Environment can be defined as the surroundings or conditions where a person, animal or plant exists or lives. The team environment comes from the French word environ which means living things and natural resources such as water, soil and materials.
Man’s Physical Environment
Physical environment can be defined as things surround us. In other words, it refers to the surroundings within which human beings live. This consists of dry lands, forests, and grasslands, rivers, lakes and deserts, among others.
Without the physical environment man cannot survive. It is the condition of the physical environments that shows whether people can live in a particular place or not. It also shows the type of occupation people are involved in for survival. For instance, in Nigeria the people living in the riverine or coastal areas are involve in fishing, salt making and boat making as their occupation. Those in the northern region in Nigeria rear cattle because of the grassland areas while those living in the forest area take to growing of tree cops, such as rubber, oil palm, cocoa; lumbering of trees and hunting.
Types of Physical Environment
Man’s physical environment is divided into two: Natural environment and Man-made or Artificial environment.
ü Natural environment: Consists of those things made by God or nature for the comfort and survival of mankind.
ü Man-Made or Artificial Environment
Refers to those things in our environment that are made by human beings. In other words, human beings use their skills and technology to create such things from natural resources so that their needs can be satisfied.
For instance, man uses wool derived from sheep to make socks, sweaters and cardigans to keep himself warm during cold seasons. He takes clay from the natural environment to make vases, pots and mugs.
In a place that is swampy, man drains water in order to build houses and other things for his comfort. Also, in riverine areas where water cannot be easily drained, man constructs houses on rivers. Bridges are also constructed on river to make transportation easy while roads are constructed on the land.
Dams are also constructed by man to ensure the availability of water supply throughout the year; an example of a dam is Kainji dam. During the dry season, irrigation is used by man to water crops. There are tunnels and underground transportation to make life comfortable for mankind.
The houses we build, our cars and markets as well as products of our factories are man-made features of the physical environment.
Features of The Physical Environment
The physical environment has many features which we will now discuss. The main features of the physical environments are:
ü The earth’s crust (lithosphere)
ü Water bodies (hydrosphere)
ü Gaseous layer (atmosphere)
We will now explain these features one after the other.
The Earth’s Crust (Lithosphere)
This is the solid outer part of the earth. The land, rocks, soil and minerals all from the lithosphere. It is the part that all of us stand on each day, the part where our schools, homes, shopping malls, and religious buildings are built upon. All the rocks on earth, from the mountains, hills, valleys and plains together with the remaining land where people live make up the lithosphere.
Let us now take a look at the components of the rocks, the soil, lowlands and highlands.
Rocks are the solid materials forming part of the surface of the earth the other similar planets. They could be seen underlying the soil or oceans. Iyt can also be regarded as a large piece of rock that has become detached from a cliff, or mountain or boulder.
There are three types of rocks:
ü Igneous rocks
These are rocks formed when molten lava (magma) cools and turns to solid rock. Igneous rock is derived from the Latin word ignis meaning fire. They are glass-like meaning form. Examples include granite, diorite, and gabbro.
ü Sedimentary rock
A sedimentary rock is formed when small pieces broken off from existing rocks are cemented
together in layers. Examples are sandstone, limestone and gypsum.
ü Metamorphic Rocks
The word comes from the Greek words Meta which means to change form. This is the rock that has changed form through heat, pressure, or other natural agencies. Examples include marble, quartzite and gneiss.
Soil is the upper most layer of the earth in which plants grow. It can also be regarded as black or dark brown material consisting of a mixture of organic remains, clay rock, air and minerals.
Soil is one of the world’s most useful resources. Without soil plants cannot grow.
Lowlands are areas of the soil/earth below the sea level. Among these are rivers Niger and river Benue and their tributaries. Forming a kind of horseshoe around the north-central Plateau, the Sokoto plains and the Chad Basins are the north-west and north-eastern parts in Nigeria. In the south are the central lowlands of the west and of the south-east as well as the coastal margins and swamps which lie adjacent to the Atlantic Ocean.
Highlands are parts of the earth which are raised above the general ground level. They are over 600 meters above sea level. Hills, rocks, mountains and plateau are part of highlands. Some highlands in Nigeria are Zuma rock and Aso rock in Abuja, Udi hills in Enugu state, Idanre hills I Ondo state, jos plateau in plateau state, Olumo rock in Abeokuta, Gotel mountains, Mambila mountains and Mambila plateau in Taraba state, and Obudu hills in Cross river state.
The water bodies (hydrosphere)
This include all the waters on the earth’s surface, such as oceans rivers, lakes and seas, and sometimes including water over the earth surface, such as clouds.
