Option 3: Extreme environments
(Option 3: Extre)

This optional theme considers two different kinds of extreme environment:

• Cold and high altitude environments (polar, glacial areas, periglacial areas; high mountains in non-tropical latitudes)

• Hot, arid environments (hot deserts and semi-arid areas).

These environments are relatively inaccessible and tend to be viewed as inhospitable to human habitation. Despite this, they provide numerous opportunities for settlement and economic activity. This theme examines the essential landscape characteristics of the two kinds of extreme environment, together with the natural processes operating in them, and the way in which people have responded to the opportunities they offer and the challenges they pose for management and sustainability.

While some parts of the theme focus on the global scale, other parts are best studied by the use of one or more localized case studies. It is expected that extensive use will be made of large-scale maps and visual material, since it is unlikely that most students will have personal familiarity with more than one of these two kinds of extreme environment.

While the detail below suggests one possible organization for teaching the theme, other approaches are equally valid. Teachers may prefer to look first at all aspects of one kind of extreme environment, and then examine the other kind of extreme environment.