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 Home » Tutorials » Geography » Human Geography » Human Activities

Human Activities



Human beings are engaged in various kinds of economic activities that pertain to the production, exchange or distribution and consumption of goods and services. With the evolution of human society, the nature of economic activities has changed and has become more and more complex.

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Humans, ever since their appearance on the earth, have depended on the physical environment for their survival and development. Even today, we depend on the nature for many of our material and aesthetic needs. Without sunshine, rocks, minerals, soil, water, vegetation and animals, our very existence will be impossible.

The early humans led a simple, though arduous life. Their needs were limited. They moved from place to place in search of food and water. They hunted animals and gathered fruits, nuts, roots, stems and leaves of edible plants to satisfy their hunger. The subsistence of people based on hunting of animals and gathering of wild plant foods and fishing without domestication of plants and animals is known as foraging.

Use of fire for cooking and heating, domestication of animals, cultivation of crops and living in the permanent villages triggered off agricultural revolution. All these developments did not occur simultaneously, nor did they occur in isolation. They were interrelated, each acting as a cause as well as the effect of the rest.

When did the agricultural revolution take place? It is difficult to answer this question, though it may be stated categorically that it took place at different times in various regions of the world. According to the available archaeological evidences, agricultural revolution was experienced in the river valleys, where ancient civilisations flourished. Agricultural revolution changed the lives of people enormously as they had more time for other functions. Artisanal activities in support of agriculture as well as to meet other basic needs and aesthetic tastes grew. Trade in agricultural and artisan products led to the opening of transport routes. Villages increased in size to form small and then large towns. Some 5,000 years ago, the Nile Delta in Egypt, the river valleys of the Euphrates and the Tigris in Mesopotamia and the Indus in India witnessed the blossoming of well developed cities and towns. But the base of all these cities was agriculture and related activities.

After the elapse of several millennium, a revolutionary change in human civilisation took place in Europe during the eighteenth century. At that time, Europe was agriculturally less developed due to unfavourable climatic conditions. The industrial revolution, which started with the invention of steam engine, however, changed the course of development. While the agricultural revolution was triggered off by a better and more organised way of using the biological products of nature, the industrial revolution relied on the use of energy stored in nature in the form of coal, and later petroleum. It helped people avoid the drudgery of manual labour and produce non-agricultural commodities on a mass scale. It also had its impact on education, health, transport and trade.

Industrial revolution had its adverse effects too. The European countries used its power to improve the life of their people. They had limited natural resources and hence, limited scope for development. They ventured out of their own countries to colonise people in other continents. The overseas colonies not only gave them ample natural resources but also vast market to sell their industrial goods. It is reflected through the transport routes that developed in these colonies during that period. Development of port cities and their linkages with the hinterland in several colonies explain this design. Consequently, the situation reversed. Europe which was underdeveloped became developed, and other continents specially Asia which were more developed became less developed.

By the middle of the twentieth century, signs of fatigue became clearly visible in the industrial apparatus of the world. The two world wars and several localised conflicts aroused the human conscience against unbridled industrialisation in producing arms and ammunitions. Environmental crises forced the people to think of an alternative sustainable development model. Growing poverty in the three continents of Asia, Africa and South America in the midst of increasing income in the industrial world, shook the faith of people in industrialisation as the panacea for all ills. Before the thinking on a human model of development could take a concrete shape, the industrial world faced a challenge from within. The role of information increased and by 1980s, the production and transmission of knowledge became a major preoccupation in the west. A third major change in human civilisation, popularly known as information revolution, became a reality by the turn of the twentieth century. The Industrial Era still lingers on; but the signs of its early demise are clear and obvious.

Information revolution has potentials of sweeping the whole world developed as well as developing for obvious reasons that human potentials are not as unevenly distributed as the natural resources. Moreover, the use of information technology in various sectors of our life and living world has opened up new and greater opportunities for development and if handled judiciously, without enlarging the gulf between the rich and the poor.

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