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Lecture Outlines

Chapter 1

Environment: The Science behind the Stories 4th Edition


Withgott/Brennan

2011 Pearson Education, Inc.

This lecture will help you understand:


The meaning of the term environment The field and interdisciplinary nature of environmental science The importance of natural resources and ecosystem services The scientific method and the process of science Some pressures on the global environment Concepts of sustainability and sustainable development
2011 Pearson Education, Inc.

Our island: Earth


Earth may seem enormous - But it and its systems are finite and limited - We can change the Earth and damage its systems Environment: all the living and non-living things around us - Animals, plants, forests, farms, etc. Continents, oceans, clouds, ice caps Structures, urban centers, living spaces Social relationships and institutions
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Humans are part of nature


Humans depend on a healthy, functioning planet

The fundamental insight of environmental science:


- We are part of the natural world, but we can also change it - Our interactions with its other parts matter a great deal

We depend completely on the environment for survival


- Increased health, longer lives, wealth, mobility, leisure - But natural systems have been degraded by pollution, soil erosion, species extinction, etc. - Environmental changes threaten long-term health and survival

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Environmental science
Environmental science is the study of: - How the natural world works - How the environment affects humans and vice versa We need to understand our interactions with the environment - To creatively solve environmental problems

Global conditions are rapidly changing


- We are also rapidly gaining knowledge - The opportunity to solve problems is still available

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We rely on natural resources


Natural resources = substances and energy sources needed for survival Renewable natural resources: can be replenished - Perpetually renewed: sunlight, wind, wave energy - Renew themselves over short periods: timber, water, soil - These can be destroyed Nonrenewable natural resources: unavailable after depletion - Oil, coal, minerals

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We rely on ecosystem services


Natural resources are goods produced by nature - Earths natural resources provide services to us Ecosystem services: arise from the normal functioning of natural services - Purify air and water, cycle nutrients, regulate climate - Pollinate plants, receive and recycle wastes We degrade ecosystem services - By depleting resources, destroying habitat, generating pollution - Increased human affluence has intensified degradation

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Human population growth amplifies impacts


There are over 6.9 billion humans Agricultural revolution

- Crops, livestock
- Stable food supplies Industrial revolution

- Urbanized society powered by fossil fuels (oil, gas, coal)


- Sanitation and medicines

- Pesticides and fertilizers


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Resource consumption exerts pressures


Exploitation and consumption of resources is also a problem Garret Hardins tragedy of the commons: unregulated exploitation of public resources leads to depletion and damage Soil, air, water Resource users are motivated by self interest They increase use until the resource is gone Solutions to the tragedy of the commons? Private ownership? Voluntary organization to enforce responsible use? Governmental regulations?
2011 Pearson Education, Inc.

Our ecological footprint


Affluence increases consumption Ecological footprint: the environmental impact of a person or population - The area of biologically productive land + water - To supply raw resources and dispose/recycle waste People in rich nations have much larger ecological footprints

If everyone consumed the amount of resources the U.S. does, we would need 4.5 Earths!
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Overshoot
Overshoot: humans have surpassed the Earths capacity to support us

We are using renewable resources 30% faster than they are being replenished
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Environmental science
How will resource consumption and population growth impact todays global society? Civilizations have fallen after degrading the environment - Easter Island, Greek and Roman empires - Once lush regions (i.e. Iraq) are now barren deserts Civilizations succeed or fail according to how they interact with the environment - Along with how they respond to problems Environmental science can help build a better world

2011 Pearson Education, Inc.

The nature of environmental science


Environment impacts Humans Its applied goal: solving environmental problems Solutions are applications of science An interdisciplinary field - Natural sciences: examines the natural world - Environmental science programs - Social sciences: examines values and human behavior - Environmental studies programs
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What is an environmental problem?


Whether an environmental condition is seen as a problem

- Depends on the individual and situation


Ex.: the pesticide DDT

- In malaria-infested Africa: welcome because it kills malaria-carrying mosquitoes


- In America: not welcome, due to health risks People also differ in their awareness of problems, depending on who they are, where they live, what they do
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Environmental science is not environmentalism Environmental science

Pursues knowledge about the environment and our interactions with it Scientists try to remain objective and free from bias
Environmentalism A social movement Tries to protect the natural world from human-caused changes
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The nature of science


Science: a systematic process for learning about the world and testing our understanding of it - The accumulated body of knowledge arising from the dynamic process of observation, testing, and discovery Civilization depends on science and technology - Science tries to understand the world and steer a safe course Science is essential to sort fact from fiction - Develop solutions to the problems we face - It must be accessible and understandable to the public
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Applications of science
Policy decisions and management practices Developing technology

Restoration of forest ecosystems altered by human suppression of fire

Energy-efficient electric car

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Science asks and answers questions


It is an incremental approach to the truth Scientists do not simply accept conventional wisdom - They judge ideas by the strength of their evidence Observational (descriptive) science: information is gathered about organisms, systems, processes, etc. - Cannot be manipulated by experiments - Phenomena are observed and measured - Used in astronomy, paleontology, taxonomy, genomics Hypothesis-driven science: targeted research - Experiments test hypotheses using the scientific method
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The scientific method: a traditional approach


It tests ideas - Scientists in different fields approach problems differently Assumptions: - The universe works according to unchanging natural laws - Events arise from causes, and cause other events - We use senses and reason to understand natural processes
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The scientific method


