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Abiotic Non living components of an ecosystem such as sunlight and water.

Absolute poverty An economic indicator which measures, for a given area, the number
of people who live below a certain level of income.

Accessibility A measure of the ease with which people can reach features (human and
physical) in the wider environment.

Acid rain The increased acidity of rainfall and dry deposition as a result of human

Active and Passive activities Active leisure includes sport and also activities such as
fell walking or non-competitive swimming. Passive leisure activities include just
relaxing at home, such as watching television.

Active volcano One which is in the process of erupting or showing signs that an
eruption is imminent.

Agenda 21 This came out of the Rio Earth Summit of 1992 and is summarised by the
phrase “Thinking globally, acting locally”. It is a blueprint for environmental
management of the Earth’s resources and encourages thinking and decision-making at
a local level.

Agribusiness Large scale farming aiming to maximise output and profit. It often
consists of monocultures and factory farming of animals.

Aid Help in the form or Financial, personnel, loans, equipment and skills. Often referring
to help given to developing nations.

AIDS A disease of the immune system (acquired immune deficiency syndrome).

Albedo A measure of reflectivity.

Alien species Alien species are those that have been introduced to a region, sometimes
by accident and sometimes deliberately.

Alpine Found at high mountain altitudes.

Anthropogenic Caused by human activities.

Anticyclone An area of high atmospheric pressure, characterised by descending air.

AONB Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty which operates in England and managed by
Natural England on behalf of the UK government with the aim of conserving and
enhancing the natural landscape.

Appropriate technology Appropriate technology is seen as giving control of

technology to individuals and communities at a local level rather than to the
technocrats of large companies or governments; it is a people-centred technology.

Arable Refers to land which can be used for the growing of crops.

Arête A sharp ridge occurring between two corries/cirques or two glacial troughs.

Arid and semi-arid Refer to conditions where rainfall is less than 250 mm and 500 mm
of precipitation per year respectively.

Asian financial crisis The Asian Financial Crisis saw the collapse of many Asian banks
and the value of their stocks and shares in the late 1990s. Many countries were forced
to restructure their economies and reduce their levels of debt.

Asthenosphere A plastic, deformable layer of the upper mantle.

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Avalanche An Avalanche usually refers to a sudden downward movement of snow or ice
in mountainous regions (though the word may sometimes be used for other

Basal sliding Basal sliding is a movement of a glacier as a result of melting, which

lubricates the flow over the bed of the glacier.

Batholith A large igneous intrusion.

Biocapacity This is a useful measure of the earth’s carrying capacity as it shows the
biological productivity of the land including cropland, pasture, forests and fisheries,
and also built-up or degraded land.

Biodiversity The number or range of species within a designated area.

Biodiversity hotspot Areas where biodiversity is particularly high and under threat.

Biofuels A source of energy that is derived from plants.

Biosphere The layer of the Earth in which life exists.

Biotechnology Biotechnology is defined as any technological application that uses

biological systems, living organisms or derivatives of them to make or modify products
or processes for specific use.

Biotic Living components of an ecosystem such as plants and animals.

Bipolar structure A pattern where there are two opposing forces; for example the USA
and USSR as superpowers.

Blocks and bombs Large aggregates of volcanic material.

Blog A blog is an abbreviation of the phrase web log.

Bollywood General term given for the Indian film industry.

BRICs The emerging economies of Brazil, Russia, India and China.

Buddhism A set of beliefs based on the teaching of the Buddha.

Capacity building A holistic approach to strengthening the community through health,

education and social welfare, whilst also giving due attention to it's economic, political
and cultural context.

Capitalism An economic system for the generation of goods and services based on
private enterprise.

Carbon credit A permit that allows an organisation to emit a specified amount of

greenhouse gases. Also called an emission permit.

Carbon trading A company that does not use up the level of emissions it is entitled to
can sell the remainder of its entitlement to another company that pollutes above its

Carrying capacity The population an ecosystem can support into the future without

Cartel Is an organisation of people who supply the same good and join together to
control the overall supply of the product.

Cinder volcano The most common type of volcano is the cinder volcano. Also referred
to as scoria volcanoes, they are the smallest type of volcano, often less than 300
metres high.

Clean coal technology Power plant processes that both increase the efficiency of coal-
burning and significantly reduce emissions.
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Coal gasification A process which converts solid coal into a gas that can be used for
power generation.

Cold War The Cold War is the name given to the period of heightened tensions and
competition between the USA and USSR and their allies between 1945 and the early

Commodities Basic goods (raw materials) such as rice, copper and oil.

