Meaning, Definition and Components of Environment

Meaning, Definition and Components of Environment

This article provides information about the meaning, definition and components of environment!

Now a days the word environment is often being used by almost all people around us, on television and in newspapers. Every one is speaking about the protection and pre-serration of environment. Global summits are being held regularly to discuss environmental issues. During the last hundred years, the mutual relationship among environment, social organization and culture has been discussed in sociology, anthropology and geography. All this shows the increasing importance of environment. Besides, it is a fact that life is tied with the environment.

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Social sciences have borrowed the concept of ecology from biology. As a branch of biology, ecology is the study of the relationship between living beings and their environment. Sociology has been greatly influenced by biology. Sociology also studies the relationship between man and environment through ecology. Field of study of human ecology in sociology is centered around man and his environment.

The credit of beginning the study of human ecology in the field of sociology goes to Park and Burgess. There exists a close relationship between man and environment. On the one hand man is born in environment and establishes harmony with environment. On the other hand man tires to control his environment and change it according to his requirements. Hence it requires an understanding of the environment of which man is a part.

Meaning and Definition:

The term environment has been derived from a French word “Environia” means to surround. It refers to both abiotic (physical or non-living) and biotic (living) environment. The word environment means surroundings, in which organisms live. Environment and the organisms are two dynamic and complex component of nature. Environment regulates the life of the organisms including human beings. Human beings interact with the environment more vigorously than other living beings. Ordinarily environment refers to the materialsand forces that surrounds the living organism.

Environment is the sum total of conditions that surrounds us at a given point of time and space. It is comprised of the interacting systems of physical, biological and cultural elements which are interlinked both individually and collectively. Environment is the sum total of conditions in which an organism has to survive or maintain its life process. It influences the growth and development of living forms.

In other words environment refers to those surroundings that surrounds living beings from all sides and affect their lives in toto. It consists of atmosphere, hydrosphere, lithosphere and biosphere. It’s chief components are soil, water, air, organisms and solar energy. It has provided us all the resources for leading a comfortable life.

1. According to P. Gisbert “Environment is anything immediately surrounding an object and exerting a direct influence on it.”

2. According to E. J. Ross “Environment is an external force which influences us.”

Thus, environment refers to anything that is immediately surrounding an object and exerting a direct influence on it. Our environment refers to those thing or agencies which though distinct from us, affect our life or activity. The environment by which man is surrounded and affected by factors which may be natural, artificial, social, biological and psychological.

Components of Environment:

Environment mainly consists of atmosphere, hydrosphere, lithosphere and biosphere. But it can be roughly divided into two types such as (a) Micro environment and (b) Macro environment. It can also be divided into two other types such as (c) Physical and (d) biotic environment.

(a) Micro environment refers to the immediate local surrounding of the organism.

(b) Macro environment refers to all the physical and biotic conditions that surround the organism externally.

(c) Physical environment refers to all abiotic factors or conditions like temperature, light, rainfall, soil, minerals etc. It comprises of atmosphere, lithosphere and hydrosphere.

(d) Biotic environment includes all biotic factors or living forms like plants, animals, Micro-organisms.

Locust swarms and climate change

Interview with Richard Munang, United Nations Environment Programme expert on climate and Africa

East African nations have been battling with swarms of desert locusts since the beginning of 2020. In what is being called the worst outbreak the region has seen in decades, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations warns that rising numbers of desert locusts present an extremely alarming threat to food security and livelihoods in the Horn of Africa.

According to the organization’s recent update on the desert locust upsurge, the current situation may be further worsened by new breeding that will produce more locust infestations in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia and possibly further afield.

We interviewed Richard Munang, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) expert on climate and Africa, on the relationship between environmental factors, climate change and the locust emergency.

What is the relationship between locusts and and climate change?

During quiet periods—known as recessions—desert locusts are usually restricted to the semi-arid and arid deserts of Africa, the Near East and South-West Asia that receive less than 200 mm of rain annually. In normal conditions, locust numbers decrease either by natural mortality or through migration.

However, the last five years have been hotter than any other since the industrial revolution and since 2009. Studies have linked a hotter climate to more damaging locust swarms, leaving Africa disproportionately affected—20 of the fastest warming countries globally are in Africa. Wet weather also favours multiplication of locusts. Widespread, above average rain that pounded the Horn of Africa from October to December 2019 were up to 400 per cent above normal rainfall amount. These abnormal rains were caused by the Indian Ocean dipole, a phenomenon accentuated by climate change.

