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Environmental changes (8 hours)

Farming 1

Aral Sea – unsustainable farming methods (cotton)

Degradation through raw material production – Identify the effects of agro‑industrialization and changes in international production and consumption on the physical environment.

Discuss the environmental consequences of increasing international demand for one raw material. Examine the concept of food miles and the environmental consequences of increasing volumes of air freight.

The effects of transnational manufacturing and services – Discuss the reasons for and consequences of the relocation of polluting industries (such as some TNCs) and waste disposal (such as ICT, chemical and nuclear waste) to countries with weaker environmental controls and safety regulations.

Transboundary pollution – Describe one major pollution event affecting more than one country and examine the consequences of and responses to this event.

Examine the growth of environmental awareness as a consequence of these global interactions.

Examine the role of one international civil society organization in fostering improved environmental management.

Homogenization of landscapes – Explain the evolution of uniform urban landscapes; the effects of common commercial activity, structures, styles of construction and infrastructure.

1. Degradation through raw material production



In this presentation (above), Jonathan Foley shows how agriculture and land use are maybe a bigger culprit in the global environment, and could grow even larger as we look to feed over 9 billion people in the future.

Agro-industrialisation is a consequence of the globalisation of agriculture, the profit ambitions of large agribusiness companies and the drive for cheaper food production.

farming 2 farmandtractors

Agribusiness – farming on an industrial scale

Farming and food production around the world is becoming increasingly dominated by large biotechnology companies, food brokers and huge industrial farms. The result is a complex movement of food products around the world. The food products, both fresh and processed, available in a typical supermarket have a much wider global reach than they did 20 years ago.

farm 4 far-foods-1

Food miles – these tomatoes have traveled 6866 miles

Agro-industrialisation: The globalisation and industrialisation of farming on a large scale. The characteristics of these farms include:

  • Large scale
  • Use of machinery
  • Often specialisation in one or a limited number of products (monoculture)
  • IT management systems
  • Intensive use of chemicals
  • Low labour inputs in comparison to outputs
  • Often owned by agro-business companies (many of which are TNCs)
  • Maybe vertically integrated with food processing companies.

Palm Oil

An aerial view shows a palm oil plantation in Indonesia's Jambi province

An aerial view shows a palm oil plantation in Indonesia

Palm oil is a type of edible vegetable oil that is derived from the palm fruit, grown on the African oil palm tree. Oil palms are originally from Western Africa, but can flourish wherever heat and rainfall are abundant. Today, palm oil is grown throughout Africa, Asia, North America, and South America, with 85% of all palm oil globally produced and exported from Indonesia and Malaysia; but most of the time not using sustainable measures.

The industry is linked to major issues such as deforestation, habitat degradation, climate change, animal cruelty and indigenous rights abuses in the countries where it is produced, as the land and forests must be cleared for the development of the oil palm plantations. According to the World Wildlife Fund, an area the equivalent size of 300 football fields of rainforest is cleared each hour to make way for palm oil production. This large-scale deforestation is pushing many species to extinction, and findings show that if nothing changes species like the orangutan could become extinct in the wild within the next 5-10 years, and Sumatran tigers less than 3 years.

In total, 50 million tons of palm oil is produced annually, supplying over 30% of the world’s vegetable oil production. This single vegetable oil is found in approximately 40-50% of household products in countries such as United States, Canada, Australia and England. Palm oil can be present in a wide variety of products, including: baked goods, confectionery, shampoo, cosmetics, cleaning agents, washing detergents and toothpaste.

Impact on the people

The establishment of oil palm plantations is often promoted as a way of bringing development to poor, rural regions of Borneo and Sumatra. In reality, the industry often has devastating impacts on the people in these areas. All too often, the government’s main interest in the country’s economy leads them to allow corporations to take the land owned by indigenous peoples for their own financial benefit.

The palm oil industry is also linked to major human rights violations, including child labour in remote areas of Indonesia and Malaysia. Children are made to carry large loads of heavy fruit, weed fields and spend hours every day bent over collecting fruit from the plantation floor. Heat exhaustion and cuts and bruises from climbing thorny oil palms are commonplace in this damaging workspace. More than often not, children receive little or no pay for their efforts.