Communism A form of political development that envisages equality among people and
a classless society.

Community energy Energy produced close to the point of consumption.

Community memory Collective ‘community memory’ plays a role in determining how

residents feel about the places that are ‘safe’ within the area that they call home.

Composite volcano The typical shape of a composite volcano is a tall cone with sides
that slope gently at the base but that become increasingly steep towards the summit.
The net result is a volcano with concave sides.

Constructive boundary At these locations, the tectonic plates are moving apart from
one another, generating new crustal material.

Continental crust Thick, low density, granitic crust which forms the earth’s continental

Continental drift The hypothesis which suggested earths plates move in relation to
each other. It was superceded by the development of the theory of plate tectonics.

Continentality The influence of large land masses on the climate of a location.

Convergent boundaries At convergent boundaries, the tectonic plates are moving

toward each other. In effect, plates are colliding together at these locations. As a
result, convergent boundaries are the locations of the earth’s largest quakes.

Corrie/ cwm/cirque A bowl shaped hollow with steep back and side walls found in
glacial landscapes.

Cost-benefit analysis Cost benefit analysis can be used to help judge the effectiveness
of varying coping strategies.

Crevasses Deep cracks in the surface of a glacier.

Cultural imperialism The practice of promoting the culture or language of one nation in
another. It is usually the case that the former is a large nation that is powerful in
economic and military terms and the latter is a smaller, less affluent one.

Debt (international) Is the money owed by one country to another.

Deforestation The deliberate clearance of trees.

Democracy A form of political development in which the government is elected by the

people in free elections.

Dependency theory Blames the relative underdevelopment of the developing world on

exploitation by the developed world, first through colonialism and then by the various
elements of neo-colonialism.

Depression Significant and pervasive lowering of mood leading to difficulties in leading

a normal life.

Desertification Land degradation in arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid regions resulting
from a variety of factors, including climatic variations and human activities’.

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Destructive boundary Also known as a convergent plate boundary (see above).

Development The use of resources to improve the quality of life in a country.

Development gap The difference in income and the quality of life in general between
the richest and poorest countries in the world.

Digital divide The digital divide is the gap between richer and poorer parts of the world
in terms of ICT access. It can be measured by dividing the ICT penetration rate in the
developed world by the ICT penetration rate in the developing world.

Diabetes Any of various disorders especially diabetes mellitus characterised by excretion

of an abnormally large amount of urine.

Diet The food that a person usually consumes.

Diffusion The spread of a phenomenon over time and space.

Dike A dike is a sheet like discordant minor igneous intrusion.

Direct cost The direct costs are those that occur when capital goods and equipment are
destroyed by the disaster.

Disease An impairment of normal physiological function.

Disaster A hazardous such as a flood, storm, or accident which causes significant

damage or suffering.

Disaster risk equation An assessment of the potential for disaster in any given

Disposable income This is money left after all household expenses have been paid.

Divergent boundaries Divergent boundaries are also known as extensional or

constructive boundaries. At these locations, the tectonic plates are moving apart from
one another.

Drought Meteorological drought occurs when there is a prolonged period with less than
average precipitation.

Drumlin A low, streamlined hill formed from glacial material beneath a glacier.

Drylands As the name suggests, drylands are areas with limited supplies of freshwater.
Communities living in these areas are almost totally dependent on rainfall for their
water needs.

Earth Summit A large international meeting held in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil in 1992, at
which the leaders of the countries of the United Nations discussed ways of protecting
the environment and preserving the Earth's biodiversity.

Earthquake Like volcanoes, earthquakes are a tectonic hazard. We experience

earthquakes as a series of vibrations at the surface of the earth.

Ecological balance The equilibrium that exists between living organisms and their

Ecological footprint The demand made by an individual on the environment in terms of

water supply, land, energy, food and waste disposal.

Ecoregions A large area of land or water that contains distinct plant and animal
communities along with their supporting environment.

Ecosystem A community of species and its supporting environment.

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Ecotourism Tourism where the main reason for travel is to enjoy wildlife in natural
settings and having as little negative impact on landscapes and systems as possible.
Often used in conjunction with the terms Green Tourism and Environmentally Friendly.

Emergency Disasters Database (EM-DAT) An information gathering programme that

is run by the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED).

Endemism When species of plants and animals are found nowhere else in the world.

Energy crisis A serious shortage of energy which interrupts domestic supplies and
impacts on all sectors of the economy.

