Human Environment Interaction in Geography – Definition, Examples & Solutions

What is Human Environment Interaction in Geography?  In Human Environment Interaction, humans interact with the environment on a daily basis.  The environment changes the lives of humans and at the same time, humans change the environment through their way of living.

Human Environment Interaction Definition in Geography

Human Environment Interaction Geography

Human Environment Interaction in Geography

Let’s look at the Human Environment Interaction definition in Geography and answer the question “What does Human Environment Interaction mean in geography”?  The Human Environment Interaction definition is the way humans interact with their surroundings, or ecosystem.  It’s the way they interact with the earth and its environment and make changes to that environment.  At the same time, the environment can have an impact on humans.  The environment can Change what we eat, wear, build or do in everyday life.  So, the environment impacts us and we impact the environment.

Human Environment Interaction in a sentence, is the way that humans interact with and modify their environment.

Theme of Geography - Human Environment Interaction in Geography - Definition, Examples & Solutions

Human Environment Interaction – Geography Theme Video

Human and Environment Interaction

We’ll take a look at people and environment interaction in a closer level next.

3 Ways Humans Interact with the Environment

1. Depend on the Environment

The environment changes the way humans live on an everyday basis.  One way is food that we eat.  Since all of our food sources come from the environment, we as humans are dependent upon the environment to provide us that food.  For example, crops grow from the ground.  We need the soil to be clean and fertile.  We also need rain for the crops to grow.  Also, weather and climate can impact crops.  Things such as cold weather, frost, heat or drought can kill crops.  Also, animals in nature or bugs could eat crops or destroy them before they are harvested.

The environment might have an impact on humans and change the way we live through natural disasters.  Hurricanes, volcanos, floods, drought, etc.  All of these have an impact on human lives and are generally uncontrollable by humans.

2. Humans Adapt to the Environment

Next, we’ll look at how the environment changes what humans build and where they live.  The actual geography and terrain of the land might dictate strongly if humans decide to build homes or other structures on the land.  The strongest example of this is, notice how not very many people build homes or structures in deserts, such as the Sahara, or in artic areas, such as Antarctica.  That’s because the environment dictates that life would be extremely hard or impossible to live in these areas, so humans cannot build there.  In ancient times, in areas where resources were scarce, or the environment conditions were harsh, humans would decide not to live in these areas.  Also, if the land itself were too unstable to build on, this might cause humans to decide to live elsewhere.  This could be land that it not flat enough, or marshy areas where buildings would not be very stable.

Human Environment Interaction - wearing warm clothes

Human Environment Interaction changes our clothes

But when humans do live in a certain environment, wherever they might happen to live, they adapt their lifestyle to the environment.  People who live near water tend to fish and eat more fish or seafood as a way of life.  People might change their dietary habits based on the environment and what food sources are available.

Also, humans can even adapt to the environment genetically and through traits that are passed down to their offspring.  For example, those living in desert areas tend to be more suited for that type of climate, and those living in colder climates with less sun might adapt to those type of climates as well.

Another way humans adapt to the environment is the clothes that we wear.  If the climate is cold, then we will need to wear heavier clothes and more clothes.  If the climate is hot, then we will be wearing less clothes and cooler clothes like short sleeves and shorts.  Also, the type of materials made available by the environment might dictate what we wear and what our clothes are made out of.  If cotton is more available and cheaper, then more clothes will be made out of that.

Native Americans were great at adapting to the environment and eating the foods around them.  They would also wear skins from the animals in the environment in order to stay warm during cold winter months.

3. Humans Modify and Change the Environment

Humans will modify the environment in order to survive or to get what they might desire.  Typically these have ended up being negative impacts on the environment.

If environmental conditions are favorable, and land is buildable, then humans might decide to build homes or dwellings, or maybe even cities or strip malls and businesses.  Sometimes there must be some kind of modification to the land in order to build the structures.  For example, maybe cutting down trees or leveling out the ground in order to build buildings.

Another environmental factor that causes humans to build structures, are water sources.  Humans will build dams in order to change the flow of water for one reason or another.  They might need to stop water from flowing to or flooding a particular area where people are living.  The Hoover dam is one example of this.  Also, humans might need to have water go from one place to another.  The Romans built aqueducts to carry water from one place to another.  In modern times, we create pipes and plumbing systems that we place into the environment for some of the same reasons.

Also, humans might pave roads, highways and railroads for transportation.  All of this requires modifying the environment.  Not only does this change the environment by they actual structures of the roads themselves running through the environment.  But also, cars and vehicles that drive down these roads might scare away wildlife that would have naturally lived in the area, or might even hurt or kill animal wildlife that could be hit by cars.

Human Environment Interaction for Food

One Human Environment Interaction example is man depending on the environment for food

Also, humans use the environment for natural resources and might change the environment to get these resources.  One major example is the use of drilling.  Humans drill for oil to be used as an energy source.  The problem is this has a huge negative impact on the environment.  Oil can be spilled into the ocean while drilling and cause of huge negative impact on the environment, destroying and contaminating sea life and sea food.  Also the burning of oil to power vehicles and other machinery is one of the biggest pollutants that the earth faces.  The act of drilling itself, causes methane gas to be released into the atmosphere, leading to climate change.

Human Environment Interaction in Geography

The 1984 the National Council for Geographic Education and the Association of American Geographers defined five themes of geography to help with teaching geography in K-12 schools.  The 5 themes of geography are:

  1. Location – First students usually learn the locations of places and how locations correspond to other locations.  Such as a city might be 4 miles away from another city.
  2. Place – Place describes the human and physical characteristics of certain locations.  The physical characters describe whether the land is mountains, hills, flat, sandy, etc.  The human characteristics describes what the people of that location are like.
  3. Human Environment Interaction – This describes how the land is adapted to and modified by humans.
  4. Movement – How humans and ideas move across the globe or relocate.
  5. Region – Regions are the formal or informal dividing of lands into different identifiable areas.  One example are countries and cities.


