A GREAT CURVE OF mountain rangesthat includes the Pyrenees and the Alpsroughly divides the cooler north ofEurope from the warmer south. In thefar north, treeless tundra merges intocool coniferous forests that extend acrossScandinavia and into Russia. South ofthis lies the fertile North European Plain,which supports most of the continent’sagriculture and mixed woodland. Bycontrast, the Mediterranean region tothe south is hot and almost desertlikein places. Volcanic activity is confinedto Iceland and southern Italy, whereMount Etna is constantly active. TheUral and Caucasus mountains formEurope’s eastern borders.
The mountains that form the Alps runfrom southeastern France, throughSwitzerland and Italy, into Austria. In thelast 2 million years, ice has molded thescenery, carving pyramid-shaped peaks,like the Matterhorn (above), knife-edgedridges, dramatic waterfalls, and armchair-shaped basins filled with lakes. Alpineplants, such as the Bird’s Eye primrose,have adapted to growing at high altitudes.PEOPLES OF EUROPELargest country:The Russian Federation straddles northern Europe and Asia (see page 138) and its European part covers 1,527,341 sq miles (3,955,818 sq km)EUROPEAN CITIESA large proportion of Europeans live in cities.The most densely populated part of Europe lies in the west and forms a belt that stretches more or less continuously from southeastern Britain, through northern France, Belgium, the Netherlands, and into Germany. In these densely populated areas, individual cities can merge into one another, forming what are known as conurbations. The largest of these is in the German industrial region known as the Ruhr. By contrast, in eastern Europe a greater proportion of the population lives in country areas.
EUROPE IS A CROWDED CONTINENT.
It is the second smallest of the continents by area, yet it has the third highest population. As a result, population densities are very high, and most Europeans live in cities. Europe is also crowded with countries – more than 40 different nations jostle for position on the Continent. between these countries have often erupted into war – two world wars have started on European soils in the last 100 years. Yet, despite these problems, Europe is by and large a rich continent, and many European countries are among the wealthiest in the world. Some pockets of poverty exist, but in general the population enjoys a high standard of living compared to most other parts of the world. Much of this wealth has come as a result of industrial growth, and because of the large colonial empires established by many European countries in Africa, Asia, and the Americas.
THE EUROPEAN UNION
In 1957, six European countries agreed to form the European Economic Community (EEC). They believed that economic cooperation would reduce the likelihood of war between the member countries and would bring prosperity to the peoples of Europe. Since that time, more countries have joined, and the EEC has been renamed the European Union (EU). Today it consists of 27 member states and in addition to closer economic cooperation, there are moves to encourage greater political union.
THE NORTHERN EUROPEAN
countries of Norway, Sweden, and Denmark are together known as Scandinavia. Along with neighboring Finland, all four countries have small populations and enjoy a high standard of living with extensive social welfare systems that distribute wealth evenly among the people. Much of Norway, Sweden, and Finland is covered by forests of pine, spruce, and birch trees, riddled with lakes gouged out by glaciers during the last Ice Age. Norway and Sweden are mountainous, while Finland and fertile Denmark are low-lying. THE MIDNIGHT SUNMuch of northern Norway, Sweden, and Finland lie in the Arctic Circle. Here the Sun never sets at the height of summer – giving 24 hours of light – and never rises in the middle of winter – giving 24 hours of darkness. The periods of light or dark lengthen the farther north you go. In the far north the winter darkness lasts for almost two months.
NORWAYNORWAY LIES ALONG
the western coast ofScandinavia. It is a long country, narrow in its northern half and only 50 miles (80 km) wide at one point. Despite its northerly location, Norway’s lengthy coastline is kept free of ice by the warm Gulf Stream. Most of the country is mountainous, with spectacular landscapes of thousands of lakes and offshore islands. Many people work in industry, including offshore oil and gas production, shipbuilding, and mining. Fishing, forestry, and agriculture employ only about five percent of the total workforce. SHIPPINGNorway has one of the largest shipping fleets in the world. Many thousands of people are employed in shipyards and repair docks and on board the many merchant ships and ferries that supply the ports and islands of the west coast. The most important port is the capital city, Oslo.Over half a million people live in this bustling, lively city, which is the cultural, intellectual, and industrial center of the country. FJORDSOnly 3 percent of Norway issuitable for farming because most of the country consists of rugged mountain ranges and deep lakes. Most farmland is situated at the head of fjords, the long inlets of sea that cut into Norway’s coast. Fjords were created by glaciers gouging out valleys as they descended to the sea. The fjords are natural harbors, sheltering small communities of fishermen and farmers. Tourists visit the spectacular scenery in cruise ships.
DENMARKTHE LONG, NARROW
Jutland Peninsulathat makes up mainland Denmarkextends from Germany toward Norwayand Sweden. To the east of the peninsulamore than a hundred islands make up therest of the country. Denmark is the mostsoutherly country in Scandinavia and isone of the flattest lands in the world. Likeits neighbors, it enjoys political stabilityand a high standard of living. Industry hasdeveloped rapidly, and today a third ofthe people work in small factories.COPENHAGENDenmark’s capital, Copenhagen, is situated on the island of Sjaelland. It is the biggest city in Scandinavia and the largest trading center in Denmark. Visitors wandering down old alleyways and pedestrianized streets will find historic churches, colorful marketplaces, and a network of canals. This is also a city of bicycles, with bike paths leading toward areas where many city dwellers have summer homes.
Like the rest of theregion, Denmark is famous for its architecture. Danish architects combine local materials such as cement, brick, and lumber to create beautiful buildings that harmonize with the environment. Many housing developments have been built in which each house runs on a system of solar panels and insulation designed to keep energy waste to a minimum. Design is highly regarded in Denmark, especially for furniture, glassware,kitchenware, and porcelain.
PIG AND DAIRY FARMING
Denmark is well known for its cooperative organizations. To keep up with modern agricultural development, the farmers have had to work together closely. Part of their strategy has been to establish cooperatively owned dairies and bacon factories and to concentrate their energies on promoting these foods abroad. SwedenLYING BETWEEN NORWAY and Finland, Swedens from the Arctic north to the fertile south, where most of its small populationlives. Sweden’s long industrial traditions and a highly skilled workforce have made it one of the world’s most advanced manufacturing countries. Like its neighbors, Sweden is a prosperous place, where equal rights for allgroups in society aretaken very seriously
CONSERVATIONSwedes are very concerned about their environment. Thisincludes their historic buildings aswell as the countryside. There aremany nature reserves in Sweden andsome of Europe’s largest nationalparks in the mountainous north.Many people are worried about waterpollution and Sweden is a leadingcampaigner in the movement to cleanup the Baltic Sea. It has also restrictedindustrial development in some coastalareas. Conserving resources is part ofeveryday life and Sweden runs a highlysuccessful recycling system (right).
Sweden has led the way in social welfare, and a small population hasmade it easy for the government totake care of everyone. Child care and facilities for the sick and the elderly are excellent. Unemployment figureshave been relatively low (see chartbelow). However, to pay for these benefits the government must imposehigh taxes. Also, current economic have put someof the benefits under threat.
Vacation homes are common in this wealthy country. Pretty wooden houses, often painted red, are found along the coast, lakeshores, and in river valleys. They provide the perfect escape for city dwellers on weekends or during vacations. When they are not there themselves, families often rent these retreats out to friends or to the growing number of tourists to Sweden.