The United States of America is a vast country with a diverse range of climates and landscapes that stretches from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean and from Canada to Mexico, as well as Alaska and the Hawaiian Islands, among other places. In such a large area, there are significant differences in temperature and surrounding environments. We would travel from east to west through the Appalachian Mountains, which are relatively low and heavily cultivated, before reaching the Rocky Mountains in the west. Afterwards, we'd have to travel across the vast plain of the Mid-West, which would take hours to cross by plane or train and days by bus or car. As we travel further west, the landscape changes dramatically, first to rougher prairie country and then to the sudden heights of the Rocky Mountains, which rise to over 4,300 metres above sea level (14,000 ft). Afterwards, the land slopes down towards the Pacific, where the climate is milder, particularly in California's Golden Valley, where the weather is warm and gentle all year.
The contrasts are even more pronounced when travelling from north to south. There are the Great Lakes, which for the majority of their length form a natural border with Canada, as well as connecting waterways. Especially from the industrial complexes on the southern shores of the Lakes, these handle a significant proportion of inland shipping in the United States. Further south are the great flat farm-growing belts, followed by the cotton-growing belts of the deep south, which are dominated by the great rivers, the Mississippi and the Missouri, which flow out into the Gulf of Mexico, with the semi-desert of Texas to the west and the Mississippi River to the east. The population of this vast area is as diverse as the landscape. In 1492, Christopher Columbus made his first landfall on the east coast, marking the beginning of three centuries of colonisation by several countries that would last until today.
As was the case with most colonies at the time, America was used as a dumping ground for transported criminals and as a haven for exiles, similar to the situation in other colonies. Both of these groups were represented in the founding of the United States. The religious exiles from Europe in the early seventeenth century were the most numerous, and it is from these groups that the ancestors of the oldest American families can trace their lineage. One of the most well-known of these migrations is that of the Mayflotwer, and it was this group of migrants who were responsible for establishing the first settled communities. Since then, the constant influx of immigrants has dominated the fabric of American society. The years with the greatest influx of immigrants were those at the end of the previous century and the beginning of this one, and in total, 43 million people have arrived in the United States since 1820. As a result of the large number of people of various nationalities who have flocked to the United States, it has earned the nickname "melting pot," into which they have all been "poured."
Upon arriving in the United States, the visitor is surprised to discover how completely all of these differences have been absorbed into a single nation. Even in the older nationalities' surnames and in areas of large cities, particularly in the ports where immigrants first arrive, which are almost entirely populated by single nationality groups, traces of the older nationalities can be found. For example, New York City has German, Polish, and Chinese quarters, each of which has food and clothing shops that cater to a specific nationality. There are still approximately half a million descendants of the original inhabitants of the United States - the American Indians - who live on land that has been set aside specifically for them, known as reservations, where their traditional tribal lifestyle has been preserved for generations. The Black Americans were originally enslaved in Africa and transported to the United States to work on the cotton plantations.
Many of them have relocated to the industrial cities in the north, but the social position of Blacks has resulted in a great deal of violence in areas where social and civil disabilities exist. Despite the fact that the total population has increased from 4 million in 1790 to more than 200 million today, the growth is increasingly concentrated in specific areas where the climate is favourable and opportunities are plentiful. In this way, California has the largest population and New York has the second largest, while farming communities are expanding at a much slower rate. Some of the largest cities are well-known throughout the world. New York is probably the most well-known; as the primary east coast port, it served as the primary entry point for the majority of European immigrants and currently handles a third of all American trade. While the city's skyline boasts some of the world's tallest structures - skyscrapers - and its crowded piers are familiar to many as their first sight of America when arriving by ship from Europe, the city's crowded piers are not.
New York City has a population of more than ten million people, making it the most populous city in the United States. Millions more people commute into the city from surrounding suburbs to work. For New York, as for most large cities, the influx of people causes significant traffic congestion, which the city has attempted to alleviate by constructing six-lane highways around the city to transport the large number of cars that arrive in the city each morning. Los Angeles, in the state of California, is the second most populous city in the United States. Chicago, built along the banks of Lake Michigan in Illinois, is very close to it in terms of population and serves as a regional centre for the central plains of the United States. You can see how many major roads and railways pass through Chicago if you look at a map of the United States. Washington, D.C., the nation's capital, is only the ninth-largest city in the United States, with a population of three-quarters of a million people. It was founded by a Frenchman named Pierre L'Enfant in the late eighteenth century, and it was one of the first towns to be planned as a capital city. In the United States, nearly two-thirds of the population lives in towns and suburbs, indicating that American life is primarily organised for people who live in large communities.
