3.2 Challenges in the human environment

This unit is concerned with human processes, systems and outcomes and how these change both spatially and temporally. They are studied in a variety of places and at a range of scales and must include places in various states of development, such as higher income countries (HICs), lower income countries (LICs) and newly emerging economies (NEEs).

The aims of this unit are to develop an understanding of the factors that produce a diverse variety of human environments; the dynamic nature of these environments that change over time and place; the need for sustainable management; and the areas of current and future challenge and opportunity for these environments.

3.2.1 Section A: Urban issues and challenges

In this section, students are required to study all the themes.

Key idea

Specification content

A growing percentage of the world’s population lives in urban areas.

The global pattern of urban change.

Urban trends in different parts of the world including HICs and LICs.

Factors affecting the rate of urbanisation – migration (push–pull theory), natural increase.

The emergence of megacities.

Urban growth creates opportunities and challenges for cities in LICs and NEEs.

A case study of a major city in an LIC or NEE to illustrate:

  • the location and importance of the city, regionally, nationally and internationally
  • causes of growth: natural increase and migration
  • how urban growth has created opportunities:
    • social: access to services – health and education; access to resources – water supply, energy
    • economic: how urban industrial areas can be a stimulus for economic development
  • how urban growth has created challenges:
    • managing urban growth – slums, squatter settlements
    • providing clean water, sanitation systems and energy
    • providing access to services – health and education
    • reducing unemployment and crime
    • managing environmental issues – waste disposal, air and water pollution, traffic congestion.

An example of how urban planning is improving the quality of life for the urban poor.

Urban change in cities in the UK leads to a variety of social, economic and environmental opportunities and challenges.

Overview of the distribution of population and the major cities in the UK.

A case study of a major city in the UK to illustrate:

  • the location and importance of the city in the UK and the wider world
  • impacts of national and international migration on the growth and character of the city
  • how urban change has created opportunities:
    • social and economic: cultural mix, recreation and entertainment, employment, integrated transport systems
    • environmental: urban greening
  • how urban change has created challenges:
    • social and economic: urban deprivation, inequalities in housing, education, health and employment
    • environmental: dereliction, building on brownfield and greenfield sites, waste disposal
    • the impact of urban sprawl on the rural–urban fringe, and the growth of commuter settlements.

An example of an urban regeneration project to show:

  • reasons why the area needed regeneration
  • the main features of the project.

Urban sustainability requires management of resources and transport.

Features of sustainable urban living:

  • water and energy conservation
  • waste recycling
  • creating green space.

How urban transport strategies are used to reduce traffic congestion.

3.2.2 Section B: The changing economic world

In this section, students are required to study all the themes.

Key idea

Specification content

There are global variations in economic development and quality of life.

Different ways of classifying parts of the world according to their level of economic development and quality of life.

Different economic and social measures of development: gross national income (GNI) per head, birth and death rates, infant mortality, life expectancy, people per doctor, literacy rates, access to safe water, Human Development Index (HDI).

Limitations of economic and social measures.

Link between stages of the Demographic Transition Model and the level of development.

Causes of uneven development: physical, economic and historical.

Consequences of uneven development: disparities in wealth and health, international migration.

Various strategies exist for reducing the global development gap.

An overview of the strategies used to reduce the development gap: investment, industrial development and tourism, aid, using intermediate technology, fairtrade, debt relief, microfinance loans.

An example of how the growth of tourism in an LIC or NEE helps to reduce the development gap.

Some LICs and NEEs are experiencing rapid economic development which leads to significant social, environmental and cultural change.

A case study of one LIC or NEE to illustrate:

  • the location and importance of the country, regionally and globally
  • the wider political, social, cultural and environmental context within which the country is placed
  • the changing industrial structure. The balance between different sectors of the economy. How manufacturing industry can stimulate economic development
  • the role of transnational corporations (TNCs) in relation to industrial development. Advantages and disadvantages of TNC(s) to the host country
  • the changing political and trading relationships with the wider world
  • international aid: types of aid, impacts of aid on the receiving country
  • the environmental impacts of economic development
  • the effects of economic development on quality of life for the population.

Major changes in the economy of the UK have affected, and will continue to affect, employment patterns and regional growth.

