Human beings have the power and skill to shape and influence their environment. People change a region is through their economic and social activities, which are usually dependent on their wealth and power. Accordingly, government policies, trade, and cultures shape and affect an area’s geography through the establishment of various infrastructures or the destruction of structures and organisms.
To gain insight into the relationship between natural formations of different areas and the society, a person can consider the effects of construction of a road. Usually, settlements emerge near roads and other access points such as waterways, airports, and railways. Therefore, they change a region’s geography (Greenhough 231). Similarly, human decisions on where to locate necessary economic and social facilities affect the existing geometry of roads and various infrastructures (Robbins 141). Therefore, human actions on an environment not only change the geography of a region, but they also influence the pre-existing geometry of settlements and affects people’s behavior.
Social forces lead to the emergences of appropriate facilities that in turn result in the development of infrastructures that affect a region’s geography. Typically, most major cities have a stable supply of electricity and water, adequately equipped healthcare centers, and interconnected road networks (Sevtsuk 10). These resources facilitate the construction of towering buildings that house hundreds of people. These developments further change the geography of a region by affecting the daily lives of the inhabitants. In particular, the crowding of people results in the establishment of twenty-four-hour shopping malls. Individuals also change their cultures and demand social facilities that can accommodate large crowds. Inevitably, the construction of these structures changes the geography of a region.
Land privatization, which comes with social progress also affects a region’s geography. When there is social progress in a region, people become more capitalistic and communal lands are sold to private individuals who are usually interested in utilizing this property for their gains (Sevtsuk 13). Accordingly, an area that has privatized land is soon dotted with houses as people build their own homes. Further, the area’s geography is changed by the development infrastructure such as roads, bridges, houses, and communication systems to make it habitable. Therefore, advancements in social perspectives shape the topography of a region due to the encroachments that occur in previously unoccupied lands.
The emergence of needs that come with social progress also inevitable affect a region’s geography. When a community becomes wealthy, people develop a culture of consumerism (Massey 35). Accordingly, most of them purchase vehicles and add various infrastructures in their regions. For example, an increase in the number of cars in an area leads to more land being allocated for parking. Similarly, an increase in mobile phones necessitates the construction of telephone masts. Interestingly, these developments may further complicate how a region’s geography changes (Robbins 162). For example, the creation of dams to generate electricity can increase the risks of environmental disasters such as flooding, which can, in turn, affect the geography of a region. Consequently, changes brought by social progress continuously affect how an area appears.
The financial endowment of people is another factor that determines how people change their geography. In regions where people are wealthy, or that have high economic progress, buildings do not last for a long time because individuals are continually modernizing their structures (Sevtsuk 14). On the contrary, if their incomes are limited, people keep their structures for long using adaptive-reuse and preservation technologies. Noteworthy, although most western European countries and the United States have affluent individuals, they retain their houses for extended periods. Therefore, the prolonged usage of buildings results in the society making minimal changes to its geography.
One way that power shapes geography is through capitalists’ desires to amass wealth. To increase their assets, people invest their incomes in various projects. These activities lead to enormous strain and pressure on the environment because resources are forced to yield more output and absorb wastes (Greenhough 229). For example, mines may be dug out, which can result in the formation of sinkholes. Similarly, forests can be destroyed to pave the way for the development of plantations. Consequently, capitalists’ actions result in the alterations of a region’s geography to facilitate better extraction of raw materials.
Economic and social crises also shape the geography of an area. When there is much accumulation of capital coupled with high unemployment rates, a geographical change provides a way of solving this crisis. Harvey notes that most states use Keynesian principles of construction of major infrastructural projects such as dams, roads, railways, and bridges to create employment and spur economic growth (3). Usually, such policies are only established by people with power over the command of state resources.
The interconnectedness of countries and the shifts in social perspective combined with an increase in financial capital are partly to blame for the changes in the geography of various regions. Currently, it is easy and fast to move finances from one country to another, which, in turn, results in phenomenal economic and social changes in areas where the funds are transferred. In support of this view, Cresswell argues,
Geographers such as David Harvey and Neil Smith have developed very
detailed theoretical accounts of the production of space under capitalism and “uneven
development.” A key point in Marx’s account of capitalism is that it is subject to periodic
crises due to a number of contradictions which are inherent to its workings. In other words, crisis is integral to capitalism. Indeed, most generations experience a crisis of one kind or another when capitalism comes under attack. We are experiencing one as I write. Banks collapsed, financial industries suddenly looked shaky, the United Kingdom is facing cuts of over 20% to public spending. The question is, how does capitalism prove to be so resilient if these crises keep happening? (128-129).
The astronomical economic growth of China in the 21st century has resulted in significant geographical changes in the country and those that trade with it. For example, since 2000, China has absorbed more than half of the world’s cement supplies. As a result, many cities have been built, and some previously small towns such as Shenzhen have become large metropolis with about 10 million people (Harvey 7). Countries that supply China with minerals and raw materials have experienced similar geographical changes. In particular, there has been an emergence of urban centers in these nations due to the accumulation of incomes earned from Chinese exports (Harvey 7). There has also been the formation of mines, construction of roads, and deforestation due to the exploitation of resources.
Most of the geographical changes in the 21st century have been due to excess capital surpluses in the hands of few individuals coupled with enhanced means transferring finances. The desire of the rich to accumulate more wealth has led to over-exploitation of the environment. Increased incomes have also resulted in changes in social behavior through the emergence of a consumerist culture. Additionally, a mismatch between the available capital and employment opportunities in countries have resulted in the implement Keynesian economic principles, which have effectively changed the geography of these nations. Therefore, the society and the people in power, who finance development of various projects and come up with government policies, shape a region’s geography.
Cresswell, Tim. Geographic Thought: A Critical Introduction. Wiley Blackwell, 2013.
Greenhough, Beth. “Tales of an Island-Laboratory: Defining the Field in Geography and Science Studies.” Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, vol. 31, 2016, pp. 224–237.
Harvey, David. “The Right to the City.” Articles by David Harvey, davidharvey.org/articles/. Accessed 5th October 2017.
Massey, Doreen. “Landscape as a Provocation – Reflections on Moving Mountains.” Journal of Material Culture, vol. 11, 2006, pp. 33–48.
Robbins, Paul. Political Ecology: A Critical Introduction. John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, 2012.
Sevtsuk, A. “How We Shape Our Cities, and Then They Shape Us,” MAJA: The Estonian Architecture Review, vol. 2-2012, no. 72, 2012, pp. 10-15.