Life in America is more mechanised and simplified than in any other country in the world, allowing people to spend as much time as possible doing things other than household chores. However, there are still some extremely remote areas of the United States that have not been affected by modernization. Many people still live in very primitive conditions in the Appalachian Mountains' higher ranges. Some religious sects, such as the Amish, choose to dress and live in the manner of the nineteenth century, and even refuse to own or ride in automobiles, as evidenced by their refusal to own or ride in automobiles. To the rest of the world, America appears to be a very wealthy country, and in comparison to many other countries, it is extremely wealthy. One of the most obvious reasons for the country's wealth is the vast quantities of natural resources that it possesses, which are abundant in the country. However, a country's wealth is not solely dependent on its natural resources.
The resources of America are easily accessible to the population by sea and river, and good transportation to the cities is simple and inexpensive. The great rivers of the United States, such as the Mississippi, the Ohio, the Hudson, and the Colorado, flow through fertile valleys, supplying fresh water for consumption and irrigation purposes. Early pioneers benefited from this water, and more recently it has enabled the development of large industrial complexes. These rivers continue to provide more than half of the water used in cities and for irrigation, as well as approximately 90 percent of the fresh water used in industry. As is true in all industrialised countries, there is growing concern about water scarcity, and the government is working to develop a successful method of removing salt from sea water and making it suitable for consumption in order to increase the amount of water that is available for consumption. A common occurrence in the United States is that during a prolonged dry summer, large cities are faced with severe water shortages, and residents are advised to use water as sparingly as possible in order to prevent its waste.
Two hundred million hectares (nearly 500 million acres) of land in the United States is used for commercial forest production, but only a third of the country's total land area is designated as 'forest land.' A large portion of this land is used as parks and nature preserves, where people from the surrounding towns can spend their vacation time and wildlife can be protected from the dangers of modern living conditions. The amount of forest timber that grows each year is only about one-sixth of the total amount that is removed. Grazing grounds for cattle are also found in the western United States, where they provide grazing for over three and a half million head of cattle. The mineral resources of the United States are a significant source of wealth for the country as a whole. Despite the fact that some basic supplies must be imported, more than seventy million tonnes of iron are produced annually for use by American manufacturing industries. Its applications are so numerous that it is found in over 200,000 different products manufactured by American industry, and it plays an extremely important role in the lives of all citizens of the United States.
In the United States, the majority of iron ore is mined in the north, with more than three-quarters coming from the region around Lake Superior. Because the demand for ore is virtually limitless, almost all of the high-grade ore has already been utilised; however, there are still vast deposits of lower-grade ore that require a more complex process to convert them into iron and steel; however, there is enough ore to last for several hundred years before the ore is completely depleted. Coal is the second most abundant mineral produced in the United States, and although coal's role in industrial and domestic life is diminishing, it is still extremely important, particularly for the generation of domestic electricity. As a result of modern mining techniques, the difficulties associated with obtaining coal have been reduced significantly in both America and other parts of world, and mining areas in the north are gradually losing their once desolate appearance. The use of coal is increasing as industry grows; it is being used extensively in the newer synthetics and chemical industries, particularly in the production of plastics, ensuring that its position as a vital raw material will be maintained for a considerable period of time.
The production of oil in the United States is particularly high in the southern states, and it has been a source of wealth for many people who have discovered oil deposits on land that they had previously considered to be worthless, such as abandoned mines. In particular, the vast desert areas of Texas are particularly rich in oil deposits, and the country as a whole has so much untapped oil that it is able to meet all of the country's needs, despite the country's size and the numerous applications for which oil can be used. In the early 1970s, the United States produced nearly 3'5 billion barrels of crude oil per year on an annual basis. Oil, gasoline, and by-products of oil refining are among the most important industries in the United States, with the processing and sale of these products accounting for a significant portion of total revenue. Every town can attest to the significant role that oil plays in American culture and society. Because of the long distances travelled and the large size of American automobiles, massive quantities of gasoline or diesel are consumed every day in automobiles alone, in addition to other industrial and domestic uses.
Since 1957, the government has been experimenting with new methods of producing oil from unconventional sources, believing that relying on a single source would be unwise in the case of such a vital commodity. It was discovered that petrol could be extracted from a rock known as gilsonite through a process of heavy washing followed by careful refining could be obtained. This source of supply has been deemed to be dependable for many years and is expected to continue to be so. A second source of energy is natural gas, which provides nearly one-third of the nation's requirements. Natural gas is transported through pipelines to towns and cities, where it is used in a variety of applications throughout the country. Another group of minerals produced in the United States is phosphate rock. This group of minerals includes zinc, copper, silver, and phosphate rock, all of which are mined in much smaller quantities than iron ore, coal, and oil. If we look at the map closely, we can see how the industries make use of all of the raw materials; all of the towns in the northern hemisphere are large and centred on industry.