These are natural bodies of water flowing in a channel to the sea or to a lake or joining together. Rivers in Nigeria include Niger, Benue, Kaduna, Ogun, Osun, cross river and Sokoto.
Uses of river
- For irrigation on farm crops during drought or shortage of water for plants.
- For domestic and industrial uses.
- For fishing, this is the main occupation of the people in the riverine areas.
- For navigation, i.e. transportation purposes using boats and ship.
- For construction of dams to generate electricity, e.g. Kainji.
- For research purposes, by scientists.
- For tourism purposes.
- Source of mineral resources like salt.
These are water bodies surrounded by land. There are both natural and man-made lakes. In Nigeria we have Kainji, Chad, Oguta, Agulu and Nike lakes.
Oceans are very great bodies of water that cover most of the earth’s surfaces. Oceans from three quarters of the earth’s surface while land covers the rest. The key oceans in the world include ocean, Indian Ocean, Pacific Ocean, Atlantic Ocean, and Arctic Ocean. Pacific Ocean is the largest, while the Arctic Ocean is the smallest.
Over 71% of the earth is covered by water and 97% of that water is found in Oceans.
The Gaseous layer (atmosphere)
This is the layer of gaseous surrounding the earth. The atmosphere consists of 78% nitrogen, 21% oxygen, 1% water vapor, carbon dioxide, and very small proportion of argon and other gases. The atmosphere is an important part of what makes the earth livable. For instance, the outer layers of the atmosphere protect the earth from the harmful radiation of the sun. Humans breathe in oxygen, without which we will die, while nitrogen helps in the growth of various organisms especially animals.
We will now look at some aspect of the atmosphere.
Weather and Climate
The weather refers to the situation of the atmosphere for a short period of time and in a small geographical area. The Climate, however, refers to the atmosphere situation for many years and in a large area, e.g. a whole country. We will now explain each of them in detail.
Weather is the atmosphere condition of a place at a particular time. A close observation of the atmosphere for a number of days tells us what we see in the air in a day is different from that of other days. The atmosphere is what we see in the sky. By looking through our classrooms windows we shall see that there are continuous changes in the sky every day. Those changes are changes in the weather.
These changes are observed in the following elements which may also be referred to as elements of weather: temperature, humidity, cloud, rainfall, air pressure, wind and sunshine.
It is the degree of hotness or coldness observed in different levels of the earth’s atmosphere. Some places are hotter than others. For instance, Maiduguri is always hotter than Jos, while Jos is colder than Maiduguri. The average daily temperature in Nigeria is 80c or 26.7c. Temperature can be measured by thermometers.
This refers to the amount of water vapor in the air. The more water that is in the air, the higher we say the humidity is. The is called hygrometer which consists of wet and dry bulb barometers.
This refers to what the sky looks like. There would be bright or dark clouds, low or high clouds as also thick and heavy clouds. They are tiny droplets of water vapor which are too small to fall as rain or snow.
Rain is liquid water in the form of droplets that fall from the sky. Rainfall is not evenly distributed and as a result, some places have rainfall more than others. The amount of rainfall affects the climate of an area. The amount of rainfall is measured with an instrument called or known as rain gauge, and it is measured in millimeters or inches.
5. Air pressure
It is also called atmosphere pressure. It can be defined as the force we experience when the wind blows. Although air is invisible, it still has weight and takes up space. Air pressure varies from place to place and from time to time. Air pressure is measured with an instrument called barometer. Barometers measure in inches of mercury or millibars. Hot air is lighter than cold air; therefore, areas of hot air are areas of low pressure and areas of cold air areas of high pressure.
This is the visible natural movement of the air, when blowing from a particular direction. Wind can be seen as air in motion. Wind occurs as a result of differences in pressure, that is, wind blows from an area of high pressure to an area of low pressure. Wind has both direction and speed. The instrument used to measure wind direction is the wind vane while speed is measured by anemometer.
This is direct light of the sun over a large area and not covered by the cloud. The amount of energy received from the sun at a particular place is known as insolation. The duration of sunshine is measured by an instrument called sunshine recorder or Campbell strokes sunshine recorder.
Climate is the average weather conditions prevailing in an area over a long period of time. Understanding the climate of an area helps us know what types of weather we can expect. Climate change refers to general change in the climate including temperature, humidity, and wind, among others.
Climate variation from one area to another does not influence plant’s growth only but influences human beings in a number of ways, for example shelter, food production, occupation, beliefs and dressing.