Energy infrastructure The built environment constructed for the exploration,

development and production of energy, and all the networks that transport energy
from points of production to consumers.

Energy mix The relative contribution of different energy sources to a country’s energy

Energy pathway Supply routes between energy producers and consumers which may
be pipelines, shipping routes or electricity cables.

Energy TNCs Transnational corporations that specialise in the exploration, development,

production and sale of energy products.

Environmental degradation The damage that humans do to various components of the

ecosystem, including its soils, flora, fauna, water and air.

Environmental determinism Environmental or geographical determinism is the view

that the physical environment, rather than social conditions, determines culture.

Environmental impact assessment A document required by law detailing all the

impacts on the environment of an energy type or another project above a certain size.

Environmental quality A measurement of the quality of the environment. Often made

up of several different measures such as water and air quality plus the range of

Environmental Stewardship Using rural landscapes in such a way that ecosystems are
supported. Often associated with farming- farmers being financially rewarded for
carrying out farming practices that support habitats into the future.

Environmental sustainability Capable of being maintained over a long period of time.

Epidemic A large number of cases of a disease that happen at the same time.

Esker A sinuous ridge of deposited material formed by sub glacial rivers.

Erosion The wearing away of rocks and soils by the action of water, ice and wind.

Extended polluter responsibility Holds manufacturers and traders responsible for the
environmental impacts of their products throughout the product life-cycle, from the
extraction of the raw materials, through the manufacturing process and product use,
to their disposal.

Externalities The unaccounted for / uncosted impacts of an economic activity on people

and the environment.

Extrusion The upwards movement of magma through the earth’s crust and onto its
surface as lava. Extrusive volcanic landforms form once the lava has cooled and

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Fair trade Producers of food, and some non-food products, in developing countries
receive a fair deal when they are selling their products.

Famine Periods of time during which there is a widespread, severe shortage of food.

Fast-breeder reactor A nuclear reactor in which the chain reaction is maintained mainly
by fast neutrons. It is capable of producing more fissionable material than it

Fault line Sometimes rock can be broken by movements within the earth’s crust, and
then displaced sideways, up or down. When this occurs, it is referred to as a fault.

Feudal A pre-capitalist mode of production in which land was held by rich landlords and
peasants worked the land for the lord, but received protection from him.

Firn This is when fallen snow has lost about 90% of its air.

Fissures Cracks or openings within rock through which magma escapes onto the surface
of the earth. They usually form because of weaknesses that exist within rock.

Fluvioglacial Landforms and/or processes associated with glacial meltwater/rivers.

Folds Under enormous pressures, continental crust can be buckled, bent or broken.
Land can be ‘folded’ into mountains, much in the same way that a piece of loose
carpet will fold as it is pushed against a wall.

Food Availability Deficit (FAD) A Food Availability Deficit (FAD) is said to occur
when there is not enough food to adequately supply the nutritional needs of a given

Food Entitlement Deficit This occurs because the access of people to food supplies is
not always even; some people receive less food than that to which they are entitled,
which equates to the amount that is required to sustain growth and/or health.

Food insecurity A situation where people lack access to secure food supplies.

Food miles The food that we purchase at our local supermarkets leaves a much bigger
environmental footprint than ever before in terms of the distance travelled from point
of origin (farm) to the point of consumption (our homes) and the production of
greenhouse gases on this journey.

Food security The ability to access the food that is required to meet daily nutrition
requirements. Food security can be thought of at various levels, including household,
community, regional or national.

Food supply The total amount of food that is available for distribution and
consumption/storage in a given location.

Food surplus "As opposed to famine, food surpluses are not a humanitarian disaster.
Food surpluses can result from a number of factors, which can include:

• supportive government policies

• increased agricultural plantings

• economic incentives provided by government

• the promise of good yields and good financial returns.

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Foreign direct investment Overseas investments in physical capital by transnational

Fossil fuels Fuels consisting of hydrocarbons (coal, oil and natural gas), formed by the
decomposition of prehistoric organisms in past geological periods.

Fossil water This means that it is now being recharged at a much slower rate.

Fragility Easily damaged.

Free trade A hypothetical situation whereby producers have free and unhindered access
to markets everywhere.

Freeze thaw Weathering caused by the expansion of water as it freezes.

Fumerole The name given to a fissure which exudes volcanic gases.

Gaeltacht An area where Irish is the primary language spoken.

GDI A measurement of the overall achievement of both men and women in the three
dimensions of the human development index: life expectancy, educational attainment
and real income, adjusted for gender inequalities.

