Friday 13 May 2022

Chapter 1


Chapter 1



In strict sense, environment means “that which surrounds”. In the broadest sense this includes energy and matter capable of influencing man and other organisms. But in practical terms, it is the

medium or specific surroundings, which interact with the organisms for their adaptation. This is called “natural environment”. Environment can also be defined as the sun total of conditions that surround aman at a given point in space and time. In prehistoric days, by and large, man lived in harmony with

nature, but presently man is exploiting nature and the environment is changing steadily with the pas-sage of time. As such, environmental conditions of people living in hills are different from those living in plains and desests. Thus environment changes with space and is not same at all the places.



The components of environment are divided into two categories:


Abiotic components: These are non-living components. These include climatic components such as energy, rainfall, solar radiation, temperature, wind and water currents; chemical com-

ponents like oxygen, carbon dioxide, acidity, salinity and inorganic nutrients of plants, and physical components such as soil, air,light and geomagnetism. Though non-living, yet all these components are essential for the life of man and other organisms.


Biotic components: These are the living components of the environment, which include micro-organisms (the decomposers), plants (the producers) and the animals including man (the consumers).


The interaction of abiotic and biotic components results in a stable self perpetuating system. In this interaction, energy plays a ctucial role. The main source of energy is the sun. Some of this solar energy is utilized by green plants through photosynthesis and coversion of this energy takes place into chemical energy in the form of food. The animals directly or indirectly obtain their energy from the plants. When the animals die, their bodies are decomposed by the micro-organisms, in this way, they

again transfer this energy back to the environment.



Environment has three dimensions : (i) Physical (ii) Biological (iii) Social


Physical Environment: There are three main physical components of the environment i.e.atmosphere, hydrosphere and lithosphere (Fig 1.1).


The atmosphere is an envelope of life having gases like oxygen and carbon dioxide that covers the planet earth. Oxygen is used by animals including man for oxidation of food to get energy to perform different activities of life. Carbon dioxide is used by plants to manufacture their food. Atmosphere acts as a greenhouse as it protects our planet from scorching heat of the sun during day time and extremely low temperature at night. It also serves as a store house of water vapours which leads to rainfall.


The hydrosphere includes water on the surface of earth in the form of oceans, lakes, rivers and other water bodies. Water is essential for metabolism in all living organisms and thus it is

called ‘cradle of life’. It also plays a role in moderating the temperature conditions of the environment.


The lithosphere literally means raw materials on the earth's surface. It provides minerals and soil for growth of the plants, animals and microorganisms. A narrow zone formed at or close

to the interfaces between atmosphere, hydrosphere and lithosphere, is known as biosphere.As all the life exists in this zone, thus it is called “life zone of earth” . The plants and animals

are found in the zone of contact between atmosphere and lithosphere. Simlarly, the zone of contact between hydrosphere and lithosphere is rich in organisms dwelling on the sea shores and shallow water of the sea.


Biological Environment : The biological environment includes all the living organisms. They are further differentiated on the basis of their nutritional relationships into producers (autotro-ps) consumers (heterotrophs) and decomposers.


The photosynthesis bacteria and. green plants are included in the categary of producers because they synthesize their own complex organic food from water, minerals, CO, and sunlight through

photosynthesis. They serve to provide food to the entire biological environment.


All animals, inchnding man come under the category of consumers because they cannot synthesize their organic requirement or food of their own. They have to depend upon plants for their food.They are further classified into two groups (a) primary consumers (b) secondary consumers :


(a)Primary consumers are herbivorous animals as they directly consume plants as their food, e.g., hare, deer, elephants etc.


(b) Secondary consumers are camivorous animals as they feed on herbivorous animals,¢.g., lion, tiger, leopard, etc.


Most of the micro-organisms, which mainly include bacteria, fungi and some macro-organ-isms like worms and insects, are included in the category of decomposers. They breakdown dead organic material into smaller particles and finally into simpler substances that are used by plants as nutrients. Thus decomposers play a viral role in nature, because without them, all nutrients would be tied up as dead matter and no new life would be produced.


Social Environment ; Man lives in an environment where both abiotic and biotic factors affect him. Considered to be the most intelligent of all living beings, man has adapted himself

to these factors in several ways. Since his appearance on earth, he brought agricultural revo-lution for fulfilling his demands in terms of food and fibre. He has developed methods to cultivate slopes of mountains through terrace farming. The construction of dams on fast flowing tivers led to the generation of electricity, being used to develop industry. The network of canals

has been created for irrigation pruposes. He has created different means of transportation to move from one place to another for earning his bread and butter. The industrial revolution made

man’s life comfortable in more than one way.