People living in cold wet regions in Nigeria prefer thick clothes, food rich in carbohydrates and starch. They live in houses of mud, blocks and corrugated iron- sheets, practice farming and plant tree crops. People in hot regions of Nigeria enjoy food, clothing and occupation better suited for their climatic conditions. Those people living in coastal or riverine areas practice fishing, boat- making and net-making and depend on food and materials adaptable to that environment.
Vegetation means the kinds of plants which can be found in an area. It varies from the southern part of the country to the northern part according to how the climatic conditions vary. This is shown mainly in the heavy rainfall in the south resulting in the thick forests and the sparse (little) rainfall in the north, giving us only grasslands and few trees.
There are, therefore, different types of vegetation at the savannah, forest and the desert belts (areas). The diagram below shows the different vegetational belts in Nigeria.
Natural resources, their location and uses
The environment has many resources which we process (use) to meet various needs. Here are some of these resources, their location and their uses.
Influence of the physical environment on man
Man’s physical environment influences him in many ways, some of which are the following:
The physical environment determines man’s occupation. For example, in the riverine areas like Oron, where there are many rivers in the environment, most of the people there practice fishing, boat-making and net-making as their traditional occupation. However, in the northern parts of Nigeria like in Kano and Katsina, the people there are mostly herdsmen because they have abundant grassland in their environment to feed their animals.
2. Crop Cultivation
Man’s physical environment determines the crops that are cultivated by him. He plants the type of crops that are favored by his soil and the climatic condition of his region. For example, in the thick forest trees like Ogun, and Imo states, crops that require heavy amount of rainfall to survive are grown. They include palm trees, cocoa, rubber, cassava, and timber-yielding trees like Iroko, Obeche, and mahogany. However, in the far northern part of Nigeria like Sokoto, where there is little amount of rainfall, plants like onion, pepper, tomato, carrot and groundnut are cultivated.
3. Belief system
The physical environment also determines some people’s traditional beliefs. It is a fact that before Islam and Christianity came to Nigeria, people who lived in riverine areas worshipped water gods and goddesses, while those who lived in rocky environment worshipped rocks gods. Many worship natural things available their physical environment.
4. Choice of dressing
What makes it possible for people living in the temperature (very cold) region to survive such harsh and cold weather is the use of efficient clothing. Many of them wear gloves, heavy woolen clothing, and muffles to keep away the cold. On the contrary, people in Nigeria and some other parts of Africa wear clothes made from light fabrics to adapt to the warm weather. During the rainy season people wear raincoats, rain boots and make use of umbrellas to shade them from the rain. In essence, man has influenced by nature to wear clothes according to the climatic and weather conditions of his area.
The type of political arrangements that man adopts depends on the environment he finds himself. If a man lives in a city, he will be ruled by central government representatives, but if he resides in a village, he has to be under the leadership of traditional rulers.
6. Choice of settlement
Physical environment, especially land, determines man’s choice of settlement and building. If he lives in the city, he will use the materials available in that area in building his house such as blocks, bricks and modern roofing and materials. However, if he resides in the village, he will live in a hut made with mud and thatched roof.
7. Food choice
Foods that are commonly available and easily grown within a specific region often become their regular meals. For instance, foods such as millet, beef and tomato are common in the northern part of Nigeria. These, therefore, form part of the food they eat daily.
8. Growth of towns
Mineral resources have helped some towns in Nigeria to grow. For example, the Igbeti marble has raised the status of the town, the presence of limestone in Ewekoro in Ogun state and Yandev in Benue state has turned those communities into big towns.
Influence of man on the physical environment
Human activity plays a vital role in the environment. Man influences his environment both positively and negatively.
A. Positive influence
Men influence his environment in the following positive manner:
i. Exploitation of mineral resources
Mineral resources are exploited by man as a source of livelihood and to make his life worth living. For instance, he drills crude oil and processes it for making creams, fuel for gas for cooking. He also makes jewelry out of gold and diamonds.
ii. Generation of energy
Man generates solar electricity from sunshine. He also builds dams across rivers to generate hydroelectric power and irrigate farms during drought, e.g. Kainji dam in Kwara state and shiroro dam in Niger state.
iii. Construction of roads and bridges
Man builds roads and railway lines on the ground as well as bridges on rivers, and other facilities for his own advantage, for easy communication and transportation.
