Human activity can be defined as the actions of people, and can be categorised into settlement, agriculture, industry, communication and tourism. Human activity can be dependant on the development of a location, and this can be directly linked to the physical environment. Each physical environment can provide opportunities and risks to humans and human activity, and dictates the level and type of activity present. To explain why this is, I intend to discuss three different physical environments, including tectonics, coastal and fluvial; the way in which they affect human activity in all categories.
Tectonic locations have a large influence over in which human activity is situated. One main feature of tectonics is volcanic activity. Volcanoes occur in various areas all over the world, but the nature of the volcanic activity dictates the way it can be utilised or to the extent to which it is a hazard. If the volcano is on a small scale, hardly if ever erupting then it is likely there will be a lot of human activity present. Most human activity around volcanoes drops into the agricultural category. The fertile soils are very useful, mainly in LEDCs were agriculture is the main way of life. This provides the most important source of income in less developed countries therefore the people tolerate the risks involved. In fact they hardly have a choice, compared to people in MEDCs who can move away from the risks involved. A fine example is Java, which has a high density population purely based on the rice cultivation.
Minerals and nutrients from volcanoes can provide trading goods, a necessity for industry. Diamonds, copper and gold can all be found and can create a good economy. Geothermal energy is a prime way to utilise a potential hazard. This is mainly done in MEDCs as it is large scale, and uses expensive technology. Iceland is a great example, where there is a high concentration of volcanoes. Apart from hydropower, Iceland’s major source of energy is created from geothermal heat, acquired in the 5 geothermal power plants. Dormant volcanoes can be an attractive landscape, many people visit volcanoes from around the world. The tourism can be highly beneficial to LEDCs as it can provide many jobs for the unemployed, especially where skilled workers are scarce and people need basic labour to survive. All of these factors influence people to move into the area. Settlements build up but tend to be situated close to the agricultural areas.
However much tectonic areas provide beneficial factors, there are always negative factors involved. With the volcanic activity, MEDCs can suffer greatly, and considering they don’t benefit that much, the expenses are great. The infrastructure can be damaged; tourism is lost as a lot of the land around the volcano can be destroyed, and many lives and jobs can be lost. This is obviously when the volcanic eruption is on a large scale, many MEDCs tend to situate themselves away form the danger, they have precautions so therefore they can prepare. LEDCs do suffer from more damage; however the rate of recovery is rather quick. The agriculture is severely damaged due to the lava ruining the crops however in the long term this can be a benefit. Communication and settlements are both affected dependant on where they are located. There are 4 stages in which a country can take when dealing with a natural disaster.
You have acceptance, retreat, and precaution and prevention. Acceptance is mainly used by the less developed countries and prevention is used by the more economically developed countries, basically due to the financial and technological reasons. Volcanic activity is not only the problems at arise in tectonic locations, earthquakes also occur. Earthquakes themselves provide no benefits to humans at all, they are packed full of negative factors. Saying this, there are usually always large population numbers situated around earthquake locations. Other factors tend to make the areas desirable to live in, such as coastal areas. An example which combines both volcanic and earthquake activity would be Mt. Pinatubo in the Philippines, 1991. There was an initial volcanic eruption which created a lot of damage. The evacuation zone was 40km, and no wonder as 300 deaths were counted, 8000 houses were destroyed, 73000 damaged, 800000 livestock were killed and there were also damage to the healthcare due to the spread of disease. The countries GDP fell by 3% in one year.
When looking at coastal areas the human activity differs greatly in use than that of tectonic areas. Coastal areas have a much more beneficial use, especially in MEDCs. Industry is a main land use, being near to the sea provides major communication links and trading points. A country can really benefit from this, and an MEDC utilises it to gain cheap but necessary materials from the LEDCs (who in turn also benefit). The fishing industry in less economically developed countries is quite successful.
The land is also fertile, much like the tectonic areas. This is great for agriculture and linked with the ports can provide a steady income for farmers. A coastal area is beautiful scenery, and never fails to attract tourism. Many people settle in the area to gain from the tourism prospects or to simply retire and gain from the scenery itself. Blackpool is a major tourism attraction in Britain, consisting of the beach, amusement arcades, hotels, caravan parks and even a theme park with one of the biggest rides in the UK. Many people have moved to this location to gain from the job prospects and the social life. In Bangladesh, an LEDC, they have the Corals of St Martin’s Island, a very popular resort for divers and snorkelers. In comparison with the tectonic area, much more human activity is based in coastal areas. The benefits are similar in some aspects but greater on the coast. MEDCs also benefit a lot, were on tectonics the LEDCs are the main gainers. All aspects that define human activity strive in these locations.
Coastal areas suffer from little problems that have a major affect on human activity. The problems that do occur consist of sea level rising, erosion, transportation and deposition. They are long term and rarely create damage to the surrounding area. Unlike tectonic areas, these problems can be quite easily maintained by coastal management which is why settlements build up to a rather large scale.
The last physical environment being discussed is the fluvial environment. This is the area surrounding a river, a site very popular with farmers due to its agricultural potential. Whether it’s an MEDC or an LEDC, the soils are fertile much like tectonic and coastal areas. This means farmers can benefit by growing crops much easier and more effectively. Industries do not really benefit directly from river areas however they tend to use rivers for a means of waste disposal. On top for the fertile soils the river is a main source of energy production, hydroelectric power is a renewable source of energy and seems to be very popular with MEDCs who are able to utilise the rivers potential. There is not really any attraction for tourism yet some exceptions are present such as the Pacuare River in Costa Rica which is a popular location for white water rafting. In both MEDCs and LEDCs there is a large amount of settlement on the river floodplains, the cheap flat land makes it ideal, an example being the banks of the Queanbeyan River in Australia.
Rivers are useful however human activity is slowly declining the capability of them. Industries are destroying the water supplying, polluting it, which in turn pollutes the surrounding agricultural land. The environment is also being polluted. A river has one main hazard, and that is flooding. In an MEDC flooding is a major concern as it occurs regularly and can destroy the settlements on the floodplain. People’s lives are lost and water supplies can be contaminated. In an LEDC the risk of a flood is less, in fact it can be beneficial, take the constant flooding on the Brahmaputra River Delta or the Ganges delta; they can grow crops such as rice very well, creating a stable food and economical supply. The lack of settlement on surrounding areas results in few casualties and little damage at all.
After looking at the three main physical environments I can see that the human activity present depends greatly on whether the location is an MEDC or an LEDC. In all three environments the supply of fertile soils for agricultural purposes and the attraction for industry and tourism have major effect on an LEDC and an MEDC. These factors create a good economy and a stable food source so it is a necessity however much the country is developed. When it comes to an LEDC the more risky and dangerous areas such as tectonics seem to have a lot more human activity. The dangers involved simply don’t match up to the economy and need for stable food; the affects are also less compared to an MEDC, where the dangers are more risky and easily avoided. A fluvial environment creates a good agricultural source but lacks in all other aspects for human activity to thrives, which is mainly why farmers are situated here. Settlements are greatly attracted to those that oppose threat and provide day to day amenities. The ideal location for human activity in MEDCs is definitely on the coast. For LEDCs it has to tectonic areas.