GDP at purchasing power parityThe GDP of a country converted into US dollars on

the basis of how the value of the currency compares with that of other countries.

GEM Focuses on three variables which reflect women’s participation in political decision-
making, access to professional opportunities and earnings power respectively.

Geo-engineering Global scale technological solutions to environmental problems such

as global warming, such as releasing sulphur particles or seeding the ocean with iron.

Geopolitics Political relations among nations, particularly relating to claims and

disputes pertaining to borders, territories and resources.

Glacial trough A steep- sided and flat bottomed valley formed by the passage of a
glacier. (U-shaped valley)

Glacier Large body of ice formed by the compaction of snow.

Global orchestration A future that involves the removal of all trade barriers in order to
allow free trade and the development of all nations, dealing with the environmental
problems later as wealth allows.

Global shift Global shift refers to the transfer of economic activities from Western
Europe and North America to the newly industrialised countries (NICs) . This has been
facilitated by the growth of trans-national companies (TNCs).

Globalisation The breaking down of the traditional barriers to finance, investment and
trade at an international level.

Glocalisation A localised form of globalisation. For example, a global firm like Nissan or
McDonald’s develops a local variant of a mass produced product, such as vegetarian
burgers in India.

Green taxation Taxes levied to discourage behaviour that will be harmful to the

Ground displacement Huge amounts of energy are involved in the movement of the
earth’s tectonic plates. When pressure is applied to rocks for long periods of time,
especially in enclosed, below ground environments such as those found beneath the
earth’s subduction zones, deformation can result.

Hawaiian eruption Hawaiian eruptions are the least explosive of all volcanic eruptions.

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Hazard profile "In determining the likely impact of volcanoes and earthquakes, hazard
profilers will take into account factors such as:

• location

• frequency

• magnitude

• duration

• areal extent

Health inequality Variations in health status across individuals in a population.

Health care sustainabilityHealth care systems which have the funding to maintain
levels of human and physical resources over the long term in the fight against a
particular disease.

Health System All the activities whose primary purpose is to promote, restore or
maintain health.

Heritage tourism Tourism based on the historical, natural and/or cultural assets of a

Homogeneity A situation in which there is a lack of variation.

Hotspot Areas of localised mantle convection bringing plumes of magma towards the
surface, resulting in isolated volcanic areas usually far from plate boundaries.

Human health risk The likelihood that a given exposure or series of exposures may
have damaged or will damage the health of individuals.

Hunger A severe shortage of food.

Hyper-individual A person who is only concerned about their own well-being and self-
fulfilment, showing little or no regard for others.

Ice Sheet A large body of ice that covers a land mass.

Incidental pollution One off pollution incidents.

Indigenous population People descending from the original ethnic groups[s] to

populate a country. Other ethnic groups migrating to that country at a later period of
time may come to dominate the indigenous population in various ways.

Indirect cost The costs of natural disaster can be direct and indirect. Indirect costs arise
as a result of the interruption to commercial systems, lost wages, or the lost
opportunities to do business and/or earn money as a result of the disaster.

Industrial revolution The transformation of a country from one dominated by the

primary sector into an industrial nation with a wide manufacturing base.

Infant mortality rate The number of deaths of children under one year of age per live
births per year.

Inertia The way in which developments tend to remain in their original location even
when all the early advantages have disappeared.

Infection rate The spread of disease can be measured by the number of people affected
by a disease in a given time.

Information technology Information technology is the electronic means of capturing,

processing, storing and communicating information.
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Insolation The amount of solar radiation that reaches the Earth’s surface.

Integrated Farm Management This form of management encouraged farmers to

combine their best of their conventional farming methods with modern technology in
order to farm in a responsible and environmentally friendly manner.

Intellectual property Intellectual property rights cover creations of the mind, both
artistic and commercial, and they include copyright, trademarks, patents and trade

Inter-cropping This involves growing a crop in between the rows of another or under
another in the case of trees. In tropical countries, inter-cropping increases yield,
prevents the spread of pests, and maintains soil quality

Intermediate technology Also know as appropriate technology, intermediate

technology is labour-intensive and small-scale technology used in LEDCS. This is
based on inventions developed in MEDCs but with lower overall cost.

Internal flow Means that over time the ice crystals within an ice sheet align themselves
parallel to the direction of flow due to pressure. This makes it easier for the crystals to
move and slide past one another.

International aid The giving of resources (e.g. money, food, goods, technology) by one
country or organisation to another poorer country.