Man clears the land and uproots trees for building his dwelling place. For instance, early men that lived on the mountains find protection there during enemy attack. They built their houses on the hills where they can see and attack intruders or predators. Man, also constructs buildings for hospitals, schools and industries which all go a long way in making life comfortable for him. He could also build houses on swampy land by reclaiming it through sand-filling like in Maroko, and Lekki peninsula in Lagos.
v. Exploitation of forest resources
The major product exploited in the rainforest is timber which man uses for hardwood, various kinds of furniture, boat-building, plywood, firewood, and the charcoal used for cooking, for preservation and for warming households particularly in the rural areas.
Man uses fertilizer to enrich the soil and enhance the production of food for man’s consumption.
Man may not think that he has a negative influence on the environment, but human activities kill animals, bring about changes in temperature and destruction of habitats. The negative effects of man’s activities are listed below:
i. Soil contamination
Farmers use pesticides and insecticides to kill weeds, insects and rodents. They increase food production but, at the same time, can kill other animals. They also contaminate food for human consumption.
The cutting of forest trees for timber firewood and charcoal has allowed increased erosion and flooding, and the silting of rivers which are the only source of water supply for domestic use for so many communities.
iii. Removal of waste
The uncontrolled disposal of refuge and untreated sewage waste create health problems in our cities. It also leads to an increase in the spread of diseases as a result of contamination of the sources of water.
iv. Atmospheric changes
Climate change and global warming result from human activities. This includes the addition of greenhouse gases mostly due to the burning and use of coal or petrol. This makes the environment to be hotter than is good for our health.
v. Human population
Increasing human population is putting great pressure on many of the limited natural resources and so depletes those resources which cannot be renewed. By these natural resources are rendered inadequate for the needs of people in some areas.
The heavy environmental pollution is also due to human activities. Examples include pollution of land, air, fresh water, creeks and rivers, seas, oceans. Nowadays, vehicles made by humans that emit fumes that are destructives to atmosphere.
Environmental problems and their effects
Environmental problems in every human society are unavoidable simply because they are both man-made and natural. Man-made environmental problems are created by man either consciously or unconsciously, as he goes about his daily activities. These environmental problems arise as a result of the misuse of environmental resources.
Causes and effect of environmental problems
We will consider the three major types
i. Land pollution
This refers to contamination of land with toxic or poisonous waste materials. This comes mostly from industrial waste.
ii. Air pollution
This is defined as contamination of the air, such that it becomes dangerous to people’s health. Apart from the domestic source, two other sources of air pollution are industries and transport.
iii. Water pollution
- This refers to contamination of streams, ponds, rivers and seas it happens when dirty things are dumped by man into the water bodies.
This occurs when water fills up dry lands normally meant for humans. It may be caused by too much rainfall in an area or poor drainage.
This is the washing away of the top soil by flowing water, usually consistent rainfall. In prolonged cases, erosion may create deep gullies on the road or land. Erosion also causes the soil to be less fertile because the nutrients have been washed away.
This problem arises due to lack of rainfall for a long period. Crops that have been planted will dry up and not yield any harvest. So, there would be shortage of food. It may lead to famine.
This problem arises when the desert (a sandy, dry land) expands or extends into land that was previously fertile with crops and trees.
This problem has to do with the clearing or destruction of existing vegetation in a forest area, leaving the ground bare and exposed to all sorts of weather problems like flooding, drought, very strong winds, and destruction of bush animals.
This has to do with massive vibration in the earth’ surface which often results in a lot of damage to buildings, gas and water pipes, communication lines, roadways and even lives and properties.
This involves the eruption of molten magma (very hot destructive matter) from volcanoes. The magma is so hot that it kills every living thing that comes 50 yards within its area of activity. Wherever it occurs, Sulphur gas is sent into the air which is harmful to man and animal.
This is the swirling of dust particles by wind in a very violent manner. This phenomenon usually brings about huge loss of lives and property.
It is a very strong wind that moves fast in a cycle. It is dangerous to lives and property.
This is a storm that has very strong fast wind. This storm moves over a large area and can cause great damage to lives and property.
Note: earthquake, volcanic eruption, tornadoes, hurricane and cyclones are not man-made problems. They are natural environmental problems.
It is also referred to as greenhouse effect. This is a situation where the atmosphere becomes warm due to a rise in temperature as a result of the accumulation of harmful gases in the atmosphere. As the earth gets hotter, disasters like droughts, flood and hurricane become more frequent. These harmful gases include carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, methane and dioxide as the most abundant one contributing to global warming.
All over the world the sea levels are rising. Ocean surge involves a sudden and forceful movement of water from the ocean to the land. Nigeria has recorded an increased ocean surge, especially along the bar beach in Lagos. It has destroyed some marine life and threatened the lives of many people too. When ocean surge occurs, people have to leave their homes and large areas of farmland will be ruined of flood.
