Unit IV DB CG What energy source do you see as the most viable response to growing energy demands and calls for energy independence in the United States? W

Unit IV DB CG What energy source do you see as the most viable response to growing energy demands and calls for energy independence in the United States? Why do you think it is the most viable? SOC 2010, Cultural Geography 1

Course Learning Outcomes for Unit IV

Upon completion of this unit, students should be able to:

3. Evaluate sustainability as an approach to addressing global social problems.
3.1 Discuss sustainable solutions to reduce carbon emissions.

4. Investigate the relationship between the natural environment and humans.

4.1 Investigate one’s own environmental impact on the earth with a carbon footprint calculator.

Learning Outcomes

Learning Activity


Unit Lesson
Videos in Unit Lesson and Required Unit Resources
Chapter 12
Unit IV Assignment


Unit Lesson
Videos in Unit Lesson and Required Unit Resources
Chapter 12
Unit IV Assignment

Required Unit Resources

Chapter 12: Environmental Challenges

In order to access the following resource, click the link below.

The transcript for this video can be found by clicking the “Transcript” tab to the right of the video in the Films
on Demand database.

Cerebellum Corporation (Producer). (2013). Towards the great extinction (Segment 5 of 7) [Video]. In Beings

and biodiversity. Films on Demand.

Unit Lesson

This unit’s lesson is about the environmental challenges that have developed due to human activity. Before
discussing the concepts presented in Chapter 12 on environmental challenges, let’s review what we learned
in Chapter 1 of the Greiner (2018) textbook about the relationship between humans and the environment.
Chapter 1 talked about human ecology, a subfield of human geography that studies the give and take
relationship between human culture and the environment. Several theories of human ecology were given in
Chapter 1. The most current and most supported theory regarding the human-environment relationship is
Earth as a dynamic, integrated system. In other words, the relationship between humans and the environment
is ever-changing and deeply connected. The drastic modification of the Earth by humans does indeed impact
the environment, which in turn impacts humans. The terms Anthropocene and sustainability were also
introduced in Unit I. Anthropocene is the name given to this time in history where our human activity has
greatly altered the Earth. Sustainability refers to finding a way for humans to exist on Earth that has minimal
impact and even helps reverse some of the damage done.


The Relationship Between Humans
and the Environment


SOC 2010, Cultural Geography 2



Earth’s Natural Resources

Cultural geographers help research and explain how environmental issues are impacting humans, plants,
animals, landscapes, and the overall health of the planet. These environmental issues are complex. They are
impacted by globalization, politics, economics, and cultural practices. One of the biggest environmental
concerns is the depletion of natural resources. Natural resources can be categorized as renewable or
nonrenewable: renewable being resources that humans can pretty easily replenish and non-renewable being
finite in quantity, a resource that cannot be easily replenished (Greiner, 2018). Greiner (2018) attached the
concept of economic depletion to non-renewable resources, stating that when 80% of a non-renewable
resource is used up, it becomes economically more expensive to keep extracting that resource, so there is a
switch to a new one. Non-renewable resources to this point in history typically are never fully depleted. Even if
a resource is renewable, it does not mean there is an endless supply. Renewable resources have what is
called a maximum sustainable yield. This is the point at which overuse makes it hard to replenish the supply
of that natural resource (Greiner, 2018).

If a natural resource is overused and not easily replenished, it can cause environmental degradation. This
refers to the harming of one or more of the physical aspects of the Earth. Examples of this would be
deforestation. Other forms of environmental degradation occur due to pollution or human activity damaging
biodiversity. Watch this short video clip on the causes of global deforestation and the impact. The transcript
for this video can be found by clicking the “Transcript” tab to the right of the video in the Films on Demand

Cerebellum Corporation (Producer). (2013). Deforestation (Segment 3 of 5) [Video]. In Forests. Films on


Nonrenewable Energy Sources: Coal, Gas, Oil, and Nuclear

Humans power the world with mainly nonrenewable energy sources (fossil fuels and uranium). Fossil
fuels are oil, coal, and natural gas. The chart in our textbook on page 330 shows that almost 90% of
energy consumed comes from fossil fuels (Greiner, 2018). The use and regulation of fossil fuels is a
controversial topic.

Beside fossil fuels, the other nonrenewable energy source is nuclear energy, which is powered with uranium.
Greiner (2018) notes that only about four percent of the world’s power comes from nuclear energy and that
nuclear power plants are found mainly in industrialized areas. This is because nuclear power plants are costly
and require specialized knowledge to operate and a special support infrastructure (Greiner, 2018). Besides
being costly to start up and requiring specialized knowledge to produce, other disadvantages to nuclear
energy are the risk of a nuclear accident leaking radiation and the radioactive waste created by using nuclear
power. There are a few advantages to nuclear energy. Only a small amount of a natural resource (uranium) is
needed to generate a lot of power. Also, nuclear energy is a pretty clean energy source and exudes low levels
of pollutants and carbon monoxide emissions (Greiner, 2018).


SOC 2010, Cultural Geography 3



Renewable Energy Sources

There are several types of renewable (alternative) energy sources. They include biomass, hydropower, solar,
wind, and geothermal. See the chart below describing some of the facts, advantages, and disadvantages of
these renewable resources. What renewable energy sources do you think are most viable in the United
States and globally?

Alternative Energy Facts Advantages Disadvantages

Biomass is energy
derived from plant
matter or animal waste.
Wood, corn stalks, and
cow manure are a few

Biomass is the most
used alternative
energy worldwide.
About 3 billion people
(mainly in developing
nations) use biomass
for cooking.

There are an abundant
amount of biomass
sources available
worldwide. In most
cases, it is easy and
cost effective to use
(Greiner, 2018).