They are strategically located along well-traveled transportation routes, making it easier for the finished product to be transported from the factory where it is manufactured to the person who wishes to purchase it or to the wholesaler who will distribute it to the end user. With a population of more than one and a half million people, Detroit is the fifth most populous city in the United States and possesses all of the advantages necessary for a large industrial city to thrive. It has access to the sea via waterways, either up the St. Lawrence Seaway through Canada or across Lake Erie and the Erie Canal to New York and the east coast, depending on the route taken. It is located on the main east-west railway line that connects Chicago and the far west, and it has road routes that radiate out from it to all parts of the United States. Detroit is best known as the home of a massive automobile industry that employs thousands of people.
The automobile industry, more than any other, is reliant on good communications and a consistent supply of raw materials, which in this case come from Lake Superior by water and coal from the mining district around Pittsburgh by rail and truck. Detroit is the most populous city in the state of Michigan. Because of the large populations of the northern cities, there is always a sufficient number of people to work in the factories and to purchase the finished goods when they are ready. The distances between cities in the United States are so great - it takes about the same amount of time to travel from New York to California as it does to travel from London to the Sudan - that transportation is a major issue. There is a railway system in place, but it is less frequently used by passengers today than it was in the past. Long-distance buses run throughout the United States, and internal airlines operate flights along the same lines as the buses, with most small towns having an airport and people boarding and disembarking informally, paying their fares to the stewardess when they board.
The automobile is the most important mode of transportation in America. Very many families have two cars, one to transport the husband to and from work in the nearest town, and the other to transport the wife to and from her own job, to transport the children to school, or simply to go shopping. America did not develop from a series of small towns and villages connected by a network of minor roads, as did Europe, and many people live quite a distance from a shopping centre, making it absolutely necessary for them to have a car in order to transport the items they have purchased. The majority of shops and stores do not provide a delivery service, and a large portion of shopping is done through the mail. This means that the automobile industry, which is centred in Detroit, is extremely important, particularly because Americans are more likely than Europeans to change their cars on a regular basis. Since the oil crisis of 1974, American automobiles have, on the whole, become smaller and more similar to their European counterparts. Automation is more widespread in all factories than it is in England, and sophisticated machinery can take the place of large numbers of manual workers, allowing them to produce more goods in a shorter amount of time. The use of computers is becoming more widespread and is growing in popularity. Although living standards in the United States are high, particularly in the north-east and on the west coast, there are still pockets of extreme poverty in some of the country's most backward regions, particularly in the south and in remote mountain areas.
Since the age of six, schooling in America is mandatory, and schools are frequently one of the focal points of life in small towns, serving as a common point of interest for all of the town's residents whose children are enrolled in the school system and serving as a hub for community activities. Camping and caravanning are popular activities in America's many beautiful and diverse National Parks, which provide opportunities for every type of sport and interest. Local government in the United States is run by elected representatives of the people, and the Town Meeting' - a meeting of every interested citizen - has the power to question decisions made by the administration and, in some cases, to reverse unpopular ones. Farming is one of the most important industries in the United States. Farmland accounts for half of the total land area of the United States, with half of it being used for crop production and the other half being used for animal pasture. Farming, like many other occupations in the United States, is becoming increasingly mechanised. The food produced by a single man working on the farm in 1930 could feed ten people; today, a single man can provide enough food for thirty-three people.
The primary reason for this is the increase in farm machinery, which makes the sowing and harvesting of crops, as well as the care of cattle, much more convenient and efficient. Large combine harvesters can cut a field and process the corn much more efficiently than older methods, and given the vast amount of land under cultivation, these methods are required. Approximately one million combine harvesters and more than five million tractors are now in use by American farmers. This appears to be a significant amount of machinery, but when you consider that there are approximately three and a half million farms in the country, it is not a significant amount at all. Although the average farm size is 130 hectares (330 acres), there are many farms, particularly in the farming state of Iowa in the Mid-West, which are much larger and employ many men farming thousands of acres. Although the average farm size is 130 hectares (330 acres), many farms, particularly in the farming state of Iowa in the Mid-West, are much larger and employ many men farming thousands of acres After all of the needs of the United States have been met, there is so much corn produced that the surplus is exported. The amount of land available for farming has increased as a result of reclamation.
This is accomplished primarily through the irrigation of land that had become desert due to the extreme dryness of the climate. One of the primary causes of desertification in North America was the farming methods that were employed when the land was first settled. The soil was extremely rich, but because of the harshness of the climate, there was a constant threat of erosion or the carrying away of the soil. When fertile land is farmed continuously without any safeguards in place to prevent soil washing away in heavy rains or drying out in the dry season, fertile land quickly degrades and becomes unusable. The pioneers were so concerned with making their land pay that they neglected to take the necessary precautions to keep the land in good condition during the early years of settlement. The government considered reclamation of this 'dust bowl' land, as it was referred to, to be so important that it established a special department to deal with it and to reclaim land for farming through careful irrigation and planting. The government considered reclamation of this 'dust bowl' land, as it was referred to, to be so important that it established a special department to deal with it and to reclaim land for farming through careful irrigation and planting.