International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction (IDNDR) During this

period, the basic policies of disaster reduction were introduced at a range of
administrative levels, and the focus clearly shifted from post-disaster recovery to pre-
disaster preparedness and mitigation.

Intrusion The movement of magma, below ground, into spaces that exist within rock
strata. When this magma cools and hardens, intrusive volcanic landforms are created.

Kame A fluvioglacial feature formed in the shape of mounds by material that has been
washed into crevasses and other depressions in a glacier and then deposited as the ice
sheet/glacier retreats.

Kettle Hole A depression in a glacial landscape formed when a block of buried ice
melts and the sediments above collapse.

Keystone species A species which is pivotal within an ecosystem. Its removal would
impact on the survival of a number of other species (but this is often not recognized

Kondratieff cycle A long-term (approx. 50 year) fluctuation in the world economic


Laccolith A laccolith is a dome of igneous rock that is formed between two layers of pre-
existing sedimentary rock.

Lahar This word comes from the Indonesian language, and refers to a volcanic mud

Land degradation Land degradation can cause the quality of soil to deteriorate by
exposing the valuable layer of topsoil to erosion by wind and water.

Land tenure The legal right to use a piece of land for a period of time.

Landscape of Consumption Where it is the landscape itself in all its forms that is
being used/consumed e.g. walking.

Landscape of production One where the dominant process is growing crops or raising
livestock to be extracted for human use.

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Landslide The sliding of a large amount of rock or soil down a slope, under the force of

Lapilli Volcanic material that is between 2mm and 65mm in size.

Lava When magma is extruded onto the surface of the earth, it is referred to as lava.

Lava plateaux A lava plateau is a raised area of land that has been formed by repeated
lava flows in a given place over a period of time.

Leakage Leakage is the term used for money generated by tourism, but which returns
to the country where the company is located and is not available to be reinvested

Leapfrogging Leapfrogging is the term used to describe how some newer technologies,
such as mobile phones and the internet, are penetrating developing countries much
faster than older technologies like landline telephones.

Least developed countries The poorest and weakest economies in the developing
world. LDCs are a subset of the LEDCs.

Leisure Covers all activities that are carried out in non-work time for recreation and
includes tourism and sport.

Life expectancy The average number of years that a person is expected to live.

Liquefaction The process by which very wet sediment becomes a liquid. This is an
insidious process that can occur below ground as a result of an earthquake.
Liquefaction can cause the loss of soil from hill slopes or the collapse of the walls of
earth that support dams.

Lithosphere The outer layer of the earth consisting of the crust and upper mantle.

Loess Fine material that is deposited by fluvioglacial processes but is then often
transported by wind to form large deposits.

Loss burden Modifying the loss burden refers to moving vulnerable communities,
infrastructure or capital items out of harm’s way, so as to reduce the overall losses
due to disaster.

Low input farming In low input farming the chemical inputs are reduced. This
increases the environmental benefits, but does not seriously alter the social and
economic costs and benefits.

Magma Hot melted rock below the surface of the Earth.

Malaria A water-related insect vector disease transmitted by the bite of an infected

mosquito, common in hot countries.

Malnutrition When someone becomes ill or weak because they have not eaten enough
good food.

Mass tourism Mass tourism is when large numbers of tourists travel to the same
destination and is closely allied to the rise of the package holiday.

Maximum sustainable yield This is the amount of a resource that can be taken
(harvested) without impacting on the overall stock of that resource.

Megacity A city with a population of 10 million people or more.

Megadiverse An area that has extremely high species richness.

Microcredit Tiny loans and financial services to help the poor.

Microgeneration Generators producing electricity with an output of less than 50 KW.

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Milankovitch Cycles Cycles related to the orbit of the Earth that impact on the amount
of solar radiation received.

Military industrial complex Is the part of the economy that provides goods and
services for the military, such as aircraft, warheads, missiles, clothing, catering, etc.

Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) Towards the end of the last century, the
United Nations developed a series of Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) for the
21st Century. The MDGs were end dated to 2015, with the aim being to achieve key
targets in relation to each goal by this point in time. The first and arguably most
important of these goals was to ‘eradicate extreme poverty and hunger’.

Modernisation theory A deterministic approach based on the economic history of a

number of developed countries. Distinct economic and social changes are required for
a country to move from one stage to another.

Morbidity The rate at which a long term illness occurs in a particular area.

Moraine Angular, unsorted and unstratified material, including rocks and other eroded
debris that is deposited by a glacier.

National Parks An area of land that has been designated by government legislation as
an area to be preserved due to its landscape and/or cultural qualities and to be
accessed by the population for recreation.