Katitika village, Kitui county, Kenya — A swarm of desert locusts feeding on crops. Photo by FAO/Sven Torfinn

How can countries and individuals be better prepared?

While climate change is a global phenomenon, Africa stands out for its vulnerability which is driven primarily by the prevailing low levels of socioeconomic development. Persons living in poverty face compounding vulnerabilities to climate change impacts because they lack the resources to quickly recover from its effects. In this case, desert locusts are ravaging crops in the field before harvesting, wiping out livestock and wildlife feed, and with them savings, assets and livelihoods.

Deployment of climate action solutions such as decentralizing solar dryers to agro-value chain actors can ensure that they can earn up to 30 times more by being able to preserve their harvest and sell during the offseason or gives them flexibility to compensate for unpredictable events such as these locust swarms. It can also create enterprise opportunities for auxiliary value chains of fabricating these solar dryers. Interventions like this are critical to increase climate resilience for some of the most vulnerable communities across the continent.

How can locusts be controlled?

Controlling desert locust swarms primarily uses organophosphate chemicals by vehicle-mounted and aerial sprayers, and to a lesser extent by knapsack and hand-held sprayers.

Extensive research is ongoing regarding biological control and other means of non-chemical control with the current focus on pathogens and insect growth regulators. Control by natural predators and parasites so far is limited since locusts can quickly move away from most natural enemies. While people and birds often eat locusts, this is not enough to significantly reduce population levels over large areas.

What is the role of the United Nations in locust control?

The United Nations’ response to locust attack control is multi-agency in nature. While the immediate sector at risk is food security, climate change plays an exacerbating role.

One of UNEP’s roles is to disseminate the latest science on emerging climate trends to inform cross-sectorial policies and ensure resilience is built in the relevant sectors.

While the traditional form of control considered is use of pesticides, the impact of these chemicals on the environment and other critical ecosystems key to food security—such as bees and other insects, which not only pollinate up to 70 per cent of our food but also may have an impact on human health—cannot be overlooked. The World Health Organization’s role is to classify potential risks of different chemical agents to enable governments to invest in the safest one.

One of the mandates of the Food and Agricultural Organizations is to provide information on the general locust situation and to give timely warnings and forecasts to those countries in danger of invasion. The organization operates a centralized desert locust information service. In addition, empowering communities with technologies for value addition such as solar dryers—which are also climate action solutions—enables them to preserve their harvest. This makes it possible for an early harvest at the onset of attacks to ensure they save most of their yields.


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Definition of environment

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Other Words from environment

Synonyms for environment


  • ambient,
  • atmosphere,
  • climate,
  • clime,
  • context,
  • contexture,
  • environs,
  • medium,
  • milieu,
  • mise-en-scène,
  • setting,
  • surround,
  • surroundings,
  • terrain

Visit the Thesaurus for More

Choose the Right Synonym for environment

background, setting, environment, milieu, mise-en-scène mean the place, time, and circumstances in which something occurs. background often refers to the circumstances or events that precede a phenomenon or development. the shocking decision was part of the background of the riots setting suggests looking at real-life situations in literary or dramatic terms. a militant reformer who was born into an unlikely social setting environment applies to all the external factors that have a formative influence on one’s physical, mental, or moral development. the kind of environment that produces juvenile delinquents milieu applies especially to the physical and social surroundings of a person or group of persons. an intellectual milieu conducive to artistic experimentation mise-en-scène strongly suggests the use of properties to achieve a particular atmosphere or theatrical effect. a gothic thriller with a carefully crafted mise-en-scène

Meanings of Environment

Descending from the Middle French preposition environ “around,” environment , in its most basic meaning, is “that which surrounds.” When preceded by the and unmodified, it usually refers to the natural world (“please don’t litter if you care about the environment”). In a less physical, more extended sense, it may signify the circumstances and conditions that make up everyday life (“He grew up in a loving environment.”) The word may also be applied in highly specialized ways, denoting, for example, “the position of a linguistic element” (“how g gets pronounced in Italian depends upon its phonetic environment”) or “a computer interface from which various tasks can be performed” (“the app works in varied environments«).

Examples of environment in a Sentence

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word ‘environment.’ Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Wingless bug: photo, biological significance and environment

I nsect I dentification K ey
Identify Insects in Michigan . and beyond!

Make sure you have an insect.

