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Chapter 1 - Key Issue 4

Why Are Some Human Actions Not Sustainable?

Dennis Cabrera

on 26 May 2017

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Transcript of Chapter 1 - Key Issue 4

The physical environment may limit some human actions, but people have the ability to adjust to their environment

Modern geographers reject determinism in favor of possibilism


Human geographers study the relationships that people have with their physical environment. They look at how people change their landscape and for what purposes.

Cultural Ecology

The scientific study of ecosystems

Ecologists study relationships between living organisms and the 3 abiotic spheres






Four Systems: 3 Abiotic and 1 Biotic

Humans consume natural resources for the purposes of survival and as a result of their wants

Consumer choices can support or undermine sustainability

Society Pillar

Conservation: sustainable use of Earth’s resources to meet needs such as food, medicine, and recreation

Preservation: the maintenance of resources in their present condition

Environment Pillar

The use of Earth’s resources in ways that ensure resource availability in the future


Humans often deplete nonrenewable resources, such as petroleum, natural gas, and coal

Humans destroy otherwise renewable resources pollution of air, water, and soil

Two Major Resource Issues

Renewable resources: produced in nature more rapidly than consumed

Non-renewable resources: produced in nature more slowly than it is consumed by humans

Sustainability and Resources

Encompasses social science (human geography)

Encompasses natural science (physical geography)

Geographers tend to be generalists not specialists

Uniqueness of Geography

The Netherlands is a model of environmental engineering to encourage sustainability

The Everglades, in South Florida, is an example of environmental engineering that has damaged vital ecosystems

Modifying the Environment

Physical environment is not always the most important factor

Other factors include: economic systems, political systems, and/or cultural preferences

Possibilism and Sustainability

The belief that the physical environment causes social development

An example of an environmental determinist viewpoint: climate is a major determinant of civilization

Environmental Determinism

Living organisms in the biosphere interact with each of three abiotic spheres

Breathe air: atmosphere

Drink water: hydrosphere

Eat food: lithosphere

Interactions in the Biosphere

According to WWF calculations, humans are already using more land than is biologically productive

Others argue that there is no absolute limit to Earth’s resources because our definition of resource changes over time

Sustainability’s Critics

Natural resources acquire value through exchange in the marketplace

Supply and demand determine value

Some goods do not reflect their actual environmental cost

The Economy Pillar

The Environment Pillar

The Economy Pillar

The Society Pillar

UN - Three Pillars of Sustainability

Why Are Some Human Actions Not Sustainable?

Chapter 1 Key Issue 4

Alexander Von Humboldt
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