A scientist makes an observation and asks questions of some phenomenon

Hypothesis: a statement that tries to explain the question


The hypothesis generates predictions: specific statements that can be directly tested The test results either support or reject the hypothesis

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Experiments test the validity of a hypothesis


Variable: a condition that can change Independent variable: can be manipulated

Dependent variable: depends on the independent variable


Controlled experiment: the effects of all variables are controlled - Except the independent variable whose effect is being tested Control: an unmanipulated point of comparison Quantitative data: uses numbers Qualitative data: does not use numbers
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Hypotheses are tested in different ways


Manipulative experiments yield the strongest evidence Reveals causal relationships Lots of things cant be manipulated Natural tests show real-world complexity Results are not neat and clean Answers arent black and white

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The scientific process is part of a larger process


It guards against faulty research

Includes peer review, publication, competition for funding

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Experimental design

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Experimental results, 8 year study

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Control group and experimental group

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Theories and paradigm shifts


Theory: a well-tested and widely accepted explanation Consolidates widely-supported, related hypotheses Paradigm shift a dramatic upheaval in thought It changes the dominant viewpoint

Wicked problems: are complex, with no simple solution


I.e. environmental problems

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Sustainability and the future of our world


Sustainability: we must live within our planets means - So the Earth and its resources can sustain us and all life for the future Sustainability involves conserving resources - Developing long-term solutions - Keeping fully functioning ecosystems Natural capital: Earths total wealth of resources - We are withdrawing it faster that its being replenished - We must live off Earths natural interest (replenishable resources), not its natural capital
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Population & consumption


Population growth amplifies all human impacts - The growth rate has slowed, but we still add more than 200,000 people to the planet each day Resource consumption has risen faster than population - Life has become more pleasant - Rising consumption also amplifies our demands on the environment The 20 wealthiest nations have 55 times the income of the 20 poorest nations - Three times the gap that existed 40 years ago
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Ecological footprints are not all equal


Not everyone benefits equally from rising affluence The ecological footprints of countries vary greatly - The U.S. footprint is much greater than the worlds average In the U.S. the richest 1% - Have 25% of all income

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We face challenges in agriculture


Technology expanded food production Leading to increased population and consumption Its one of humanitys greatest achievements, but it comes at an enormous environmental cost Nearly half of the land surface is used for agriculture Chemical fertilizers and pesticides poison and change natural systems Erosion, climate change and poor management destroy millions of acres each year

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Humans have changed the Earths landscape

Agriculture, urban sprawl, and other land uses have substantially affected most of the landscape of all nations
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We face challenges in pollution


Waste products and artificial chemicals Are used in farms, industries, and households Contaminate land, water and air Kill millions of people Humans are affecting the Earths climate Melting glaciers Rising sea levels Impacted wildlife, forests, health and crops Changed rainfall and increased storms Since the Industrial Revolution, atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations have risen by 39%, to the highest level in 800,000 years
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We face challenges in biodiversity


Biodiversity: the cumulative number and diversity of living things Human actions have driven many species extinct Biodiversity is declining dramatically We are setting in motion a mass extinction event

Biodiversity loss may be our biggest problem; once a species is extinct, it is gone forever
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The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment

The most comprehensive scientific assessment of the condition of the worlds ecological systems
In 2005, 2000 of the worlds leading scientists from 100 nations reported : Humans have drastically altered ecosystems These changes have contributed to human wellbeing and economic development, but at a cost Environmental degradation could get much worse Degradation can be reversed, but it requires work
2011 Pearson Education, Inc.

Our energy choices will affect our future


The lives we live today are due to fossil fuels Machines Chemicals Transportation Products Fossil fuels are a one-time bonanza Supplies will certainly decline We have used up of the worlds oil supplies; how will we handle this imminent fossil fuel shortage?

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Sustainable solutions abound


We must develop solutions that protect both our quality of life and the environment

Renewable energy and efficiency Organic agriculture Legislation and technology to reduce pollution Protect species and their habitat Recycling, decreasing waste Decrease greenhouse gas emissions
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Are things getting better or worse?


Many people think environmental conditions are better Cornucopians: human ingenuity will solve any problem Some think things are much worse Cassandras: predict doom and disaster How can you decide who is correct? Are the impacts limited to humans, or are other organisms or systems involved? Are the proponents thinking in the long or short term? Are they considering all costs and benefits?
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Sustainable development

Involves environmental protection, economic well-being and social equity It does not threaten economic and social needs - Humans cannot exist without an intact, functioning ecosystem Sustainable development: the use of resources to satisfy current needs - Without compromising future availability of resources

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Sustainable development
The poor suffer the most from environmental degradation Development: purposeful changes to improve the quality of life Sustainable development: resources satisfy current needs - Without compromising future availability of resources - It is not ever increasing economic gain - It values and prioritizes environmental protection - Human-made capital cannot substitute for natural capital

2011 Pearson Education, Inc.

Will we develop in a sustainable way?


The triple bottom line: sustainable solutions that meet - Environmental protection - Economic goals - Social equity Humans must apply knowledge from the sciences to - Limit environmental impacts - Maintain functioning environmental systems We must make an ethical commitment to current and future generations
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Conclusion
Environmental science helps us understand our relationship with the environment - It informs our attempts to solve and prevent problems Identifying a problem is the first step in solving it Solving environmental problems can move us towards health, longevity, peace and prosperity - Environmental science can help us find balanced solutions to environmental challenges

2011 Pearson Education, Inc.