With plantations systematically destroying the rainforest land that the local people depend on, communities are continuously finding themselves with no choice but to become plantation workers. Faced with poor and degrading working conditions, they often earn barely enough income to survive and support their families. Instead of being able to sustain themselves, indigenous communities become reliant on the success of the palm oil industry for their income and survival, leaving these villagers incredibly vulnerable to the world market price of palm oil which they have no control over.

Impact on the animals

There are over 300,000 different animals found throughout the jungles of Borneo and Sumatra, many of which are injured, killed and displaced during deforestation. In addition, palm oil development increases accessibility of animals to poachers and wildlife smugglers who capture and sell wildlife as pets, use them for medicinal purposes or kill them for their body parts. The destruction of rainforests in Borneo and Sumatra is therefore not only a conservation emergency, but a major animal welfare crisis as well.

Impact on the environment

A large proportion of palm oil expansion occurs at the expense of biodiversity and ecosystems in the countries it is produced. Currently, a third of all mammal species in Indonesia are considered to be critically endangered as a consequence of this unsustainable development that is rapidly encroaching on their habitat.

Deforestation for palm oil production also contributes significantly to climate change. The removal of the native forests often involves the burning of invaluable timber and remaining forest undergrowth, emitting immense quantities of smoke into the atmosphere and making Indonesia the third highest greenhouse gas emitter in the world.


Exam type question:

Explain how agro-industrialization contributes to environmental degradation. (10 marks)

Food miles


Food mile”a mile over which a food item is transported during the journey from producer to consumer, as a unit of measurement of the fuel used to transport it.”

The Guardian – Miles and miles and miles

Food miles refer to the distance food has travelled to get from where it was produced to where it is sold. Some people are concerned about the environmental impact of transporting goods over great distances. Many of the foods we eat are grown in other countries where the climate is different. Some of the food harvested in the UK is sent abroad to be processed. This adds miles to the journey of an item of food and therefore means more transport costs and more pollution.

It is important to remember that locally-produced food may not always be better for the environment. For example, some foods do not grow easily in the UK and need heated greenhouses. This means the food produced locally may have a larger carbon footprint than that grown in a warmer climate.

Explain what food miles are and how they impact our environment [10]

To what extent has the world become reliant on unseasonal food consumption? (10)        

What a weeks worth of food looks like in two contrasting countries:

Farming 6 chad

A weeks supply of food in Chad

farm 5 great-britain

A weeks supply of food in England

food miles

Where your Christmas dinner comes from

2. The effects of transnational manufacturing and services

Watch the video clip above and take notes.

Essay question 

Polluting industries are relocated, away from developed nations, for purely financial reasons.” Discuss this statement. [15 marks]

Using the resources available write a comprehensive essay which answers the question above:



Read the links below.

The Guardian – Toxic ‘e-waste’ dumped in poor nations

This is not a good place to live’: inside Ghana’s dump for electronic waste


3. Transboundary pollution

Transboundary pollution: This is any type of pollution which spreads across more than one country. Acid rain is a classic example of a transboundary pollution because it can be blown anywhere by the wind.

Acid Rain

Acid rain was first discovered in Manchester, UK in 1852, but it was not properly studied until the 1960’s. Acid rain can take two forms, wet deposition and dry deposition. Wet deposition is when pollutants mix with rain water and fall to the ground as acidic precipitation. Dry deposition is when pollutants and particulates fall to the ground without mixing with rain water. Some acid rain has had pH levels as low as 2

Sulphur dioxide and nitrous oxides are the two main chemicals that react with water to make acid rain. The chemicals are commonly released from power stations, factories and transport. Traditionally sulphur dioxide has been the biggest contributing chemical, accounting for about two thirds and nitrous oxides the other third. However, in most areas of the world the importance of sulphur dioxide is decreasing and nitrous oxides increasing. Acid rain can cause many problems including:

  • Damage to buildings
  • Metals (iron, aluminum, etc.) dissolved by acid rain can be washed into water courses
  • Vegetation can be damaged and growth reduced
  • Lakes and rivers can become acidic harming the ecosystem and aquatic life
  • Soil acidity increases

Acid rain is known as a transboundary pollutant because it can be blown from one country to another – it does not obey national boundaries and in fact it is often non-polluting countries that are most seriously impacted. Because it is a transboundary polluter acid rain tends to be worst in the direction of the prevailing (or dominant) wind from major industrial locations. The map below shows that the east coast of the US suffers badly from acid rain, its rain has an average pH of 4. Large parts of Europe and also the east coast of China are also badly affected.

