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Volume 56, Number 6November/December 2005

In This Issue

Click for the Table of Contents

Reader's Guide

For students: We hope this two-page guide will help sharpen your reading skills and deepen your understanding of this issue’s articles.

For teachers: We encourage reproduction and adaptation of these ideas, freely and without further permission from Saudi Aramco World,by teachers at any level, whether working in a classroom or through home study.


Class Activities

The activities in this section are designed to engage students with the material in Saudi Aramco World while encouraging them to connect it to the larger themes they explore in their other studies. This issue’s activities revolve around the theme Interaction of Humans and the Environment. Geographers who use this theme point out that while the environment influences human activities, humans also modify the environment. In the activities below, you will consider both.

How do people adapt to natural environments?
For these activities, think about natural environments as comprising earth, water, the atmosphere and living things.

Let’s begin by looking at climate, which is part of the natural environment. Climate refers to long-term weather trends. Since people can’t intentionally change climate, they have to adapt to it. When you look at a people’s way of life, you can see that they adjust to living in different climates in a variety of ways. Russians wear fur hats to protect themselves from the cold. Spaniards take a siesta, or rest, in the hottest part of the afternoon. You get the idea. As a class, brainstorm as many different ways that people adapt to specific climates as you can think of. Use a world map to spark your thinking. List your ideas on chart paper.

With these adaptations in mind, read “Queen of the India Trade.” With a group, find Jiddah on a map. Discuss what you notice about its location. A few questions to get you started: What land mass is it on? What body of water is it near? Where is it relative to Makkah? What is its latitude? (The latitude should grab you. What is significant about it? If you don’t know, find out: Look in a geography book or on the Internet.) Based on what you find out, what can you tell about Jiddah’s climate?

Now, take a close look at how writer William Facey constructed “Queen of the India Trade.” Facey builds a persuasive argument that is based on Jiddah’s location and climate—specifically its winds. With your group, find and highlight the key sentences in the article where Facey takes each step in his step-by-step argument. Based on your highlights, what is Facey’s point? Write it down. How does climate fit into his account?

Return to the question “How do people adapt to the natural environment?” How did the people who lived in Jiddah, and those who came there to trade, have to deal with the climate? How did they shape their lives around it? What happened to those who ignored the climate and tried to travel off-season?

“Making a Living in the Desert” also presents stories of people adapting differently to the same climate. Divide the class in half. Have half take the role of the nomads (the Shanabla and Kababish), while the other half takes the role of farmers. With your group, prepare a PowerPoint or poster presentation in which you describe how your group makes its living and how that has been shaped by the climate. Include visual material in your presentation—graphic organizers, when they’re appropriate, and/or the photographs that accompany the article. When both groups have presented, discuss what generalizations you can make about how climate affects ways of life and how people adapt to climate.

Why do different people value the natural environment in different ways?
For this question, think specifically about the land. “Making a Living in the Desert” shows that the Shanabla have a unique relationship to the land. In a sentence or two, describe it. Then describe how the Kababish relate to the land. What accounts for the differences? In your answer, include both lifestyle and political realities. Remember that the Kababish have a homeland while the Shanabla do not. How might that affect the way the two groups value the land they live on?

Then, what about you? How do you value the land you live on? If you live in a city, perhaps much of the land is obscured (paved or covered with houses or apartments). If you live in the country, perhaps you think about land a lot. Either way, how do you feel toward this land? How does the land affect how people around you “make their living”? Write a journal entry exploring how you value (or don’t value) land. You might focus on a specific piece of land, or keep your entry more general.

How do people try to overcome the limitations the natural environment imposes on them?
People aren’t always happy to adapt to the natural environment. Often they try to surmount the limitations it puts on them. Think about some examples by completing the following activity. Put each of the following titles at the top of a sheet of paper: Overcoming the Land; Overcoming the Water; Overcoming the Climate; and Overcoming Other Living Things. As a class, come up with examples that fit in each of the four categories. Include examples from your own life, as well as historical examples. Cast a wide net. There are hundreds of possibilities. Here are a few to get you started:

  • Highways and roads help people overcome rough terrain so they can reach a destination quickly
  • Bridges, storm sewers and levees help people overcome water. (And we saw in New Orleans how levees don’t always work.)
  • Air conditioners help people overcome the limits of high temperatures. There’s no need for a siesta if you’ve got an air conditioner.
  • Pesticides and vaccines help people overcome a few of the dangers posed by other living things.

When you’ve finished your lists, think about the articles in Saudi Aramco World. How did some of the people you read about in “Queen of the India Trade” use technology to overcome nature? How are some of the people in “Making a Living in the Desert” trying to adapt to the limits of the land and climate? How are others trying to overcome them? How well are they succeeding?

Are there costs of trying to overcome nature?
Focus on “Making a Living in the Desert.” Farmers are using irrigation to help them cultivate land that otherwise isn’t well suited to agriculture. What problems does this cause for other people? What problems might they be causing to the natural environment? Do you think the benefits outweigh the costs?

As a class, choose five ways people currently try to overcome nature. Make sure they are things that affect you personally, like air conditioners and pesticides. Divide the class into three teams for a debate. One team argues that yes, the benefits outweigh the costs. The second team argues that no, the costs outweigh the benefits. The third team moderates, posing the questions and deciding which team has argued more persuasively.

When is it impossible to overcome nature?
In the past year, people all over the world have witnessed ways that nature cannot be overcome. Think about two of the natural disasters that have struck in the last 12 months. Discuss the following questions with a small group: Was there a way the disaster could have been prevented? Was there a way damage could have been minimized? What have people been saying about ways they might avert such disasters in the future, or at least minimize their impact?

Now think about the impact of natural disasters. Choose one of the disasters from this past year or the droughts discussed in “Making a Living in the Desert.” Put it in a circle in the center of a piece of chart paper. With your group, create a web that shows the effects of the disaster. Start with the “primary effects,” for example, the number of people or animals who died and homes and businesses destroyed. Then add “secondary effects”—how those deaths and losses affected people. How many effects can you think of? When you’re done, write a journal entry reflecting on the long-term effects of natural disasters.

Analyzing Visual Images

In each “Reader’s Guide,” you analyze a visual image. In this issue’s edition, you will analyze visual images two different ways. First you will consider an element of the visual composition of the photo, as you usually do. In addition, you’ll also look at the photo as evidence—much as historians look at letters, buildings and public documents to try to understand the past. You’ll be looking at these photos as evidence of human–environment interaction.

Photography is a two-dimensional medium that can, to varying degrees, show three dimensions. There are several ways photographs achieve a three-dimensional look. Light and shadow, for example, show the texture of the headscarf in the photo on page 37. In other photos, like the one shown here, a clear line divides the frame, creating a foreground and a background. Your eye is trained to know that what’s larger is closer and what’s smaller is farther away.

Now think about this photograph as evidence of human–environment interaction. Why do you think the photographer chose to take the picture with the plant in the foreground and the person in the background? What impression does the photo give you about the relationship between people and the natural environment? Imagine you are the person in the photo. How do you think you would feel?

Now imagine the photographer had taken the picture the other way around—with the person nearby and the plant in the distance. What would such a photo suggest about how people and nature interact?

Julie Weiss Julie Weiss is an education consultant based in Lowell, Massachusetts. She holds a Ph.D. in American studies. Her company, Unlimited Horizons, develops social studies, media literacy and English as a Second Language curricula, and produces textbook materials.