Human - Habitat and Population

Habitat and Population

Further information: Human migration, Demography, and World population

Early human settlements were dependent on proximity to water and, depending on the lifestyle, other natural resources used for subsistence, such as populations of animal prey for hunting and arable land for growing crops and grazing livestock. But humans have a great capacity for altering their habitats by means of technology, through irrigation, urban planning, construction, transport, manufacturing goods, deforestation and desertification. Deliberate habitat alteration is often done with the goals of increasing material wealth, increasing thermal comfort, improving the amount of food available, improving aesthetics, or improving ease of access to resources or other human settlements. With the advent of large-scale trade and transport infrastructure, proximity to these resources has become unnecessary, and in many places, these factors are no longer a driving force behind the growth and decline of a population. Nonetheless, the manner in which a habitat is altered is often a major determinant in population change.

Technology has allowed humans to colonize all of the continents and adapt to virtually all climates. Within the last century, humans have explored Antarctica, the ocean depths, and outer space, although large-scale colonization of these environments is not yet feasible. With a population of over seven billion, humans are among the most numerous of the large mammals. Most humans (61%) live in Asia. The remainder live in the Americas (14%), Africa (14%), Europe (11%), and Oceania (0.5%).

Human habitation within closed ecological systems in hostile environments, such as Antarctica and outer space, is expensive, typically limited in duration, and restricted to scientific, military, or industrial expeditions. Life in space has been very sporadic, with no more than thirteen humans in space at any given time. Between 1969 and 1972, two humans at a time spent brief intervals on the Moon. As of November 2012, no other celestial body has been visited by humans, although there has been a continuous human presence in space since the launch of the initial crew to inhabit the International Space Station on October 31, 2000. However, other celestial bodies have been visited by human-made objects.

Since 1800, the human population has increased from one billion to over seven billion. In 2004, some 2.5 billion out of 6.3 billion people (39.7%) lived in urban areas, and this percentage is expected to continue to rise throughout the 21st century. In February 2008, the U.N. estimated that half the world's population would live in urban areas by the end of the year. Problems for humans living in cities include various forms of pollution and crime, especially in inner city and suburban slums.

Humans have had a dramatic effect on the environment. As humans are rarely preyed upon, they have been described as superpredators. Currently, through land development, combustion of fossil fuels, and pollution, humans are thought to be the main contributor to global climate change. If this continues at its current rate it is predicted that climate change will wipe out half of all species over the next century.

See also: City, Town, Nomad, Camping, Farm, House, Watercraft, Infrastructure, Architecture, Building, and Engineering

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Famous quotes containing the words habitat and/or population:

    Nature is the mother and the habitat of man, even if sometimes a stepmother and an unfriendly home.
    John Dewey (1859–1952)

    It was a time of madness, the sort of mad-hysteria that always presages war. There seems to be nothing left but war—when any population in any sort of a nation gets violently angry, civilization falls down and religion forsakes its hold on the consciences of human kind in such times of public madness.
    Rebecca Latimer Felton (1835–1930)