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Humans have always been depicted as being products of their own environment. However, it is also quite clear that humans have a huge effect on their surroundings. The average human will change, or destruct, what is natural so as to fit his/her own lifestyle. An example is how humans cut down trees, pollute the air through factories and other kinds of technology, destroy natural homes of animals in forests etc. This has both positive and negative consequences. Nevertheless, the environment can also shape humans as well. Genes give evolutionary responses of preceding populations to behavioral selection. Flexibility of the environment gives animals a chance to adapt to changes during their lifetime. The environment is superior to culture. In fact, the environment shapes culture. But people have learned to adapt, adjust, or even modify environment. The natural environment may shape human and cultural activities, but the humans owe the power over environment and, therefore, in my opinion, humans shape their own environment. That explains why as much as culture is shaped by the environment, humans in all cultures carry out environmental modification to suit their lifestyle and survival.
Human behavior results in several changes in the environment, for example increase in population, high technological advancements, socio-cultural organization, societal regulations and market adjustments among other changes. People have a tendency of choosing the best environment to live in. That is why they avoid extremely hot or cold areas. However, animals cannot choose their environment. They, therefore, adapt rather than move out of the undesired environment. Good example is sheep. Sheep in the European countries have more fur on their skin to withstand the cold climate than those in the hot Middle East countries. Humans living in Europe and other cold regions, however, do not require mutation to survive. They change the environment. They use heaters to fight cold and cooling systems when it’s hot. This is a case where humans change the environment. Before the European settlers arrived to the western hemisphere, Native Americans owned the land.
The earliest groups were nomadic hunters and gatherers who were pastoralist too. The environment supplied them with the food and resources they needed to survive. When the development of agriculture supplemented hunting and gathering among most Native American groups, they no longer had to move in search of food. Communities settled in small, permanent villages with houses constructed of local materials. As human presence grew and transformed the landscape, it affected the native animal population. The human activity in ancient America showed how humans shape the environment to suit their own lifestyles. The Black Death in England killed nearly half of the entire population. This was quite a harsh environment to live in and the people at that time had to formulate medication to counter the disease. This is another case of changing the environment. Were it not for the human efforts to eradicate the disease (change the environment), the entire population could have been wiped out. Another example is the agricultural irrigation in Mexico and other arid areas in Africa. Humans have made tremendous efforts to shape the environment in order to support their survival.
In conclusion, we could say that humans are shaped by the environment. However, more evidence on the vice-versa exists. The environment we grow up in may determine who we become but as humans we can always change the environment to suit our own lifestyle and survival.