Social enviommment also includes cultural aspects and social values. Political,economic and religions institutions constitute an important part of the social environment and often decide how the environmental resources should be used by man.







So far, we have discussed only the natural environment, which has not been altered by man. It is often called ‘nature’. But today, there is hardly any area where man has not intruded himself.


He has conquered the highest peaks of the mountains, ventured in trophical rain forests, bot-toms of the ocean and even Antarctica, the coldest region of the earth. Thus in present context,

environment may be taken as totality of natural and man made environment. The latter includes agriculture, mining, industrialization, housing and building of cities etc. Man has used his skills to build multistorey buildings, roads, bridges, railways, airports, seaports, tunnels, water-supply lines, cables

for telecommunications, sewers and several others kinds of infrastructures. Though these changes have improved the living conditions of the people, yet due to overexploitation of the natural re-

sources, the physical, chemical and biological properties of water, air and land have vastly changed.The changed environment is suspected to create a lot of problems for the man himself. To avoid deterioration and degradation, many environmental societies and organizations have started warning

the people through posters, rallies, lectures, film shows etc. regarding the harmful effects of overexploitation of natural resources. The local Governments do support such a noble cause. As a

consequence of this, many countries have earmarked several areas which have been kept free from human interference. Such areas are called as Biosphere Reserves, National Parks and Wildlife Sancturies. Also, in the name of environment Governments have tried to convert these protected areas into recreational spots without giving such emphasis on long term ecological cosequences. The

environmentalists and conservationists are quite conscious about such actions as these.



Society is a group of interacting people who live in a specific geographical area in organised cooperative manners, sharing a common culture. Thus it is very clear that human society and natural environment are intimately tied to each other. Since the dawn of human civilization, many social groups/societies have evolved. They have adjusted themselves as per their natural environment. For example, where the natural environment provided fertile land, the people started agriculture as their profession and became a society of agriculturists as in Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, etc. In other regions, where natural environment was rich in coal and minerals, the people started mining as in the regions of Bihar and Jharkhand.


Cultural factors also affect the natural factors. Culture may be defined as the man-made part of the environment. It detennines social environment and social actions. According to a Poritish anthro-

pologist Edward Burnett Tylor, “Culture is that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief,att, law, morals, custom & any other capabilities & habits acquired by man as a member of society”.

The role of cultural factors on natural factors can be best understood by the following examples. In an agricultural society. Irrigation of land is a main requirement. As a result, the rivers are dammed to channel the water through canals. If the rivers are not available in nearby area, people will irrigate

their fertile land through tube-wells. In Punjab, the level of ground water has lowered considerably due to overuse of tube-wells. Thus agriculture which is a cultural feature has affected the nature.Similarly, the industrial culture of the present society has polluted the commons i.e. water, air and soil.


It is the foremost duty of every individual of the society to realise that if we go on destroying the

natural environment and natural resources it may lead to a dark future for the coming generations. Let

the society, Governments and Non-Government Organisations (NGOs) do something concrete to improve the environment. Most important aspect for the improvement of the natural environment is an active participation of general public in this noble venture. The public interest in improvement of the environment is different at different times. According to “Issue Attention Cycle” put foward by Down,

there are five stages to complete the cycle of changes in the public interest. These are:


Stage one: It is the stage when the public is not aware of environmental problems,


Stagetwo: It is the stage when the attention of the public is drawn towards environmental problems by different types of media or through actual observations. People show their interest

and respond to any measure to be taken without caring for the cost involved in it.


Stage Three : At this stage people show keen interest in the improvement and realise the cost involved in the process of development. The people also understand that technologi-cal development is not the best solution to the environmental improvement.


Stage Foor : At this stage the public interest begins to decline due to two reasons. Firstly, they find difficulty in implementation of improvement programmes due to indifferent and non-

cooperative attitude of agencies working in the field. Secondly, the higher cost of


Stage Five: Finally the public interest becomes intermittent. Sometimes it decreases and at other times it again increases.


According to Down, at present the situation is approximately in the middle of the “Issue Atten-tion Cycle.”