Ozone layer is a layer of gas in the upper atmosphere, which protects human beings and other living things from the harmful radiation rays of the sun. Ozone is considered to be a pollutant since it causes a number of respiratory problems. There was a discovery that the chemicals like chlorofluorocarbons (CFCS) in aerosol sprays, refrigeration, insulation and air conditioning was contributing to the accumulation of ozone-depleting substances in the atmosphere.
Protecting the ozone layer is essential as ultraviolent radiation from the sun can cause a variety of health problems in humans, including skin cancer and contaract. It can also affect the global climate.
These are series of water waves caused by the sudden displacement of a huge amount of water, usually
from an ocean or a large lake. Tsunami is Japanese word meaning harbor wave. They are caused by
earthquake or volcanic eruptions under the sea.
It can cause massive amounts of damage to human lives and property.
Solutions to environmental problem
The following are some of the solutions to environmental problem:
i. Proper refuse disposal
Proper disposal of household industrial and agricultural refuse should encourage avoiding the evils of pollution and global warming.
ii. Curbing deforestation
Trees should be planted to replace felled ones, so as to curb deforestation, erosion and desert encroachment. These measures will also introduce humus back into the soil. People should likewise be stopped from felling trees anyhow.
iii. Creation of forest reserves
Forest reserves should be created in areas of wide expanse of land. This will help secure rainforest for the long term benefits they can provide to man-kind. Harvesting of timber may be allowed under government permit and special concession to people in surrounding communities.
iv. Regulation of industrial activities
Industrial activities in urban Centre’s should be regulated to reduce air and noise pollution.
v. Enforcement of sanitary law
There should be strict enforcement of sanitary laws. People who break they laws should be severely punished to deter others from committing similar acts.
vi. Farming technology
Appropriate technology for farming and fish farming should be introduced with appropriate measures to avoid misuse of fertilizers for farming and chemicals for fishing.
vii. Public enlightenment
There should be greater efforts at enlightenment of the people by all levels of government. People must be informed about the importance of clean environment, and the effects of poor sanitary habits on their health
People and their social environment
What is social environment?
Human beings are social beings or social animal that interact with their physical as well as their social environment refers. The social environment refers to the immediate social setting in which people live. It involves the people and relationships that surround us.
Social relationship is the interaction among people in the society. There is a need for people in a society to interact with one another. This interaction maybe in the form of interpersonal relationships in social gatherings like parties, clubs and other social organizations. Members of this group usually have strong feelings of belonging together. They share common emotional experiences and aspirations.
How man influences his social environment
1. Group living
Man is not island; neither doe he lives in isolation of other people. Human beings live together in a society where they share certain things in common. Such things include common beliefs, language, values, aspirations and religion. The society has, therefore, been programmed to recognize different social groups as what man should belong to.
2. Creating of laws
At every level of society, there is a set of rules or laws which guide the conduct of people. These rules, laws and norms dictate how the society should be run and how people should relate.
3. Production of goods and services
Man, in bid to satisfy his needs, produces goods and services. For instance, Nigeria exports her cars and some other services to make life more comfortable for its citizens. These products have been set as ideal things people should use and whoever fails to do so is out of place.
How man is influenced by his social environment
On the other hand, man is also being influenced by his social environment in the following ways:
1. Man obeys laws
He obeys existing laws and customs of his community. The law was created by people living in groups to guide the proper conduct of their behavior and thus it affects every individual in the society. Laws limit what one can do and cannot do because man has to obey them. For example, there are communities where people are not admitted after midnight each day. The life style of individuals in such communities has been influenced by such law or tradition.
2. Man’s religious activities
Man conforms to the modes of worship in his society. Through there is freedom of worship, most of the religion man subscribes to were already there before he was born. That is why most Nigerians practice Christianity or Islam and most Indians Hinduism or Buddhism.
Man enjoys what exists in his environment, such as the type of food and drinks that are produced in his environment. He also adapts himself to they dress and manner of dressing in his society, as well as the manner of greeting.
4. Man’s language
Every society has a language of communication. Therefore, man speaks the language that is already in use by the people of his society.
5. Psychological and educational impact
It is clear that our environment has a profound impact on our thinking and even influences how we choose our problems. This explains why an Ekiti indigene would aspire that his brother becomes a professor and why the nuclear family of Dafinone could produce seven chattered accountants, a phenomenon listed in the Guinness book of records.
- What are the components of physical features of man’s environment?
- State some solutions to our environmental problems?
- How can we influence our social environment?