2 INTRODUCTIONWhat is a region?A region is an area in which certain featuresare similar. Regions are defined by eithernatural or human features. Natural featuresare such things as landforms, vegetation, andclimate. Human features include population,culture, and the economy of an area.An economy is a system of producing,distributing, and consuming goods andservices. Regions can be defined by whatgoods and services are produced, distributed,or consumed.Economic regions often develop becauseof the natural resources available to theregion. Regions then specialize in producingcertain goods or services with those resourcesand trade with other regions. For instance,the Midwest might trade crops such as cornor soy beans with the Mountain West forminerals such as copper and gold found there.
3 C H A P T E R 1North America has abundant land forfarming, ranching, as well as vast forests.Beneath the surface of the continent areminerals such as copper and iron. Furtherbelow the surface are fossil fuels which supplyoil, coal, and gas. There is also fresh water.Some of the natural resources in NorthAmerica are renewable—they can be replacedat a rate at which they are used. For example,trees can be planted to replace forests thathave been harvested. However, some resourcesare nonrenewable. When their supply is usedup, they cannot be replaced. Fossil fuels arean example. Because of this scarcity, wemust make choices about how to allocatethese resources, what to produce with them,and therefore what we can buy.Natural Resources and the Economyscarcity: the condition of not being plentifulallocate: to decide that something should be used for aparticular purpose
4 Societies allocate scarce resources in various ways. In some places, resources areshared equally. For example, NativeAmericans shared natural resources equallywithin their tribes. Other societies allowresources to be claimed on a first-come-firstservedbasis. Frontier land in the UnitedStates was settled in this way.In some societies natural resources arerationed—only a certain amount is madeavailable—or a lottery is used so thateveryone has an equal chance to acquirethem. During World War II, many goodssuch as gasoline, silk, and steel wererationed by the U.S. government in order toensure enough supply to produce weapons,parachutes, and other goods for soldiers.Other societies barter for resources,goods, and services. The early pioneersbartered goods with Native Americans.rationed: to give out a fixed share when something is scarcelottery: a system that involves selection by chance such as adrawingbarter: to pay for goods with other goods instead of moneyRATIONINGBARTERING
5 Different regions or countries may have different allocation methods. In countrieswith a command economy, the governmentcontrols the allocation of resources and theproduction of goods. The government tellsbusinesses exactly what to make, how muchto make, and what to charge for the goods.The United States, has a market economy.The government does not control what andhow much is produced. Goods and servicesare produced based on consumer wantsand needs.Individuals in all economies must answerthe fundamental economic questions of whatto produce, how to produce, and for whomto produce.command economy: an economy in which decisions about production and allocation are made by the governmentmarket economy: an economic system that permits an open exchange of goods and services between producers and consumers
6 C H A P T E R 2Location of Natural ResourcesWhile North America has abundantrenewable and nonrenewable resources,they are located in specific regions of thecontinent. For example, the plains andprairies of the central United States andsouthern Canada provide land for farmingand ranching.The Rocky Mountains, which stretchfrom northwestern Canada, through thewestern United States, and into Mexico arerich with forests for lumber and mineralssuch as copper, gold, and silver. This region is lacking in an important natural resource, though—water. Because of its dry climate, farming is not a major economic activity.The Midwest region of the United Statesand Canada has the Great Lakes. This is the largest supply of freshwater in the world.