TOPIC 3 Earth Systems and Natural Resources

If we want to understand the human experience on earth, then we must understand that the earth is a physical system with a dynamic surface that is continuously shaped by subterranean, surface, and atmospheric processes. Tectonic (interior) processes and the forces of erosion create earth’s crust and its landforms upon which human societies live. The earth is also enveloped in an atmosphere of air, water vapor, and other gases. This atmosphere interacts dynamically with the earth’s crust and oceans and with the sun’s solar heat to create the three main components of weather: temperature, moisture, and wind patterns. Over time, observations of weather patterns provide us with an idea of the climate of a particular place on earth. Climate directly impacts human populations and the earth’s biodiversity, which adapt to its temperature and moisture characteristics, and sometimes face catastrophic weather events such as storms and droughts.

Natural resources are characteristics and substances of the earth that are utilized by human societies across the world depending upon their technologies and cultural attitudes. They range from ubiquitous features, such as the water and soil, to more rare substances, such as oil and uranium. The necessary human exploitation of the earth – and the resulting impact upon various kinds of natural resources – is one of the greatest challenges facing societies today.

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The most relevant components of Geography for Life in this topic are Places and Regions (Standard 4), Physical Systems (Standards 7 and 8), Environment and Society (Standards 14, 15 and 16), and The Uses of Geography (Standards 17 and 18).

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