First things first: Make sure you have an insect. This key is for insects.

One of the best ways to make sure you have an insect (and not a spider or other small creature) is to look at the legs. Insects have six, jointed legs that arise from the thorax (the “chest”). Many insects have wings, although many are wingless. Most have two compound eyes, although some lack compound eyes, and most have antennae.

In contrast, a spider has eight legs, is wingless, and has no antennae. Most spiders have eight eyes (two may be larger than the other six, but all eight eyes are usually visible).

If you believe that you definitely have an insect, click here to continue the key.

NOTE: Almost all immature insects are wingless. This key does not cover immature insects. If you carefully go through this key and cannot identify your wingless insect, it may be an immature insect. Identifying immature insects takes practice, and as you become more adept at identifying adult insects, you will develop an eye for many immature insects as well.

Unless noted otherwise, photographs on this website are the property of the photographers and may not be reused without written permission from the photographers. To obtain permission, email the photographers here. High-resolution versions of the photographs are available.

Photos at the top of this website are (from left to right): potato beetle (Leptinotarsa decemlineata) — photo credit: Scott Bauer, U.S. Department of Agriculture; ebony jewelwing (Calopteryx maculata)— photo credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; sweat bee (Agapostemon splendens) — photo credit: Natalie Allen and Stephanie Kolski, U.S. Geological Survey; preying mantis, monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus), hellgrammite (aka toe biter) larva and eyed click beetle (Alaus oculatus) — photo credit: Leslie Mertz,; Halloween pennant (Celithemis eponina) — photo credit: Kay Meng, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Reproduction of material from any GoExploreMichigan Media webpages without written permission is strictly prohibited.


ENTFACT-401: Cankerworms | Download PDF

by Lee Townsend, Extension Entomologist
University of Kentucky College of Agriculture

Cankerworms, also called inchworms, loopers, or spanworms, are caterpillars that move with a distinctive “looping” motion. Small numbers of cankerworms are present every year but occasionally large outbreaks occur. When this happens, cankerworms can cause significant defoliation of a variety of deciduous landscape and forest trees.

Newly hatched larvae eat the soft tissue of young leaves at the tips of branches, giving them a skeletonized appearance. Larger larvae eat all but the midribs or tougher veins of expanded leaves. Most damage occurs about the time the leaves become fully developed. Trees may be completely stripped of foliage; some trees never have a chance to leaf out. Cankerworms have a distinctive appearance and movement because they have fewer fleshy legs along the abdomen than do typical caterpillars. Most cankerworms have five pairs of fleshy abdominal legs, including the pair at the tail end. The spring cankerworm has two pairs of these fleshy legs while the fall cankerworm has three pairs. The color and markings of these caterpillars can vary. If pale stripes can be seen along the sides of the body, the spring cankerworm has one per side and the fall cankerworm has three.

Fall cankerworms emerge as adult moths in late fall. The wingless females crawl up tree trunks onto branches, are mated by winged males, and then lay single‑layered masses of flower‑pot shaped eggs on limbs and trunks. The eggs are the overwintering life stage. Spring cankerworms overwinter as pupae and emerge as moths beginning in February. The wingless females crawl up tree trunks, are mated, then lay oval‑shaped eggs in masses under loose tree bark.

Cankerworm outbreaks sometimes occur two to three years in succession and then virtually disappear for a few years. If an outbreak can be anticipated, tanglefoot applied to tree trunks in a band two to four feet aboveground, will prevent female moths from crawling up and laying eggs in the trees. This technique may be preferred to insecticide sprays especially when dealing with very large trees.

Usually, outbreaks cannot be anticipated so an insecticide can be applied to prevent complete defoliation of trees.

CAUTION! Pesticide recommendations in this publication are registered for use in Kentucky, USA ONLY! The use of some products may not be legal in your state or country. Please check with your local county agent or regulatory official before using any pesticide mentioned in this publication.


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Religion can make us more environmentally friendly – or not

You might think that being religious would make you more likely to care about the natural world. But the truth is not so simple

  • By Niki Rust

7 February 2017

Eight out of 10 people around the world consider themselves religious. That figure shows that, while in many countries religion is not as dominant as it once was, it still has a huge influence on us.

What does that mean for the environmental movement? Does a belief in God or the supernatural make people more or less likely to take care of animals and the environment?

