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5 Ways Geography Influences The Way People Live & Their Livelihood?


How does geography influence the way people live? Take a seat, close your eyes and for a moment imagine yourself living in Antarctica.

Freezing cold temperatures, whale meat as a delicacy and snowmobiles are the obvious way to get around. Is this a sharp contrast to how you live now? 

When we picture this scenario in our minds, it isn’t hard to answer the question, “how does geography influence the way people live?”, because we can see it.

But what are the other ways geography impacts how people live their lives? In this article, we outline five ways in which geography impacts how you live. Let’s dive right in! 

1. It impacts the resources you have access to (and their quality)

how does geography influence the way people live

Though we live in an age where an apple can be flown thousands of miles to reach a consumer in another country, where we live still has an impact on the resources we have access to, and especially the quality of them. 

In South East Asia, for example, Jasmine rice grows extremely well and has done for years due to the predictable hot climate and monsoon season that comes every year. This is a resource that would be impossible to grow in the UK. 

Of course, a hundred years ago, it would have been impossible to find anyone in England chowing down on a lovely bowl of freshly harvested Jasmine rice from Cambodia. Still, in this day and age, with the help of importing and exporting processes, aeroplanes, and huge chain supermarkets, many of us have this privilege.

But the quality of the rice, as with all other produce, diminishes the further away it gets from its origin. Oftentimes, commercially grown produce is sprayed with pesticides and preservatives to ensure it grows rapidly and lasts the long journey from one side of the world to the other, as well as to make sure it doesn’t go bad on the shelf.

Food tastes much better the closer it is to its roots, and often long journeys and harmful chemicals tend to not only zap out the incredible taste of fresh produce but also the nutrients, too. 

2. It determines how you (and goods) travel

how does geography influence the way people live

If you live in a landlocked country, you’re far more likely to travel by train or motor vehicle than you would by boat, whereas if you lived on an island the opposite would be true.

Likewise, if you live in a rural part of a country with minimal access to public transport, you’re likely to travel on foot, by bicycle or by some other motor vehicle. 

Where you live not only impacts how people move but how resources move too, both internally and internationally.

Centuries ago, countries bordering the Nile river were able to send and receive goods to different countries by floating them downstream. In a similar way today, countries that have their own ports are able to bring in and send out goods as well as people, for trade or for tourism.

This impacts the riches of a country. Countries with natural resources and those with access to other ways to export often have higher GDP and economical growth.

3. It influences your culture

how does geography influence the way people live

If you live in a hot climate compared to a cold climate, chances are that your natural surroundings are vastly different to a country with the opposite year-round weather. Nature has long since been a source of inspiration for poets, writers, songwriters and artists throughout history, and the products of their creativity often become a lasting part of our culture. 

Even in religion, these locational markers influence the stories told in the world’s most dominant religious texts. 

Take Buddhist teachings, for example, many stories reference the lotus flower, predominantly found in Asia, as a symbol of growth and challenge, whereas in the Bible, donkeys (previously used often for transporting goods in the middle east), as well as dust (desert sand) are often used as metaphors in biblical teachings. 

If you take a look at traditional dance, you can also see these natural influences. In Khmer Ballet, hand gestures mimic the growth of a lotus flower whereas in traditional English Morris dancing, sticks, bells and handkerchiefs are used, items that were historically used to ward off evil spirits (influenced by Catholic beliefs). 

Want to learn more about the world? Our Earth Sciences programme explores our earth from a variety of scientific lenses. Our earth sciences online course and earth sciences summer school in one of our many exciting locations.

4. It might put you at risk or keep you safe

how does geography influence the way people live

Depending on where you live, you may be aware of risks to your livelihood that a person in another country wouldn’t ever have to think of. Think tsunamis in Thailand, earthquakes in Japan, avalanches in Switzerland, floods in the Netherlands, and droughts in the Middle East. 

If you live in a country prone to natural disasters, this would likely influence the education you receive at school, for example, you might be accustomed to having a tsunami awareness talk built into your curriculum. It may also influence your surroundings if safety measures are needed to prevent disasters, such as tsunami evacuation points or national alarms from warning citizens of an oncoming earthquake.

The risk of natural disasters also impacts development and creativity. An example of this is the new building technology that has been developed in Japan to create buildings that won’t crumble during an earthquake. 

These threats pose challenges to architects and creatives who always need to ask themselves: how does geography impact the way people live?

5. It can often determine your history

how does geography influence the way people live

If you live in a country that has its natural resources such as oils and diamonds, chances are other countries want those resources, too. Often, this can be the difference between living in a peaceful nation and surviving a war. 

You may live in a country that already has had a turbulent history because of where it’s located on the map, such as Jerusalem where the people have long suffered an internal war due to the quest to claim the land people believe to be Jesus’s birthplace. Another example of this is France’s pursuit to colonize Cambodia in the 1860s due to the access to the Mekong River viewed as a gateway to China.

Every country has its own history of war and how it has survived, sometimes through the development of allies and sometimes through growing its own independence. Allies are often built based on where a country sits on the globe.

Many countries are still recovering from wars since past, something that still affects the way people live today.


So how does geography influence the way people live?

Geography has an impact on how people live from the resources we have access to, to how we move through the world. Our history, our risks and our comfort are all determined by where we sit on the map. 


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