Acid rain can be reduced by reducing the amount of fossil fuels burnt or at least burning coal with a lower sulphur content, by using a greater proportion of renewable energy, by using more public transport and cleaner forms of transport and by removing pollution at source with the use of scrubbers.

Hungary Sludge (River Danube Pollution)

On the 4th October 2010 a reservoir at an alumina plant in Ajka, Hunfary burst releasing an estimated 1 million cubic metres of sludge. The alkaline sludge was released into tributaries of the Danube (Europe’s longest river). By Thursday the sludge reached the Danube despite emergency officials trying to neutralise the alkaline with clays and acids. pH levels in the river initially climbed to 9 but started to fall as it became diluted and neutralised. The spill has caused huge environmental damage over a large areas and claimed the lives of seven people, mostly from the 2 metre high flood when the reservoir broke. MAL Hungarian Aluminium the company behind the spill is owned by three of Hungary’s richest men. The company released $150,000 to help with clean-up costs.

China (Songhua River)

Polluted waters from the Songhua River in China were expected to reach the Amur River on the 4th August 2010. The pollution in the Songhua River started after 3,000 barrels of explosive chemicals were washed into the river after a flood. The barrels contained methyl chloride. Chinese and Russian officials are worried that the chemicals may impact drinking water supplies. Drinking water for the Chinese city Jilin is taken from the river and the Russian city of Khabarovsk also use water from the river for drinking. China has a worsening record of river pollution. Whenever rivers are polluted the chance of the pollution incident becoming regional or transboundary is increased.
Read the section which deals with Chernobyl

Transboundary pollution – The Great Pacific Garbage Gyre

IB Transboundary pollution


4. Homogenization of landscapes

Homogenisation: The process of people, products and places becoming the same.

Homog 1

Contact zone: Where one culture meets another culture. This normally happens because one culture is expanding into new areas. This obviously happened through colonisation in the past, put is increasingly happening through economic expansion now.

Cultural diffusion: This is the spread of cultural ideas around the world. The two main ways this can happen are through expansion (more likely trade than colonisation these days) and relocation.

Expansion diffusion: When an idea or culture spreads from a central location. The best modern example is probably the growth of Islam from the Arabian Peninsula. With expansion diffusion the idea/culture remain strong in the source location.

Relocation diffusion: Now that people are more footloose, they travel the world to a greater extent. When they move to a new area, they may take some of their ideas with them that then spread to their new location e.g. teachers bringing rugby and cricket to El Salvador. If the movement of people from the source is great, this may actually weaken the original culture or idea in the source.

Distance-time decay: The further the distance from the source of the original culture or idea the less strongly the new idea will be adopted.

Hybridisation: When two cultures meet they may adapt and merge to create a new type of culture. In South Vietnam the Caodaism religion was established in 1926 from a mixture of the following religions: Buddhism, Confucianism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Taoism, as well as Geniism.

Adaption: When a new culture is accepted, it is often adapted (changed slightly) to fit in with existing cultures and ideas. In some circumstances the new culture or idea may adapt themselves. Many fast food restaurants adapt to fit new cultures – this is known as glocalisation.

Homog 2

Use the three Word documents below:

IB Homogenisation of landscape

IB Homogenisation of landscape 

IB Environmental change Homogenisation

Clone Towns

The term clone town was first used by the New Economic Forum in 2004. It was used to describe the state of some British towns, The term simply means that the centres of main towns have become dominated by the same chain stores, making them all very similar. The report said that the growth of clone towns was very damaging because:

  • Small independent businesses were lost
  • Choice was reduced as chain stores only stocked limited profitable lines
  • The chain stores had too much power and often treated suppliers unfairly. Suppliers were often too scared to criticise in case they lost business
  • Many chain stores relocated to out of town shopping malls and retail parks, damaging CBDs, damaging the rural-urban fringe and increasing prices, congestion and pollution in the rural-urban fringe.
  • Regional identity reduced as all supermarkets stocked the same food and products.

Homog 3
In 2005 the city of Exeter was discovered to have only one independent store on its entire high street.