Natural buffers Natural protection against degradation.

Neocolonialism Is the term used to describe the ways in which rich countries dominate
the economy of poorer countries. It is a form of economic imperialism rather than
political control.

Neo-Malthusianism Neo-Malthusians see the need for the human population to be kept
in check in order to address the issue of global poverty.

Net primary productivity This is Gross Primary Productivity (GPP) minus the energy
lost through respiration.

Newly industrialised countries Countries that have undergone rapid and successful
industrialisation since the 1960s.

NNR Nature reserves which are biologically and/or geologically important areas of
national importance.

Non-governmental organisations National or international private organizations,

which are distinct from governmental or intergovernmental agencies.

Nunataks A mountain top that is above a surrounding ice sheet.

Nutrition transition The nutritional status of the world’s less developed nations is most
accurately described by the early stages of the process referred to as the ‘nutrition

Obesity When someone is very fat in a way that is unhealthy.

Oceanic crust Thin, basaltic oceanic crust, which underlies most of the world's ocean

Oil price volatility A measure of how rapidly and strongly traders think prices could

Oil sands Also known as tar sands or extra heavy oil. Naturally occurring mixtures of
sand or clay, water and an extremely dense and viscous form of petroleum called

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OPEC The Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries. The current members are:
Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Algeria, Libya, Nigeria,
Venezuela, Angola and Ecuador.

Organic farming Farming techniques which are free of agrochemicals and have a higher
degree of sustainability. Such techniques work to restore and protect the natural
balance of the ecosystem.

Over nutrition Having more food (and particularly the nutrients and energy in that
food) than is actually needed to sustain a healthy diet.

Over-cultivation To exhaust the soil or the land through excessive tilling of the soil.

Pandemic Where a highly infectious disease is widespread and the number of people
infected is measurable at an international scale.

Patent A patent gives sole and exclusive rights for a number of years to the proceeds
from the sales of an invention. Intellectual property rights cover creations of the mind,
both artistic and commercial, and they include copyright, trademarks, patents and
trade secrets.

Peak oil production The year in which the world or an individual oil-producing country
reaches its highest level of production, with production declining thereafter.

Periglacial Areas lying adjacent to ice sheets that are not ice covered but are affected
by very cold temperatures.

Permaculture is an agricultural system that works with nature by recognising that

places differ in terms of local climate, land form, soils and the combinations of species.

Permafrost Permanently frozen ground found in periglacial areas.

Pingo Small circular hills formed around an ice core. Found in periglacial areas.

Plate margins The zones of greatest inter-plate stresses between one plate and
another, and where the oceanic and/or continental crust can undergo the most

Plate Tectonics A theory that explains that the Lithosphere and crust of the Earth are
divided into a number of plates that move relative to each other.

Pleasure periphery The geographical movement outwards in search of new tourist

destinations and experiences.

Pleistocene The geological epoch that began about 2 to 2.5 million years ago and ended
about 10 000 years ago.

Plinian eruption These eruptions occur where magma is dacitic or rhyolitic in its
composition. The high viscosity of these types of magma prevents the escape of
volcanic gases, leading to highly explosive eruptions.

Plutons The major types of intrusive igneous features (batholiths, stocks and bosses).

Pollution fatigue Increasing amounts of information about pollution has caused people
to become weary with the issue.

Potable water Water that is fit to drink.

Potential evapotranspiration Is the amount of evaporation (from soil, rock and

surface water stores) and transpiration (from plant life) that can occur given a
sufficient supply of water.

Preston curve A graph showing the relationship between a country's life expectancy
and it's real per captia income.

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Pristine areas An area where the natural ecosystems have not been impacted upon by
human activity.

Privatisation The sale of state-owned assets to the private sector.

Proved reserves Quantities of oil that geological and engineering information indicates
with reasonable certainty can be recovered in the future from known reservoirs under
existing economic and operating conditions.

Phyla One of the large groups into which scientists divide plants, animals, and

Pyramidal peak An angular mountain peak, such as the Matterhorn, formed when 3 or
more corries cut back towards each other.

Pyroclastic flow A pyroclastic flow is a mixture of superheated rock (some of which

may be semi-solid) and hot gases that rapidly flows down the side of a volcano.

Pyroclasts Whilst lava remains in a liquid-like, molten state until it cools, other volcanic
materials are solid. These are the ‘pyroclasts’; a word from ancient Greek which can
be translated as ‘fire fragments’. These fiery fragments are generated when heat and
pressure within a volcano blasts rock into smaller sized particles.