It is easy to make up stories to answer this question. You might say that many religions push the idea that the world will soon come to an end, in which case surely they encourage a «let it burn» ethos: what does it matter if the rainforest gets cut down, if the Rapture is next week? But just as plausibly, you might point out that many religions are big on kindness, and some such as Jainism even forbid killing animals. This should nudge their followers towards caring for the natural world.

But these are just stories. What does the science of human behaviour tell us?

Let’s start with Christianity. Writing in the high-profile journal Science in 1967, historian Lynn White proposed that Christian religions undermine wildlife conservation by advocating a domination ethic over nature. Because the Bible talks about «dominion» over nature, White argued that Christianity teaches its followers that «it is God’s will that man exploit nature for his proper ends».

Christian fundamentalists were less willing, and Catholics more willing, to financially support the environment

This was, to say the least, controversial. Other historians and theologians have argued that White was misreading the Bible, and that the text actually implies that we have a duty of care towards nature. Perhaps more to the point, White offered no evidence about the attitudes or behaviours of actual Christians.

In 2013, researchers tackled that question by asking whether there was a relationship between a country’s main religion and the number of important biodiversity areas it contained. They found that Christian countries, particularly Catholic ones, tended to have more areas set aside for nature than other countries.

However, this does not mean White was completely wrong. Other studies suggest that conservative Christians really are less environmentally friendly than other denominations.

In a study published in 1993, priest and sociologist Andrew Greeley looked at how much Americans were willing to spend on conserving the environment. He found that Christian fundamentalists were less willing, and Catholics more willing, to financially support the environment. This suggests that it is not whether a person is Christian, but rather what type of Christian they are, that influences their behaviour towards nature.

It also seems that people’s attitudes towards the environment can be affected by the way Christianity interacts with other religions.

In her PhD thesis, undertaken whilst at the University of Kent in Canterbury, UK, Emma Shepheard-Walwyn looked at how Kenyans felt about sacred sites. These are places of biological and spiritual significance, created and maintained by communities who adhered to a traditional faith.

A shift away from more traditional faiths could be bad for nature

Shepheard-Walwyn found that «some of the Christian people interviewed felt the forests should be destroyed as they are associated with the traditional faith, which they believe to be evil.»

One Christian interviewed said that «tradition is now witchcraft». Others described the sacred sites as places associated with demons and superstition.

This suggests that conflicts between opposing faiths could influence how people feel about protected areas. In particular, a shift away from more traditional faiths could be bad for nature.

In a study published in 2006, Leela Hazzah of Lion Guardians showed that Maasai who had converted from a traditional faith to become evangelical Christians had a higher intent to kill lions than those that kept their traditional faith. «These converted Protestants did not have very positive attitudes towards national parks or wildlife either,» says Hazzah.

Christianity can play a part in how, and indeed whether, we think about nature

Because the Maasai are not exposed to much television or other media, they look to their pastors for information about the world. If a pastor does not include positive stories about nature in their sermons, the churchgoers would not get any guidance on how to be environmentally friendly.

The evangelical churches also ran religious events, sometimes a week long, which pastoralists were invited to attend. That meant no one was around back at the homestead to protect the livestock from predators. Two pastoralists lost 35 cows during one such event. When Hazzah asked them why they left their livestock unattended for so long, one man replied: «There is no need to return home when I am in the house of God. He will protect my livestock from danger».

All this suggests that Christianity can play a part in how, and indeed whether, we think about nature. So how do other religions compare?

A study published in August 2016 analysed Indian people’s attitudes towards large carnivores. It found that Buddhists tended to have more positive attitudes towards carnivorous animals than Muslims.

Given Buddhism’s reputation for avoiding all harm to animals, this may not come as a surprise. However, the findings are not quite as straightforward as they first appear.

Religious practitioners and leaders. have a potentially important role in conserving nature

The more often a Buddhist undertook religious activities, the more likely it was that they had a more positive attitude towards wolves and snow leopards. In other words, the link between Buddhism and pro-environment attitudes was only apparent for the more deeply religious Buddhists.

As with the study of American Christians, the key issue is not whether or not a person is religious, but rather the form their religion takes: in this case, how devoted they are to it.

These findings mean that conservationists must frame their messages differently depending on the audience, says lead author Saloni Bhatia of the Nature Conservation Foundation in Mysore, India. «We must stress environmental stewardship with Muslim communities and religious leaders, while the idea of human-wildlife interdependence would resonate more strongly with the Buddhist communities and leaders.»

