We are not separate from the world around us. The environment is part of what determines our identities and our cultures. Imagine, for example, the life of someone born into a desert environment, where there is little water. In order to survive, one would need knowledge of desert plants and animal habits, and children’s games would be played in hot sand. Compare this life to that of a child born into a concrete city – into an area like Hillbrow in Johannesburg, for example, filled with skyscrapers, but no trees; or to a person growing up in a landscape of green hills and grazing cows.
So when we think about what “culture” is, we need to consider our physical context, our environment.
And as much as our environments affect us, we affect our environments. Environments, both urban and rural, are changing in all sorts of ways – through processes that we humans have set in motion. We alter the environment to fulfill our need for food, for shelter, in order to improve our surroundings aesthetically, to develop new and better technology, to pursue progress, and in seeking ever more wealth.
We change our environments through conflicts and power struggles. Whatever we do impacts on our environment in dozens of ways.