Economic futures in the UK:

  • causes of economic change: de-industrialisation and decline of traditional industrial base, globalisation and government policies
  • moving towards a post-industrial economy: development of information technology, service industries, finance, research, science and business parks
  • impacts of industry on the physical environment. An example of how modern industrial development can be more environmentally sustainable
  • social and economic changes in the rural landscape in one area of population growth and one area of population decline
  • improvements and new developments in road and rail infrastructure, port and airport capacity
  • the north–south divide. Strategies used in an attempt to resolve regional differences
  • the place of the UK in the wider world. Links through trade, culture, transport, and electronic communication. Economic and political links: the European Union (EU) and Commonwealth.

3.2.3 Section C: The challenge of resource management

In this section, students are required to study Resource management and one from Food or Water or Energy.

3.2.3.1 Resource management

Key idea

Specification content

Food, water and energy are fundamental to human development.

The significance of food, water and energy to economic and social well-being.

An overview of global inequalities in the supply and consumption of resources.

The changing demand and provision of resources in the UK create opportunities and challenges.

An overview of resources in relation to the UK.

Food:
  • the growing demand for high-value food exports from low income countries and all-year demand for seasonal food and organic produce
  • larger carbon footprints due to the increasing number of ‘food miles’ travelled, and moves towards local sourcing of food
  • the trend towards agribusiness.
Water:
  • the changing demand for water
  • water quality and pollution management
  • matching supply and demand – areas of deficit and surplus
  • the need for transfer to maintain supplies.
Energy:
  • the changing energy mix – reliance on fossil fuels, growing significance of renewables
  • reduced domestic supplies of coal, gas and oil
  • economic and environmental issues associated with exploitation of energy sources.

3.2.3.2 Food

Key idea

Specification content

Demand for food resources is rising globally but supply can be insecure, which may lead to conflict.

Areas of surplus (security) and deficit (insecurity):

  • global patterns of calorie intake and food supply
  • reasons for increasing food consumption: economic development, rising population
  • factors affecting food supply: climate, technology, pests and disease, water stress, conflict, poverty.

Impacts of food insecurity – famine, undernutrition, soil erosion, rising prices, social unrest.

Different strategies can be used to increase food supply.

Overview of strategies to increase food supply:

  • irrigation, aeroponics and hydroponics, the new green revolution and use of biotechnology, appropriate technology
  • an example of a large scale agricultural development to show how it has both advantages and disadvantages.

Moving towards a sustainable resource future:

  • the potential for sustainable food supplies: organic farming, permaculture, urban farming initiatives, fish and meat from sustainable sources, seasonal food consumption, reduced waste and losses
  • an example of a local scheme in an LIC or NEE to increase sustainable supplies of food.

3.2.3.3 Water

Key idea

Specification content

Demand for water resources is rising globally but supply can be insecure, which may lead to conflict.

Areas of surplus (security) and deficit (insecurity):

  • global patterns of water surplus and deficit
  • reasons for increasing water consumption: economic development, rising population
  • factors affecting water availability: climate, geology, pollution of supply, over-abstraction, limited infrastructure, poverty.

Impacts of water insecurity – waterborne disease and water pollution, food production, industrial output, potential for conflict where demand exceeds supply.

Different strategies can be used to increase water supply.

Overview of strategies to increase water supply:

  • diverting supplies and increasing storage, dams and reservoirs, water transfers and desalination
  • an example of a large scale water transfer scheme to show how its development has both advantages and disadvantages.

Moving towards a sustainable resource future:

  • water conservation, groundwater management, recycling, ‘grey’ water
  • an example of a local scheme in an LIC or NEE to increase sustainable supplies of water.

3.2.3.4 Energy

Key idea

Specification content

Demand for energy resources is rising globally but supply can be insecure, which may lead to conflict.

Areas of surplus (security) and deficit (insecurity):

  • global distribution of energy consumption and supply
  • reasons for increasing energy consumption: economic development, rising population, technology
  • factors affecting energy supply: physical factors, cost of exploitation and production, technology and political factors.

Impacts of energy insecurity – exploration of difficult and environmentally sensitive areas, economic and environmental costs, food production, industrial output, potential for conflict where demand exceeds supply.

Different strategies can be used to increase energy supply.

Overview of strategies to increase energy supply:

  • renewable (biomass, wind, hydro, tidal, geothermal, wave and solar) and non-renewable (fossil fuels and nuclear power) sources of energy
  • an example to show how the extraction of a fossil fuel has both advantages and disadvantages.

Moving towards a sustainable resource future:

  • individual energy use and carbon footprints. Energy conservation: designing homes, workplaces and transport for sustainability, demand reduction, use of technology to increase efficiency in the use of fossil fuels
  • an example of a local renewable energy scheme in an LIC or NEE to provide sustainable supplies of energy.