How Have Humans Harmed the Geosphere?

Excavations and agricultural activities are the two primary ways humans influence the geosphere. One example from the 20th century was the Dust Bowl, in which farming practices in the Midwest led to the erosion of topsoil, rendering the Great Plains largely unable to support crops.

Because of the loss of topsoil in the Midwest, huge dust clouds began to blow across the country, including one that went as high as 10,000 feet and made it all the way to New York City. Farming in such a way as to let the topsoil erode away leaves a top layer of dust on the soil. In years in which drought occurs, this tendency becomes especially harmful, as the top layer simply blows away.

Excavations are another way that people can bring damage to the geosphere. However, for the most part, the geology of the land has humans at its mercy. Earthquakes and volcanoes are natural events that quickly overwhelm the ability of the public to respond in a meaningful way. Attempts to predict upcoming earthquakes and volcanoes gives people another avenue of connection with the geosphere, as does the growing ability of geothermal technology to bring heat out from the middle of the earth for home climate control applications.