live in developing countries where subsistence agriculture is the main source of their livelihood and poverty prevails. Many parts of the world are low-lying and would have to relocate to higher areas as a result of the rise in sea levels.
As previously stated environmental change has always occur on the Earth’s surface. But, environmental change can be damaging and destructive as a result of human beings’ behaviour and interference, but it can also be part of a naturally occurring process taking slowly place over a long period of time.

Environmental-related Terminology

Source: 2nd Green Revolution

Here are a few concepts that are important in the Geography discipline.
The ease with which one place can be reached from another. It can be measured in terms of distance, time, or cost. Access to certain places may be made less easy by non-physical barriers such as social class or ethnicity.

Building density
Concentration (amount) of buildings in a given geographic area. A measure of the amount of floor space available for occupation in a development expressed in the area of land on which it is built. The number of habitations per hectare, number of square meters per hectare, plot ratio are other terms.

A large urban settlement with a dense population that is usually a centre of government and administration, culture, social networking and economic enterprise.

There are two types of capital. Physical capital (all useful assets e.g. money and machinery) and human capital (people’s knowledge, skills and energies), used to produce goods and services. The amount of money belonging to a country, factory or a person.

The study of two or more geographic distributions which vary over the same area, such as unemployment and crime.

A bundle of attributes of shared behaviour or belief. These may include virtually anything about the way people live.

The extent of space between two objects or places; it can be measured absolutely, in terms of kilometres, or in terms of other units, such as time or cost to cross.

The spatio-temporal process concerned with the movement of objects from one area to another through time.

The process of receiving or giving systematic instruction, especially at a school or university. The theory and practice of teaching.

All external conditions and factors, living and non-living (chemicals and energy), that affect any living organism or other specified systems. Physical, biological, social, cultural conditions affecting people’s lives and the growth of plants and animals.

A place, amenity, or piece of equipment provided for a particular purpose. Anything useful or serviceable.

The function of a settlement describes all the main activities that occur in it. These can be grouped into a number of headings, such as residential, recreational, retail, government, entertainment and industrial.

Geography refers to the Greek words geo and graphein, meaning earth writing. Geography is about studying and understanding the deliberate and unintentional changes caused by humans transforming the earth’s surface. It comprises the dynamic interaction and real-world relationship and movement between natural (the earth and its living organisms) and non-natural phenomena (societies, human activities, cultural features), and space relative to a spatial dimension.

The use of computer systems to organise, store, analyse, and map information. It merges information in a computer database with spatial coordinates on a digital map.

The organisation of any activity treating the entire globe as one place. It is a complex of related economic, cultural, and political processes that have served to increase the interconnectedness of social life in the contemporary world.

A term used to indicate the shift away from direct government control of the economy and society via hierarchical bureaucracies (government) towards more indirect control via diverse non-governmental organisations.

State of physical, mental and social wellbeing and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.

Hierarchy of settlements and services
A ranking of settlements or shopping centres according to their population size or the number of services they provide. Settlements can be described as being part of the urban hierarchy. Where they stand on the hierarchy depends on a number of factors, the main ones being population, the number of services a settlement has and its sphere of influence. Settlements ordered by their size: hamlets, villages, towns, cities, conurbations.

Integrated Development Planning is an approach to planning that involves the entire municipality and its citizens in finding the best solutions to achieve good long-term development.

Fixed assets in place, such as buildings, dams, and roads. It also includes, factories, schools, railways, networks, landing strips, communication networks, power lines, as well as the human-made assets of a certain city, region or country.

The quality of being fair and reasonable.

All the visible features of an area of land, often considered in terms of their aesthetic appeal. The scenery. What the land looks like.

Contacts and flows of materials and information between interdependent economic agents.

The ability to move between different activity sites.

An urban district, in a strict sense defined as one in which there is an identifiable subculture to which the majority of residents conform.

A time or set of circumstances that makes it possible to do something.

A unique and special location in space where the regular activities of human beings occur and which may furnish the basis of our sense of identity as human beings, as well as of our sense of community.

Attempting to carry out a programme of work, such as building a new town or protecting historic buildings, by following an agreed set of guidelines, design or plan.

Quality of life
The state of social wellbeing of an individual or group, either perceived or as identified by observable indicators. An idea which is difficult to define because it means different things to different people. Things which make for a good quality of life might include high income, good health, good housing, basic home amenities, pleasant surroundings, recreational open space, good local shops, a secure job, etc..

A territory that exhibits a certain uniformity. A two dimensional space on the surface of the Earth. It is a definable space that can be demarcated and mapped.

Anything obtained from the environment to meet human needs and wants. It can also be applied to other species.

Services are things such as retailers (shops), professionals (doctors, lawyers etc), entertainment, government functions and leisure. The theory goes that the larger a settlement is, and therefore the higher it is on the urban hierarchy, the more services and functions it will have.

A quantitative statement of the relative sizes of an object on a map and in reality.

Spatial analysis
Any form of analysis using geographical data.

Spatial location
The location of a phenomenon is the place or point on the Earth’ surface where this phenomenon is situated or occurs. It can either be absolute (latitude and longitude) or relative.

Spatial pattern
Everything that has a location in geographic space inevitably creates or contributes to a
spatial pattern.

In, relating to, or characteristic of a town or city. The built-up, non-rural area in a region.

Restricting or prescribing the use to which parcels of land may be put. Regulating how various parcels of land can be used.