What are the opportunities and constraints of living in and exploiting, cold environments?

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What are the opportunities and constraints of living in and exploiting, cold environments?

Cold environments provide only minimal opportunities for its inhabitants, offering them little else other than the ability to live sustainably off the land through the herding of Caribou/Reindeer. Now, even this is being threatened as the modern world brings new constraints to cold environments, such as the melting of sea ice destroying hunting grounds and the extraction of oil at places like Tar Sands destroying the lands of indigenous people. As well as this, in Greenland the inability of young people to live a comfortable and interesting life has led to Greenland having the highest suicide rate in the world. On the other hand, cold environments provide plenty of opportunities for exploitation, chiefly due to their vast oil, gas and metal reserves and tourism opportunities like ecotourism at the poles or skiing in the Alps. However, there are also constraints on the level at which cold environments can be exploited, due to agreements about conserving the natural environment, which is already melting.

In the Arctic, the environment provides the indigenous people with almost everything they need to survive. For example, in Siberia the Nenets use the Reindeer to survive. Reindeers are used for transport, their furs are used for shelter and clothing and all of their edible meat is either eaten or sold. Whilst these opportunities do appear limited, after all they essentially just provide the Nenets with basic living requirements. However, the fact that many Nenets chose to live as reindeer herders despite having the chance to live a seemingly more comfortable life living a town or city (the Nenets all attended school as children and some have university qualifications), shows that their environment provides them with much more than just necessities for life, it also provides them with links to their culture and heritage (the Nenets have lived in Siberia for over 1000 years) and some of the Nenets have also spoken of how they feel ‘free’ out on the ice, which is a feeling that can’t be provided by crowded and confined city life. The best part of the opportunities that living on the tundra brings to the Nenets is that the environment can provide for them in a sustainable manner, due to the Nenets never hunting more than they need or harming the environment, as a result of this, the opportunities provided by the Arctic to the Nenets have been sustained for over 1000 years and still remain today. In areas of high altitude, such as the European Alps, the environment allows for substantial ski/snowboard runs, meaning there is the obvious opportunity for local people to benefit from the 100million tourists who visit the region each year. These tourists are responsible for the provision of 80% of jobs in certain areas of the Alps, which shows how the cold environment has led to local people gaining employment opportunities.

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There are, however, significant constraints on the lives of people who live in cold environments, partially brought about because the environments are so harsh and unforgiving, but mainly because cold environments are also extremely fragile environments. The fact that these fragile environments are now increasingly being exploited and therefore damaged means that there are great constraints on the ability of local people to live in these areas. The Exxon Valdez oil spill in Prince William Sound, Alaska is a prime example of this. The fact that many local fishermen were so heavily reliant on fish in the Sound such as ...

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