Biomass depletes local
forest reserves, and it
can be labor intensive.
Biomass can also cause
indoor pollution when
used for cooking or

Hydropower is the
conversion of energy
from flowing water into
electric power.

Globally, less than a
third of hydropower
resources have been

Hydropower is a clean,
nonpolluting energy. It
can be utilized in rural
and developing regions
with water sources.

Dams used as part of
the hydropower plant
can negatively impact
local ecosystems
(Greiner, 2018).

Solar energy is passive
and active harnessing
of energy from the sun.

Solar energy
adoption has been
more rapid in the past
few years mainly due
to use of photovoltaic
(PV) cells (Greiner,

Solar is becoming
cheaper to use, and
solar technology is
improving, which makes
it more user-friendly

Technological and
economical barriers are
still a negative for solar.
Another negative is that
it is not as effective in
areas that do not get a
lot of natural sunlight.

Wind energy converts
air motion to energy
through use of wind

This form of energy is
minimally used as a
form of power.

Wind energy is a clean
energy that does not
emit pollutants. It is cost
effective and

A few negatives include
that a windy location is
needed, possible sight
pollution, possible sound
pollution, and it may not
be the best use of
certain land areas.

What do you think are the
positives and negatives surrounding
fossil fuels and nuclear energy?

How do we
balance the benefits and risks?

SOC 2010, Cultural Geography 4



Geothermal is heat
generated from
pressure and elements
in the Earth’s core.

This energy is
created when deep
wells are dug to
access heated
groundwater. It can
be used as hot water
or converted to steam
as a heat source.

Geothermal is good for
places with geological
formations that make it
easier to access.
Geothermal units can be
installed in homes and
businesses. These units
draw heat from below
the frost line.

Geothermal is limited to
areas where it is easy
and affordable to tap
into the Earth. Drilling is
needed to access
geothermal heat source
(Greiner, 2018).

Common Property Resources and Environmental Degradation

Greiner (2018) defines common property resources as “natural resources, equipment, or facilities that are
shared by a well-defined community of users” (p. 328). These can include things like common forests,
pastures, and fishing grounds. An environmental issue arising from this is that some or many overuse or harm
the common property, which in return has a devastating impact on the whole local community. It is vital that
communities draw on both their traditional knowledge and modern sustainability techniques to care for their
common property.

Global Environmental Change

How has human activity impacted the Earth? Human activity has increased the greenhouse gases in the
atmosphere, which in turn makes the globe warmer and warmer. Carbon dioxide (CO2 ) gases from burning
fossil fuels, methane from animal waste, and nitrous oxide from fertilizers are the biggest contributors to the
increase in greenhouse gases. Greiner (2018) defines global warming as “a rise in global temperatures
primarily attributed to human activities that have increased concentrations of greenhouse gases in the
atmosphere” (p. 344). People often think of the impact of fossil fuels, but, many times, they do not think about
the big impact of methane gas. Thirty percent of the production of methane gas comes from livestock. While
global warming is a debated topic, most scientists agree that our human activity is adding to global warming.
The year-over-year increase in global temperatures has caused rising sea levels, melting of snow and ice
caps, and has altered ecosystems (Greiner, 2018). Other forms of human activity like deforestation and
overusing land impact the climate and the ecosystem. There has been a global effort to reduce greenhouse
gas emissions and to reduce deforestation and land degradation. “In a landmark development in 2015,
representatives from 195 countries adopted the Paris Agreement, an international plan to reduce greenhouse
gas emissions in order to minimize the impact of climate change” (Greiner, 2018 p. 348). The amount of CO2
emitted by human activity is often referred to as a carbon footprint (Greiner, 2018). Clean energy, sustainable
agriculture, and other sustainable living and business practices can be used to reduce CO2 emissions. Watch
this short video segment on how environmental sustainability has economic benefit. The segment includes
the example of Toyota embracing sustainable practices. The transcript for this video can be found by clicking
the “Transcript” tab to the right of the video in the Films on Demand database.

Video Education America (Producer). (2009). Sustainability: Good for business (Segment 1 of 7) [Video]. In

Environmental sustainability in business: Case studies. Films on Demand.

Think about your role, the nation’s role, and the need of international cooperation to address the growing
demands being placed on the Earth’s resources. What do you think? Is there a need to implement more
sustainable measures locally, nationally, and globally? What measures are needed? How should they
be implemented?


Greiner, A. L. (2018). Visualizing human geography: At home in a diverse world (3rd ed.). Wiley.


SOC 2010, Cultural Geography 5



Suggested Unit Resources

In order to access the following resources, click the links below.

The transcript for each video can be found by clicking the “Transcript” tab to the right of the video in the Films
on Demand database.

This documentary discusses air pollution problems around the globe and how to address them.

ARTE France (Producer). (2015). Environmental threat (Segment 1 of 17) [Video]. In Unbreathable: Cities on

the verge of asphyxiation. Films on Demand.

The following video segment presents information about how businesses are reducing their carbon footprint
and how they are using innovate techniques and ideas to be more sustainable.

Video Education America (Producer). (2009). Reduction of carbon footprint (Segment 3 of 7) [Video]. In

Environmental sustainability in business: Case studies. Films on Demand.

Learning Activities (Nongraded)

Nongraded Learning Activities are provided to aid students in their course of study. You do not have to submit
them. If you have questions, contact your instructor for further guidance and information.

1. Answer the Concept Check questions for Chapter 12 on pages 329, 338, 342, and 348.
2. Complete the Chapter 12 Self-Test on pages 351–352 of the textbook. (Answers to the Self-Test for

Chapter 12 are on page 359).



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