Quality of life All the factors that sums up all the factors that affect a person's general
well-being and happiness.

Recovery rate The number of people recovering from infection during that time.

Refined oil inventories Stocks of refined oil.

Relative poverty An economic indicator which is used to measure the number of

households whose level of income is less than an amount designated as the ‘threshold’
income level. It is a useful indicator for analysing the way that wealth is distributed
within a region or nation.

Renewable energy Sources of energy such as solar and wind power that are not
depleted as they are used.

Reserves to production ratio The reserves remaining at the end of any year are
divided by the production in that year. The result is the length of time that those
remaining reserves would last if production were to continue at that level.

Resilience Measurement of the capacity of an ecosystem or landscape to cope with

human activities.

Resource base Used to describe the foundations upon which the economic strength of a
community is built. A narrow resource base exposes a community to fluctuations
within the natural environment or commodity markets.

Resource depletion The consumption of non-renewable and finite resources, which will
eventually lead to their exhaustion.

Resource nationalisation When a country decides to place part or all, of one or a

number of natural resources (e.g. oil and gas), under state ownership.

Richter Scale This is a logarithmic scale, where the difference between one whole
number of magnitude and the next is ten fold.

Rift valley Rift valleys can form at the point where three tectonic plate boundaries
meet. Rift valleys form when one arm of the three plate boundary stops moving or
spreading. The result is a valley between the plates.

Ring of Fire The destructive boundaries, and particularly the subduction zones, lying on
the fringes of this particular plate also form the so-called ‘Ring of Fire’. Here,

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volcanoes stretch out in a ‘ring’ around the Pacific Ocean, from Australasia and the
Philippines on its western edge, through the Aleutian Islands to the coastlines of North
and South America on the eastern edge of the Pacific.

Rising superpower Are countries, or groups of countries, experiencing an increase in

economic, military, cultural and geographical influence, presently Brazil, Russia, India
and China.

Roche moutonnee Giving rise to a hummocky shaped landform, reminiscent of a

sheep; hence its name, roche moutonnée or sheep rock.

Rural–urban continuum This is the gradual transition from extreme urban as

represented by a city to extreme rural such as wilderness areas.

Rural-urban fringe Area of land use which is next to the edge of an urban settlement
such as sewage works or golf courses.

Saturation Saturation means that all of the available ‘spaces’ within the soil profile (that
is, between soil particles) are filled with water.

Seismologist People who study earthquakes.

Shield volcanoes Huge volcanoes formed from single vent effusive basaltic eruptions.
The result is a convex shape which looks like a shield from above.

Sill A sill is the name given to a long, thin intrusion of igneous rock through pre-existing

Slum A heavily populated urban area characterised by substandard housing and


Social business Forms of business that seeks to profit from investments that generate
social improvements and serve a broader human development purpose.

Socialism A movement to establish a classless society by substituting public ownership

for private ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange.

Solifluction The process by which permafrost melts and the saturated active layer of
ground flows downhill.

SSSI Site of Special Scientific Interest –these are sites which are important due to their
animal communities, geology or a particular landscape feature.

Stock Stock is the term used to describe intrusive igneous rocks that are smaller in size
and extent than a batholith. By definition, they must be less than 100 km2 in areal
extent. Often, stocks form as offshoots of larger batholiths.

Stone stripes and polygons Formed under periglacial conditions where frost heave
has sorted material into patterned ground.

Strategic petroleum reserve The USA’s reserve supply of oil which should last for
about 3 months in the event of severe interruptions to imported oil.

Strategic resource One that is considered to be essential to the maintenance of an


Striations Scratches formed by debris embedded in a glacier passing over rock surfaces.

Strombolian eruption Strombolian eruptions tend to occur in areas where relatively

viscous basaltic lava is found. This viscosity prevents the escape of volcanic gases,
leading to a build up of pressure within the volcano.

Superpower Is a nation or group of nations that has a leading position in international


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Supply shock A significant interruption to supply due to an environmental, economic or
political event.

Sustainability Capable of being maintained over a long period of time. In terms of

agricultural systems, sustainable practices are those produce food whilst also
maintaining the long-term health of the natural environment.

Systemic approach The processes that exist at the local level must match the
administrative approach and resources that are available at the next level of
government, and dovetail into a state/county or national risk reduction strategies.

Technical fix A technical fix is the idea that there is a technologically ‘correct’ solution to
any situation.

Technocentric of or pertaining to, ideas and belief systems that have a strong focus on
the development of technology; especially to the betterment of humankind.