Different types of social and political systems also affect the environmental problems and their solutions. As usual, there are two kinds of societies found in many countries of world i.c., capitalistic and socialistic societies. Though both the societies are very much concemed with improvement of the

natural environment, yet their approach varies due to different types of industries, different level of

development and more so by, different view points of their governments.


In capitalistic societies, the main aim is maximum production with maximum profit. The high technological developments in such a society have led to an unparallel growth of economy. The

interest of such companies lies in overexploitation of natural resources for their selfish ends. This type

of development leads to ecological imbalance.


On the contrary, the socialistic societies, feel more concerned about the importance of natural resources, environment and ecological problems. Such societies generally set up good traditions to prevent exploitation of natural resources and to have harmony between man and nature. The concept

of involvement of society in the production and consumption of natural resources develops a sense of

belonging. In such societies, people weigh merits and demerits and are mostly conscious of the uses and misuses of their natural resources.



The science of Ethology (study of human behaviour) states that “Man is a creature of customs and culture”. In fact, human culture end environment ate intimately tied to each other by a feedback process. Let us study this relationship under two headings: (i) Past customs and culture Gi) Present customs and culture.


Past Customs and Culture: The earliest record of our past customs and culture is found in “Rig Veda”, the first written document of our civilization. It provides a very illustrative ac-

count of the five basic elements of our environment- the earth, water, ait, energy and space.Man is ordained to conserve and use these elements judiciously for the prosperity of man-

kind, It clearly defines man's obligations towards the protection of all natural resoures, includ-

ing plant and animal kingdoms. The “Upanishads” explain the need for putting restraint on use of natural resources in order to protect the interests of future generations. It is perhaps because of this reason that trees have been an object of worship in our country and cutting of trees has been religiously prohibited. Form this, one can clearly make out that conservation of the environment has been an integral part of the society in the past.


Present Customs and Culture: The present day customs and culture of our society are also related to the environment. For example, in Jammu and Kashmir, the climate is quite cold and that is why the people living there wear phiran (a long coat) and keep kangri (a type of

hater) to keep their body warm. They drink a speical type of tea called kKahwah to maintain their body temperature. On the other hand in Rajasthan (part of Thar Desert), due to sandy soil, the days are very hot and because of this reason they wear a long turban (14 meters)that act as air conditioner for them. They also keep long moustaches to protect their nostrils and mouth from dust. The women folk keep a long ghongat (a type of ‘parda’, veil) to protect themselves from dust and scorching heat.


In south Indian states, the environment is hot and humid and that is why the people there wear a cotton lungi (a type of dhoti), cotton kurta and mostly keep an angvastra (a type of towel) on

their shoulder. Similarly, one learns ones native language, eating habits, games, workmanship, life style, worship methods and alsc death rituals that conform to ones own cultural traditions.


The distribution of natural resources on the planet earth has also lead to the development of varied cultures. Say in India, the fertile soil in areas like Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh has

generated the occupation of agriculture. The mines of Jharkhand have created occupation of mining and industries related to it. The existence of sea shore along the coastal areas has created the occn-pation of fishing and related industries.


No doubt, human culture and natural environment are interrelated, but a change in one perturbs the other, which, in tum, stirs up more ripples. Now-a-days, the Indian culture tends to have a shift towards the Western culture. As a result of this, some subtle changes in the environment may show their head in future years. The arrival of multinational companies in India may start exploitation of our natural resources purely for profit and greed. In the long run, it may cteate problems for us. Let us learn from the past, incorporate it in the present and pass it on to the future to have clean and

pollution free environment.




(A) Very short answer type questions (1 mark each) :

1. What is natural environment?

2. Name the components of the environment,

3. Give three dimensions of the environment.

4. Define autotrophs.

5. What are heterotrophs?

6. Name the components of social environment,

7. What are biosphere reserves?

8. What are the five elements of our environment?


(B) Short answer type questions (2 marks each) :

1. Differentiate between abiotic and biotic components?

2. Why socialistics society is better for the conservation of environment?

3. Differentiate between Lithosphere and Hydrosphere.

4. Justify that producers are most important for the biological environment.


(C) Short answer type questions (4 marks each):

1. Comment upon the role of public m protecting the environment?

2. Give a detailed account of the physical environment.

3. How will you explain that man is a rational and social partner in environmental action?

4, Explain the details of biological environment.


(D) Long answer type questions: (5 marks each):

1. Discuss the five stages of “Issue Attention Cycle” of Down.

2. Give a brief account of India's past and present customs and culture. Which one is

better in your opinion?