Americanisation, Westernisation, Disneyfication, Mcdonaldlisation

All these processes refer to the adoption of different aspects of western culture. The west is considered to be Western Europe and North America. In the past westernisation has happened through colonisation, but it has increasingly happened through economic dominance and political pressure. Although Iraq and Afghanistan could be recent examples where the military has been used to impose ideas and beliefs. Aspects of culture that maybe adopted include:

  • Law
  • Politics
  • Music, food, clothes, film, language etc.
  • Economics (brands, economic system (capitalism) and companies)

Homog 4
Westernisation whether deliberate or not can be blamed on the loss of local cultures and speeding up the process of homogenisation.

Dubai – A Homogenised Landscape?

Dubai is one of seven emirates that make up the United Arab Emirates. Its principal city is also called Dubai and it is this city which I am going to talk about. Dubai has a population of about 2.2 million. Surprisingly out of this figure only about 15% are Emirati. By far the biggest group is South Asian accounting for over 65% of the population – Indian on their own account for about 43%. Dubai as a city has shown unbelievable growth. It has transformed itself from a small fishing town in the 1980’s (see top image right) into one of the most recognisable and advanced cities in the world today (see bottom image right). The growth has largely been based on the discovery of oil and the revenues it created. What I am going to look at is whether this has made it a homogenised city. To look at this I will look at very different social, cultural and economic factors.

Before I talk about whether Dubai has become homogenised, I think that it is important to mention what Dubai was like 30 to 50 years ago. Emirati’s would either live in tents and lead a nomadic lifestyle or in houses with wind towers within a small courtyard. The economy was mainly primary based, with fishing, pearl diving, date farming and camel herding all important. Shopping would have been done daily in small markets called souqs. The main form of transport would have been dhows (a type of boat), camels or on foot. Entertainment would have been family orientated and may have involved dancing and singing. Past times would have included falconry, hunting and horse riding.

Below is information about what life in current day Dubai is like:

Sport: Horse riding and falconry are still important, but now people in Dubai enjoy most international sports and Dubai host many important sporting events including: IRB Rugby Sevens, Race to Dubai Golf, international cricket fixtures and ATP Tennis. There is now even an indoor ice rink in Dubai Mall and an indoor ski slope in the Mall of the Emirates.

Homog 6
Shopping: Souks do still exist, but most food shopping is now done in supermarkets e.g. Carrefour and Waitrose and most other shopping in malls e.g. Dubai Mall, Mall of the Emirates, Deira and Mirdiff City Centre Malls – Dubai Mall is one of the largest in the world with over 1200 shops.
Global Brands: There are now many different global shops and brands available in Dubai e.g. NEXT, GAP, Nike, Debenhams, Marks and Spencer, IKEA and Decathlon.
Restaurants: Dubai has seen an explosion in fast food restaurants, with Burger King, McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, Starbucks, KFC being found everywhere. International cuisine is also very common with people like Gordon Ramsey having a restaurant in Dubai.
Tourism: Dubai is now a popular tourism destination with major airline like Emirates based in Dubai and airlines like Qantas, BA and Singapore Airlines all flying to Dubai. Hotel chains like the HIlton and IHG have a major presence.
Entertainment: People now take in a wide variety of activities ranging from the cinema to quad biking, kite surfing to music concerts and yoga to paintballing.
Schooling: There are still local government schools, but also a growing number of international schools that teach in English e.g. Repton and JESS. Many foreign teachers are recruited and international and British qualifications are often sat. Most universities teach in English.
Housing: Not many people now live in tents. Most people live in compounds, apartments and suburb style developments e.g. Dubai Marina. Most people will now use air con and cookers instead of wind towers and fires.
Transport: Not many people now walk or use camels, although dhows are still common sights. The most favoured form of transport is now 4×4. However, Dubai now also has a metro, monorail and bus system along with an international airport.
Other: With the development of Dubai other sites are now more common e.g. parks, cricket pitches, football pitches, churches and canals.
Culture: With the arrival of so many different nationalities, some aspects of Dubai culture have changed, pork and alcohol are now both available in licensed shops, you see more people wearing western dress (although most local still wear traditional dress), English is now the main business language, there are now different religions and religious buildings e.g. Hinduism and Christianity, people listen to more international music and watch international films.

Homog 7



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