Technological absorption Technological absorption is a measure of the ability of a

country or region to accept and adopt new technology.

Tectonic plates Much like the fragmented shell of a cracked hard-boiled egg, the crust
of the earth is broken into segments or sections that are known as tectonic plates.

Terrestrial land based.

The terms of trade The price of a country’s exports relative to the price of its imports,
and the changes that take place over time.

Thermokarst A hummocky landscape formed in periglacial areas caused by the thawing

of permafrost.

Tourism is the term that is usually used when travel is involved away from home,
normally for at least one night.

Tourism hotspot A location which receives large numbers of visitors.

Toxicity A measure of the degree to which something is poisonous.

Trade deficit when the value of a country’s exports is less than the value of its imports.

Transnational corporation A firm which has the power to co-ordinate and control
operations in more than one country, even if it does not own them’. (Peter Dicken)

Truncated spurs Ridges of rock jutting into a glacial valley that are blunt ended as the
glacier has eroded away the ends of the original interlocking spurs created by a river.

Tsunami Waves that can be generated in the ocean by the displacement of the sea-bed
during an earthquake.

Tundra A natural biome associated with periglacial areas. The vegetation is

characterised by no trees and low growing shrubs.

Unconventional natural gas Natural gas that is more difficult to access and therefore
more expensive to extract than ‘conventional’ reserves.

Under nutrition Having less food (and nutrients) than is required to maintain a healthy

Undernourished Unhealthy and weak because you have not had enough food or the
right type of food.

Underweight A condition in which one’s weight is lower than the average weight that is
expected. This calculation is based primarily on gender and age.

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Uniformitarianism The idea of “the present being the key to the past” is known as

United Nations Is the global association of governments enabling cooperation in terms

of international law, security, economic development and social equity.

Utilidor Insulated infrastructure used to carry pipes for utilities such as mains water and
gas and pipes to take away sewage and wastes.

Vajrayana Buddhism A form of mystical Buddhism in which followers may experience

full enlightenment. It is sometimes described as the third major type of Buddhism.

Vector The method by which a disease is transmitted.

Vein Sometimes, magma will find its way into the small cracks, fractures and openings
that exist in the rock that lies below the surface of the earth. When this magma cools
to form igneous rock, the vein-like patterns within the rocks can remain.

Vertical health programmes Concentrate on tackling a single disease.

Virtual water The additional indirect water use is known as ‘virtual water’, that is, the
amount of water used in the production of a good or service.

Volcanic cones The central vent of the volcano is connected to a store of magma below
the surface, which is known as the magma chamber. The extrusion of lava from the
vent leads the creation of a volcanic cone. With each new eruption, new layers are
added to the cone, in the first instance by the lava and pyroclastic materials which are
ejected from the volcano, and then by the volcanic ash which later settles from the

Volcano An opening in the earth’s crust from which material from below the earth’s
surface is ejected.

Vulcanian eruption Vulcanian eruptions tend to be short-lived, lasting only a few hours.
Found in areas where lava is highly viscous, a build up of pressure within the volcano
means that these eruptions are relatively intense.

Vulcanologist A person who studies volcanoes. Vulcanology is a dangerous science,

often encouraging people to get dangerously close to an active volcano.

Vulnerability The degree to which an area is susceptible to damage. There is

considerable overlap between the two terms.

Water footprint How much water is used to produce goods and services.

Water scarcity This occurs when annual water supplies drop below 1000 cubic metres
per person per year. This may be divided into ‘apparent scarcity’, which exists when
there is plenty of water but it is used wastefully, and ‘real scarcity’ that is caused by
insufficient rainfall or too many people relying on a limited resource.

Water stress This occurs when annual water supplies drop below 1,700 cubic meters
per person per year.

Weapons of mass destruction are weapons that can kill a large number of people.
They include nuclear, biological, chemical and radiological weapons.

Wilderness a natural area where the influence of humans is minimal.

World Biosphere Reserve Designated by UNESCO as part of its Man and Biosphere
programme and aims to promote a balance between humans and their environment.

World Heritage Site An area of outstanding natural and/or cultural importance,

designated by UNESCO, part of the United Nations.

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World system theory this is based on the history of the capitalist world economy.
Countries fall into three economic levels, and can move from one level to another if
their contribution to the world economy changes.

World systems analysis Treats the whole world as a single unit and divides the
countries into a core, largely MEDCs, the periphery, which can be identified with
LEDCs, and the semi-periphery, where social change and class struggles are taking

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