Examples of Human Environment Interaction in Geography

Here are some human environment interaction geography examples.

The Use of Natural Resources

Humans use natural resources for every day life.  Humans need food and water from the environment in order to survive.  Natural resources such as wood, metal, oil, diamonds, gold and other resources are also used for human survival and advancement.  Wood might be needed to build fires and cook food for example.

The problem is that humans can overuse resources, and some of those are non-renewable such as fossil fuels.  Also, the use of resources such as oil leads to pollution and climate change.  The mining of some minerals might destroy millions of acres of land in the extraction process and cause the leaking of toxins into areas nearby.  All of these are big negative impacts on the environment and the sustainability of the earth for future generations as well as having negative effects on the health of nearby people who are exposed to these practices.

The Building and Expansion of Cities and Roads

The building of homes, cities and businesses sometimes requires the use of cutting down trees and altering the land and environment.  This also creates spaces where animals and plants can no longer live.  This is especially true in bigger urban cities such as New York City where so much has been covered with cement, and barely any natural green space exists anymore.  This is not only destructive for the environment and animals, but it also can take a mental toll.  It’s been found that green spaces and water can have a positive impact on mental health.

Roads also run through natural habitats and can alter the environment and scare away or hurt animals.  Also, the exhaust caused by cars traveling on these roads has a huge negative impact on the environment.  Flying as well, in airplanes as a means of transportation, produces a lot of emissions.


Human Environment Interaction in geography example of pollution

Human Environment Interaction in Geography example of pollution

Cars and factories all create pollution and toxic chemicals that are harmful to our health and the environment and ozone layer.  One of the biggest causes for concern is carbon emissions.

Transportation contributes to a third of greenhouse emissions, and is responsible for killing around 800,000 people per year.

See Human Environment Interaction in Mexico for these Human Environment Interaction examples.


The earth’s forests are being cut down at alarming rates.  This is usually for buildings and industrial equipment, or the raising of livestock for animal food or products.  This is one reason it helps to eat a Whole Food Plant Based Diet which lowers the demand for animal foods and minimizes the use of land for raising livestock.

This deforestation leads to the extinction of certain species of animals.  Also, trees are useful in keeping the air clean and improving the health of the environment.  The less trees left, the less they are able to improve the climate.

Deforestation also contributes to soil erosion.  When trees are chopped down, the soil below is exposed and easily washed away by the rain.

Drilling for Oil

Drilling for oil releases methane gases which contribute to climate change.  Also, oil spills can happen and are massively disruptive to the environment, killing animals and wildlife.

Using up of Water Resources

Accessible and clean water is running out and being used up and being unevenly distributed throughout the planet.

Litter and Trash

Human Environment Interaction leads to trash and waste

Human Environment Interaction leads to trash and waste

Waste from trash, litter and plastics can get into oceans and natural environments and harm animals.


The increased use of boats on water can have a negative impact on ocean life.

Illegal Hunting and Poaching

Illegal hunting and poaching, especially excessively and for sport, can contribute to the extinction of certain breeds of animals.

Positive Human Environment Interaction Examples

What is a positive human environment interaction?  Do any exist?

Well, it’s hard for humans to have a positive impact on the environment, that is, making it better than it was before.    But there are some practices which minimize the negative effects or neutralize any effects.  These might be:

Renewable Energy Sources

By using renewable energy sources such as solar power and wind, we don’t need to use unrenewable and environmental damaging energy sources such as oil and fossil fuels.


Recycling can help to prevent waste from trash in the environment, as well as minimizing the need for more resources such as plastics.

Building National Parks

Preserving areas of nature is a great practice for the environment.  Unfortunately, this is not practiced as much in underdeveloped countries for the time being.

Building Green Spaces

Some cities work to build new green spaces which are areas of trees or nature for residents to enjoy.

Water Management and Reuse

Managing water usage can play a part in helping to conserve water sources.  Also the use of rainwater harvesters can help as well.

You can find more info at Positive Human Environment Interaction Examples – 8 Ways to Help

Ways You Can Help the Human Environment Interaction

Here are some ways you can have a more positive man environment interaction.

Eating Little or No Meat and Animal Foods

By going either vegan, vegetarian, or plant-based and eating little or no meat, you can help support the environment.  Many practices such as factory farming and raising of livestock for animal foods contributes to the deterioration of the environment.  See the guide to eating plant-based..

Practicing Minimalism

Minimalism is the idea of living within your means and creating as little waste as possible.  This could mean living in a smaller house or space, using less electricity, having less food waste, etc.

Walking, Riding a Bike, Taking the Bus, Carpooling

By walking, riding a bike, taking the bus or carpooling whenever you travel, you can minimize pollution.  Also, you can decrease the demand for gas.

Invest in Energy Efficient Cars and Renewable Energy

If you do need a car, it’s best to invest in a more energy efficient car that has less emissions and uses less gas.  The Toyota Prius or an electric car is an example.  Also, you might look into renewable energy for your home such as solar power if it is offered where you live.

Human Environment Interaction in Specific Countries

Human Environment Interaction in Mexico

Conclusion Human Environment Interaction in Geography

We have looked at a definition of Human Environment Interaction in Geography and many examples.  Humans are constantly interacting with and influencing the environment and the environment also effects humans.  There are 3 ways in which humans and the environment interact.

The Human Environment Interaction is 1 of the 5 themes in Geography.  There were many examples presented including positive human environment interaction examples.

The environment is a fragile place and humans must remember to respect and give back to the environment and not to abuse, as it is needed for our own lives.

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