The Environment's Effect on Human Activities in North America

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  • 0:01 Environment
  • 1:29 Natural Resources
  • 2:37 Farming
  • 3:12 Housing
  • 4:02 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jessica Whittemore

Jessica has taught junior high history and college seminar courses. She has a master's degree in education.

This lesson discusses the role the environment plays on the people of North America and their activities. It specifically highlights tourism, housing, farming, and natural resources.


My brother lives in Florida and wears shorts in January, while I live in Pennsylvania and spend November through March in hats and gloves. My dear friend in Colorado is a phenomenal skier but can't swim to save her life, while my Costa Rican friend can surf with the best of them but has never built a snowman.

Why all of these differences in attire and activity? If you asked geographers, I bet they'd give you a one word answer: environment! Today we'll check out this answer by discussing the environment's effect on the activities of North Americans, specifically related to natural resources, farming, and housing.

For starters, environment is often defined as the surroundings or conditions in which a person lives. It's things like the weather, the land formations, and the air that surrounds you and me.

Without a doubt, environment affects activity. It's the reason I wear long underwear when I go out to shovel snow, but it's also the reason my Florida-living brother hasn't worn gloves in years! Although we both live in North America, there are some real differences in our environments.

To explain, North America is made up of Canada, the United States, Mexico, the countries of Central America, and many bordering islands. It's the third largest continent in the world. With all this space comes many different environments, which in turn, cause many different human activities.

Natural Resources

A big part of these activities depend on one of the most important parts of any environment: its natural resources. Natural resources are materials that occur in nature and can be used for economic gain. Things like soil, minerals, forest, even sunlight are all natural resources.

For instance, the Caribbean Islands of North America have a very warm environment and some very delightful natural resources. Unlike the snow-covered mountains of Colorado and Vermont that bring in lots of skiers, the Caribbean attracts sunbathers and scuba divers! These island nations use natural resources like beaches, beautiful vegetation, and almost year-round sunshine to create a booming tourism industry.

In stark contrast, the cold environment of Alaska doesn't create quite as much of a buzz. Working within their environment and capitalizing on their natural resources, many Alaskans have done quite well with activities like deep-sea fishing, drilling, and the collection of natural gas. Along the same lines, the chillier environment of Canada offers its people the largest reservoir of crude oil in the world.


The differing environments of North America also cause some varying farming practices. For instance, the tropical zones, which are areas near the equator, have soils that produce fruits like oranges, bananas, and sugar cane. Adding to these fruits, the environments of these areas are perfect for growing coffee!

In contrast, the moderate environment of the Northeastern U.S. produces hardy fruits like crisp apples and juicy peaches. Along with apples and peaches, the flat plains and temperate environment of the U.S. Corn Belt, a region in the Midwestern U.S., also supplies lots of corn.

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