In other words, conservationists need to integrate their ideas into religious thinking. «Religions, and certainly the versions of Islam and Buddhism that we have studied, seem to have well-developed philosophies towards nature and wildlife,» says Bhatia. «Religious practitioners and leaders therefore have a potentially important role in conserving nature.»

But instead, conservationists and religious leaders have largely grown apart.

Shepheard-Walwyn believes conservationists have mostly ignored religion because of «the false belief that science and religion don’t mix, and that to be a good scientist you cannot engage with religion, because they feel religious people apply less rigorous science to their work.»

She also thinks there are problems with the ways conservationists and religious individuals talk about nature. The two parties are not, so to speak, singing from the same hymn sheet.

The sheikhs spread the information to their community and, as devout Muslims, the fishermen listened

However, some groups are trying to bridge this divide.

The Alliance for Religions and Conservation (ARC) is a secular body that helps faith leaders to create environmental programs based on their faith’s core beliefs and practices.

One of their most successful projects is based on an island off the coast of Tanzania. Fishermen there had been using dynamite as a quick and easy way to bring in the day’s catch. But this method of fishing is very damaging, destroying coral and killing immature fish and turtles.

Local conservation organisations tried to educate the fishermen on the harms of dynamite fishing, but this fell on deaf ears. The government then banned the practice, but again the fishermen took no notice. Then ARC stepped in.

ARC members realised that all the fishermen were Muslim, and that the local sheikhs had a lot of influence in the community. So they showed the sheikhs passages in the Koran that promote pro-environmental behaviour, and told them that dynamite fishing goes against these teachings. The sheikhs spread the information to their community and, as devout Muslims, the fishermen listened.

In Tanzania they have created an Islamic eco-village for orphans

One local fisherman, interviewed in the Christian Science Monitor in 2007, said: «I’ve learned that the way I fished was destructive to the environment. This side of conservation isn’t from the mzungu [«white man» in Swahili], it’s from the Koran.»

ARC was not the only organisation involved with the fishermen. Another key party was the Islamic Foundation for Ecology and Environmental Sciences (IFEES).

Its founder Fazlun Khalid started the organisation in the 1980s because of his passion for nature. After studying theology at university, Khalid concluded that Islam is intrinsically environmentalist.

But he also noticed that Muslims had lost their connection with nature, because like so many other people they had become preoccupied with wealth. So he set up IFEES to show Muslims the core teachings of the Koran that convey an environmentalist ethic.

In Indonesia, a country rich in biodiversity but under threat from development, IFEES is working with schools to restore the rainforests.

Similarly, in Tanzania they have created an Islamic eco-village for orphans, where they are establishing renewable energy plants and recycling projects. «This eco-village was built based on the practices of the prophet on how to manage natural resources,» says Khalid.

Conservationists can learn a lot from religion about how to engage people and build support

Khalid believes that there is a new global religious movement building, which is keen to embrace nature. «Faith-based organisations played a key role in the recent climate change negotiations, and IFEES were cornerstones in the creation of the Islamic Declaration on Climate Change,» he says.

There is some tentative evidence that this sort of approach can work.

A 2013 study in Indonesia showed that incorporating conservation messages into Islamic sermons increased both public awareness and levels of concern. «Since then, Indonesia [has] issued its first fatwas [rulings on Islamic law] prohibiting illegal wildlife trafficking and poaching,» says lead author Jeanne McKay of the University of Kent.

Beyond that, ARC argues that conservationists can learn a lot from religion about how to engage people and build support. After all, religions are famously good at garnering lots of followers all devoted to a common cause.

ARC says that, first and foremost, religions are great at telling compelling stories that can inspire and inform. They also tend to celebrate what we already have, rather than focusing on what we have lost. Conservationists may want to heed their example.

Incorporating conservation messages into Islamic sermons increased both public awareness and levels of concern

When we read stories about the environment, we can be confronted with narratives of doom and gloom about how yet another species is closer to extinction or how we have destroyed even more wilderness. This is all factually correct, but research suggests that stories with a positive framing are better at motivating people to act than stories with a negative framing. In other words, feel-good stories can be very powerful.

«Using faith-based approaches can prove to be a positive way forward, and indeed has the potential to gain far-reaching benefits rather than staying confined to a conventionally science-based approach,» says McKay.

It would be silly to downplay the environmental crisis we are facing. But in order to solve it, conservationists may need to harness the power of hope and optimism, just as the world’s religions do.

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