The Continent of North America

The continent of north america is home to many vibrant cultures, from the indigenous peoples who have inhabited the land for thousands of years, to the diverse immigrant populations that have made the region what it is today. It is also richly endowed with natural resources, including great mineral wealth, vast forests, immense quantities of fresh water and some of the world’s most fertile soils. This abundant natural wealth has made it one of the most economically developed regions of the world, with its inhabitants enjoying a high standard of living.

There are 23 countries and dependent territories that make up North America, from Canada in the northeast to Mexico and Central America in the south. The defining features of the land are its varying landscapes, from the Rocky Mountains and Andes to the vast plains and Amazon rainforest. Its peoples are equally varied, with ethnic groups from Europe, Asia and Africa having contributed to its history and culture.

North America covers almost half of the Earth’s surface and is shaped like a triangle, with its base in the Arctic Ocean and its apex in the Pacific Ocean. It also includes Greenland, the largest island in the world and such offshore groups as the Arctic Archipelago, the West Indies, Haida Gwaii (formerly Queen Charlotte Islands) and the Aleutian Islands.

The first inhabitants of what is now the United States and Canada are believed to have been ancient Asiatic peoples who arrived in Alaska sometime during the Wisconsin Glacial Period, the last major glaciation in the Pleistocene Epoch that ended about 11,700 years ago. They gradually dispersed throughout the North American continent. By the time Christopher Columbus reached the Caribbean in 1492, they had largely abandoned their nomadic lifestyle and were living in relatively small communities where there was little competition or close interaction with other peoples.

During the past century, the economies of many North American nations have expanded dramatically, while social and cultural changes have taken place that reflect the influence of immigrants. For example, North America now contains significant numbers of people who are of Asian, African and European ancestry. This diversity has enriched North America with its many contributions to science, business, arts and other areas of human endeavor.

The imposing rock formations of the Rocky Mountains, the Great Lakes and the Appalachian Mountains are among the continent’s most dramatic geographical features. Deep, rich soil blankets large areas of the western part of North America, which is known as the “Breadbasket of the World.” Here, agriculture is the primary industry and the source of many of the nation’s most important crops, such as wheat, cotton, soybeans and corn. North America is also a major producer of oil and natural gas. Its oil and natural gas reserves are mainly located in the Arctic and Pacific Oceans, though some are found in the eastern and southern parts of the continent as well. For these reasons, the geography of North America is a crucial global resource.

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