Millions of hectares have been reclaimed in this manner, and they are now being used for crop production and pastureland restoration. On American farms, there are well over a hundred million animals of all kinds, with cattle accounting for nearly half of the total (50 million). Cattle are still herded together by cowboys on the great ranches of the West, and they are slaughtered after being branded and slaughtered at irregular intervals. The city of Chicago is home to some of the largest cattle markets in the world, with stock sheds that stretch for several acres in all directions. The freezing of meat has revolutionised farming methods, and freezing plants are now widely available, with animals being slaughtered and frozen in prime condition after being frozen. Fishing is a vitally important source of income. A significant portion of the fish caught is processed and frozen for transport to major metropolitan areas. Only half of the fish caught is used for human consumption; the remaining half is used for animal feed and industrial purposes, among other things. The by-product of fish oil is also a valuable by-product for both industrial use and export.
Although the general picture of America is of a rich and well-fed country where there is plenty of food and space for everyone, like all countries it has problems of poverty and disease. There are many districts in the large towns where living conditions are bad and overcrowded and where schools and hospitals can do little to educate or cure the people because their home condition is too bad to allow them to benefit from teaching or medicine. There is a system of social security designed to help those in great need. Social insurance provides some form of security for the old, unemployed and disabled but it is not enough to cover the needs of a family in great need. Medicare, a national form of medical insurance, now pays for a large amount of medical treatment which can otherwise prove cripplingly expensive, and there is a growing body of opinion in favour of the introduction of some system of state medical care. The conditions in the slums of big cities have had the worst effect on certain minority groups in the population.
Non-European immigrants and Blacks tend to live in special areas in the cities from which they cannot afford to move and where conditions are not always satisfactory. With bad housing conditions the people who live in these slums have often become desperate. There are many natural wonders that Americans travel long distances to see. The Niagara Falls on the St. Lawrence seaway attract thousands of visitors honeymooners - every year from both America and Canada to see the huge volume of water of one of the biggest waterfalls in the world. It is floodlit with many different are lifts to carry the visitors up the front of the falls so that they can see the height of the drop. The National Parks are another attraction. There the original vegetation and wildlife of the country is preserved and visitors can drive for many miles through uninhabited land and see bears and wild buffalo roaming.
In the Yellowstone National Park, one of the largest, there are hot geysers, the most famous of which, Old Faithful, shoots a jet of water steaming into the air every hour. The Grand Canyon, a natural valley carved by the water of the Colorado River, shows a series of rock formations loured lights at night and there through which the river valley has cut a steep gorge in many colours and is of great interest to geologists and holidaymakers alike. America's history as a nation began in 1776 when the Declaration of Independence was adopted. Before then it had been a battleground for the colonial interests of the European countries and different parts of the country belonged to different countries. The Spaniards, the English and the French all had interests in America which origin- ated in the discoveries of the sixteenth century and the settlements after 1600. The oldest building in the United States is in Santa Fe and is thought to have been built in 1619 by the Spaniards who held New Mexico. When the English colonies declared their independence of the British Crown only thirteen states belonged to the Union. However since then the number of states has risen to fifty, of which the most recent are Alaska in the far north beyond Canada and Hawaii in the Pacific Ocean.
Government is organised on two levels, local or 'state' government by the individual states which make up the Union and central or 'federal' government by all the states in the Union working together. Federal government usually concerns matters which affect the whole country equally like foreign policy, wars, foreign trade with other countries and defence. The state governments deal with matters of local importance like the police, marriage laws, education and local administration. The problems of this divided form of government are many. Where crime is concerned there are two forms of crime, state crime and federal crime, so if a criminal is found gullible for the death penalty while in another state he might only get five years in jail. Most states now have agreements which allow criminals who have escaped from jail or the police to be handed back to the state which is chasing them. Although it sounds confusing to have such a number of different sources of laws it is important to remember that each state is very large and that some are as big as single countries in Europe.
Thus local laws apply to a very large area and encourage local interest by involving local people more than a government only for the country as a whole could do. Local government in provinces or states is the method used in in one state he might be both the United States and Canada to deal with the problems of government over the vast areas that these countries cover. Really it is the same type of government on a much larger scale as the system in England in which the local council has considerable powers of control. In both the United States and Canada, the local state government covers a huge area and has considerable powers but 'federal' or central government influence has been growing. The state and federal governments each receive a portion of the money collected in taxes.