Guide The Europeans: A Geography of People, Culture, and Environment

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Industrial activities have contributed to the degradation of the environment and the demise of a number of species. Different regions of Europe are blessed with fresh water supplies, good soils, and various minerals. Chief among the mineral deposits in Europe is iron ore, which can be found in Sweden, France, and Ukraine. Other minerals exist in smaller quantities, including copper, lead, bauxite, manganese, nickel, gold, silver, potash, clay, gypsum, dolomite, and salt.

The ready access to vast areas of the Atlantic Ocean and a number of major seas, lakes, and rivers has elevated fish to an important natural resource in Europe. Mirroring the situation around the world, European fishing activity increased as population increased. Europeans are becoming increasingly aware of the effects of overfishing.

Stocks of Atlantic cod and Atlantic mackerel are considered to be at risk because of the twin threats of overfishing and changes in the environment that are affecting natural mortality and slowing spawning. Stocks of eastern North Atlantic bluefin tuna are also attracting attention for the same reason.

Other species of fish in the North Atlantic and the Baltic Sea are considered overexploited.

Changes to the fishery are a major concern for strictly ecological reasons and also because fish comprise such a significant portion of the European economy. The countries of Europe, with the formation of the EU, began to work toward shared research and policies with respect to the fishery.

The Common Fisheries Policy was drafted and includes strict and extensive rules and guidelines for fishing, particularly of cod. The rules are so strict and thus so controversial that Norway and Iceland decided to opt out of the EU rather than agree to abide by these rules. The effect of these rules is incompletely known, but the cod stocks in the North Sea do not seem to be rebounding as quickly or substantially as expected. Forests exist primarily in the less populous Nordic and Baltic countries and in Central Europe. About half the forest land in Europe is privately owned.

Interestingly, there are several different forms of private ownership, including large family holdings, holdings by forest industries, and small to very small holdings by thousands of individuals.

Most of the forested land is managed, and about 85 percent of the forests produce exploitable resources. The percentage of forested land in Europe is rebounding because of an extensive tree-planting initiative since Pollution has caused great harm to the forests of Poland, the Czech Republic, and eastern Germany, and acid rain When nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide mix with water molecules in the atmosphere to create acidic precipitation.

Soil resources are of critical importance. Soil is necessary for growing food, supporting livestock, supporting other natural resources such as the forests, and supplying groundwater. Soil resources are only just beginning to receive attention in Europe.


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Problems to be addressed include loss of topsoil from development and building activities, older-style agricultural practices, mining, contamination from industries and other sources, and acidification as a result of acid rain. Coal, now substantially depleted, is abundant in several areas of Great Britain, including some offshore areas, as well as in the industrial centers of Germany and in Ukraine. The burning of coal has produced high levels of air pollution. Acid rain has been a major concern in the northern countries, where wind currents carry pollutants north into Scandinavia from the industrial regions of Central Europe.

In Scandinavia, acid rain has diminished fish populations in many of the lakes. Forest health is also being challenged, which is diminishing the economic conditions of regions that depend on forests for their economic survival. Petroleum and natural gas deposits exist underneath the North Sea and were first tapped in the s. Five European countries have rights to these resources, including Norway, the United Kingdom, Denmark, the Netherlands, and Germany, with Norway holding the bulk of the rights.

The governments of these five nations agree that, although tapped only decades ago, half the North Sea oil reserves have been consumed. These areas still have a number of active extraction operations. Hydroelectric power has been important in Europe as well. With both coal and oil resources largely depleted and the desire to avoid the environmental damage caused by dams, the European Energy Commission is devoting substantial energy and resources to encouraging use of renewable resources such as wind and solar energy.

In March , European leaders agreed that a binding target of 20 percent of all energy must be from alternative sources by Also, 10 percent of the transportation fuels used by EU members must be sustainable biofuels. Historical events in global development have favored this realm because of its physical geography and cultural factors. In southern Europe, the Greeks provided ideas, philosophy, and organization. Greek thinkers promoted the concept of democracy. The Romans carried the concept of empire to new levels. The Roman Empire introduced a common infrastructure to Europe.

The Romans connected their world by building roads, bridges, aqueducts, and port facilities. They understood how to rule an empire. By taking advantage of the best opportunities of each region they controlled, they encouraged the best and most-skilled artisans to focus on what they did best.

This created the specialization of goods and a market economy. No longer did everyone have to make everything for themselves. They could sell in the market what they produced and purchase products made by others, which would be of higher quality than what they could make at home. Regions that specialized in certain goods due to local resources or specialty skills could transport those goods to markets long distances away. The Vikings of Scandinavia Norway, Sweden, and Denmark; — CE are often inaccurately referred to as rogue bands of armed warriors who pillaged and plundered northern Europe.

Though they were fierce warriors in battle, they were actually farmers, skilled craftsmen, and active traders. They developed trade routes throughout the north. They were the early developers of the northern world from Russia to Iceland and even to North America. They developed colonies in Iceland, Greenland, and what is present-day Canada. Their longships were renowned for versatility and provided an advantage on the sea.

The Vikings made advances deep into Europe—all the way to Constantinople.

The Europeans, Second Edition: A Geography of People, Culture, and Environment

History indicates that the Byzantine Empire employed Scandinavian Vikings as mercenaries. In a general sense, the regions to the west of Scandinavia—such as Iceland, Scotland, Ireland, and Greenland—were targeted by the Norwegian Vikings. Southern regions such as England and France were more often destinations of the Danish Vikings. Russia and areas of Eastern Europe were standard trading grounds for the Swedish Vikings, though the different Viking groups could occasionally be found in the same destinations.

The present-day Scandinavian countries were established after the main Viking period. The Vikings connected northern Europe with trade during the Dark Ages.

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The Renaissance of the late fifteenth century prompted activity in Europe that changed the world. In , Columbus and his three ships crossed the Atlantic to land on the shores of the Americas. This event symbolized the beginning of the era of European colonialism The creation of colonies outside the home country, usually for the exploitation of natural resources or for economic gain. Colonialism was fueled by the economic concept of mercantilism Economic principle that outlines the drive for governments to gain wealth through the control of trade, which encouraged the expansion of colonial activity in Europe during the colonial era.

Colonialism included the development of colonies outside the home country, usually for the expansion of imperial power and the exploitation of material gain. The building of larger ships and an understanding of sea travel allowed an exchange of new goods and ideas between continents. North and South America were opened up to the European explorers for colonial expansion.

European colonialism brought newfound wealth from the colonies back to Europe. All the regions of the world outside Europe were targeted for colonialism.

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The few powerful countries along the Atlantic coast of Europe began the drive to dominate their world. If you live in the Western Hemisphere, consider the language you speak and the borders of your country: both were most likely products of European colonialism. Most of the current political geographic boundaries were drawn up or shaped through colonial conflict or agreement. The post-Renaissance era introduced a number of agricultural changes that impacted European food production.

Before this time, most agricultural methods were primitive and labor intensive, but new technologies were introduced that greatly enhanced agricultural production. Plows, seeders, and harvesting technologies were introduced, and land reform and land ownership transitioned to adapt to the changing times. These innovations supported the expanding port cities that created urban markets for agricultural surpluses.