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Human-Environmental Interactions

Human Environmental Interactions can be

defined as interactions between the human
social system and (the rest of) the ecosystem.
Human social systems and ecosystems are
complex adaptive systems (Marten !""#).
$omplex because ecosystems and human
social systems have many parts and many
connections between these parts. %daptive
because they have feedbac& structures that promote survival in a constantly chan'in'
Human social system
In order to analyse Human Environmental
Interactions it is important to be aware of
specific characteristics of the human social
system. (he type of society stron'ly
influences peoples attitude towards nature
their behaviour and therefore theirimpact on
ecosystems. Important characteristics of
human social systems are population si)e
social or'ani)ation values technolo'y wealth
education &nowled'e and many more. Especially values and &nowled'e stron'ly
influence peoples view of life and conse*uently define the way people act. (he choice
of possible actions is then limited by the available technolo'y.
+eople modify the environment for their
purposes and obtain benefits (Ecosystem
,ervices) from it. (hese Ecosystem
Services are essential forhuman well-
being and include for example the provision
of resources li&e water timber food ener'y
information land for farmin' and many more.
-bviously by usin' these resources people
affect the environment in a lot of ways.
.urthermore people often reor'ani)e existin'
ecosystems to achieve new ones that seem to be more effective in servin' their needs.
Coevolution and Coadaptation
(he terms coevolution and coadaptation describe the never/endin' process of mutual
adjustment and chan'e between human social systems and the environment. +eoples
actions have conse*uences on the environment. 0ut also the environment influences
human activities. Human social systems have to adapt to their specific environment.
1atural phenomena li&e storms earth*ua&es force people to react. (hese natural
phenomena can either be directly or not primarily caused by human actions and a'ain
influence human behaviour as people have to respond to a new situation.
(he 2rivers/+ressures/,tate/Impact/3esponse (2+,I3) model was ori'inally
developed by the European Environmental %'ency (EE%) and is used to assess and
mana'e environmental problems. Many national and European institutions adopted
this conceptual framewor&. It identifies the various causal chains of lin!s between
human activities and environmental de'radation. (he model distin'uishes several
cate'ories of indicators in order to explain how the state of the environment is chan'ed
due to human activities. Human activities increase or miti'ate pressure on the
environment. (he drivin' forces which initiate human activities are mainly socio/
economic and socio/cultural forces.
(he followin' 'raphic explains the 2+,I3 process4
Source: http://www.uni-!n"ironmental#nterac
Hunter-gatherer socetes
Food acquisition and social structure
Hunter-gatherer societies obtain their food directly from natural ecosystems, by hunting
wild animals and collecting wild plants (Richerson et al. 199!. "his re#uires intimate,
detailed $nowledge of plant and animal species in the local en%ironment. & hunter-gatherer
lifestyle can support a relati%ely small number of people in most landscapes, so population
densities of hunter-gatherer societies tend to be low
Beliefs and attitudes toward nature and wildlife
"he direct dependence of hunter gathers on natural ecosystems for their food, and the
intimate $nowledge of the natural world that this re#uires, is generally reflected in their
beliefs and attitudes toward nature and wildlife. 'uch peoples commonly %iew themsel%es
as inseparable from the natural ecosystems and wildlife around them ((ottleib 199, )ilber
*+++!. &nimals are often regarded to be another $ind of people, or as spirit beings, who
can be appealed to for help and protection. Rituals are commonly performed to show
respect, gratitude and re%erence for the animal-spirits, with the hope of promoting
continued hunting success. ,ther rituals to influence natural e%ents, such as the coming of
rain, are also not uncommon in hunter-gatherer cultures. "hese literal beliefs in magic,
ritual and fusion of humans with the natural world are often termed animism
Influences on natural ecosystems and wildlife
,%erall, hunter-gatherer societies are generally regarded as the best of all types of
societies at coe-isting with natural wildlife populations, because human population
densities tend to be low and because this way of getting food in%ol%es the least
manipulation of natural ecosystems.
Late In!ustra"
Food acquisition and social structure
.ate industrial societies such as ours are mar$ed by highly de%eloped technology and by
the widespread use of computers and other information technologies. &d%anced
technologies are applied to manipulate the en%ironment to increase benefits.
&nother $ey characteristic of our current late industrial society is the abundant use of
electricity and other forms of energy, as well as high resource consumption.
Beliefs and attitudes toward nature and wildlife
/odern society uses its technology and a capitalist mar$et economy to create an
en%ironment for the maintenance of human populations that is largely buffered from the
natural world, or at least apparently so. )e feed oursel%es and obtain other resources by
participation in the economy.
Influences on natural ecosystems and wildlife
"he technological ability of late industrial societies to alter natural ecosystems and impact
wildlife populations is intense. .ate industrial human society is now a global force on par
with other natural processes. "here is essentially no place on the 0arth1s surface where
pesticides and other pollutants cannot be found. ,%er 2+3 of the terrestrial net primary
producti%ity of the earth is used by humans, and *43 of the total earth1s primary
producti%ity. 5epletion of the stratospheric o6one layer by the use of chlorofluorocarbons
and related chemicals threatened to e-pose the entire earth to cancer-causing ultra%iolet
radiation until international regulations successfully inter%ened (/asters 199!. Howe%er,
perhaps the most disconcerting of all the global en%ironmental impacts of industrial society
is global climate change."ation/moyle/ch&-'.asp