CHAPTER 1- An Introduction to Environmental Science

I. Our Island, Earth

A. Our environment is the sum total of our surroundings.

1. It includes both biotic factors and abiotic factors.

2. The fundamental insight of environment science is that we are part of the natural world and we are dependent on a healthy, functioning planet.

B. Environmental science explores interactions between humans and our environment.

1. Environmental science is the study of how the natural world works, how our environment affects us, and how we affect our environment.

C. Natural resources are vital to our survival.

1. Natural resources are the various substances and forces we need in order to survive.

2. Renewable natural resources are virtually unlimited or can be replenished by the environment over short periods of time.

3. Nonrenewable natural resources are in limited supply and are not replenished or are formed much more slowly than we use them.

4. Some renewable resources may turn nonrenewable if we deplete them too drastically.

D. Human population growth has shaped our relationship with natural resources.

1. The agricultural revolution occurred around 10,000 years ago as humans transitioned from a hunter-gatherer lifestyle to an agricultural way of life.

2. The industrial revolution began in the mid-1700s, shifting from a rural, agricultural life to an urban society powered by fossil fuels.

3. Thomas Malthus and population growth

a. Malthus claimed that unless population growth was controlled, the number of people would outgrow the food supply.

b. He argued that a growing population would eventually be checked by famine, disease, or war.

4. Paul Ehrlich and the A population bomb@

a. Ehrlich predicted that a rapidly increasing human population would bring widespread famine and civil strife.

b. He claimed that population control was the only way to avoid starvation and war.

c. Although his predictions have not come true yet, many who support his ideas predict a global food crisis in the near future.

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E. Resource consumption exerts social and environmental impacts.

1. Garrett Hardin and A The Tragedy of the Commons@

a. Hardin analyzed how people approach resource use.

b. Resources that are open to unregulated exploitation, the A commons,@ will eventually be depleted.

c. He disputed the economic theory that individual self-interest, in the long term, serves the public.

2. Wackernagel, Rees, and the ecological footprint

a. The ecological footprint expresses the environmental impact of an individual or a population in terms of the cumulative amount of land and water required to provide the raw materials consumed and to recycle the waste product.

b. The ecological footprint is the sum of the amount of Earth= s surface A used@ once all direct and indirect impacts are totaled.

c. Using these calculations, it is clear that we are depleting our resources much faster than they are being replenished.

F. Environmental science can help us avoid mistakes made by past civilizations.

II. The Nature of Environment Science

A. People vary in their perception of environmental problems.

1. An environmental problem is any undesirable change in the environment.

2. A person= s age, gender, class, race, nationality, employment, and educational background can all affect whether he or she considers an environmental change a A problem.@

3. In other cases, different types of people may vary in their awareness of problems.

B. Environmental science provides interdisciplinary solutions.

1. Environmental studies and especially broad because they encompass the natural sciences and also many social sciences.

2. An interdisciplinary approach to addressing environmental problems can produce effective and lasting solutions.

C. Environmental science is not the same as environmentalism.

1. Environmentalism is a social movement dedicated to protecting the natural world from undesirable changes brought about by human choices.

2. Environmental science is the pursuit of knowledge about the environment, how it works, and our interactions with it.

III. The Nature of Science

1. Modern scientists describe science as a systematic process for learning about the world and testing our understanding of it.

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2. Environmental science is a dynamic yet systematic way of studying the world, and it is also the body of knowledge accumulated from this process.

A. Scientists test ideas by weighing evidence.

B. The scientific method is the key element of science.

1. It is a technique for testing ideas with observations and involves several assumptions and a series of interrelated steps.

2. The assumptions are

a. The universe functions in accordance with fixed natural laws.

b. All events arise from some cause and cause other events.

c. We can use our senses and reasoning abilities to detect and describe natural laws.

3. The steps of the scientific method are

a. Make observations.

b. Ask a question.

c. Develop a hypothesis. A hypothesis is an educated guess that explains a phenomenon or answers a scientific question.

d. Make predictions. A prediction is a specific statement that can be directly and unequivocally tested.

e. Test the predictions. An experiment is an activity designed to test the validity of a hypothesis; it involves manipulating variables, or conditions that can change. The independent variable is the variable is that the scientist manipulates, while the dependent variable is the one that depends upon the first variable.

f. Use controlled experiments by managing the variables. Have an unmanipulated point of comparison, called a control, and a manipulated treatment.

g. A correlation is a relationship among two or more variables.

h. Analyze and interpret results. Data are collected from experiments. Statistical tests are used to understand the significance of the data and the probability that a conclusion is true or untrue.

i. If repeated tests do not find a hypothesis to be untrue, then the conclusion is that the idea is supported. However, alternative hypothesis also need to be tested and ruled out.

C. There are different ways to test hypotheses.

1. A manipulative experiment is an experiment in which the researcher actively chooses and manipulates the independent variable.

2. When variables cannot be manipulated, a natural experiment (observation) is performed.

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3. In ecology, both manipulative and natural experiments are used. Ecology deals with the distribution and abundance of organisms and the interactions among organisms and with their abiotic environments.

4. Observational studies and natural experiments can show correlation between variables but cannot prove that one variable causes a change in another variable.

D. The scientific process does not stop with the scientific method.

1. Peer review, when other scientists examine and comment on an experiment, is an essential part of the scientific process.

2. Scientists frequently present their work at professional conferences and in written publications.

3. Sound science is based on doubt rather than on certainty and on repeatability rather than on one-time occurrence.

4. If a hypothesis survives repeated testing by numerous research teams, it may be modeled and potentially be incorporated into a theory.

5. A theory is a widely accepted, well-tested explanation of one or more cause-and-effect relationships that has been extensively validated by a large amount of research.

E. Science may go through A paradigm shifts.@

1. A paradigm is a dominant view regarding a topic, based on the facts and experiments known at that time.

2. Thomas Kuhn argued that science goes through periodic revolutions in which one dominant view is abandoned for another, as more information becomes available.

IV. Sustainability and the Future of Our World

A. Population and consumption lie at the root of many environmental changes.

1. The ways we modify the environment have been influenced by the sudden rise in human population.

2. Our consumption of resources rises even faster than our population growth.

B. We face challenges in agriculture, pollution, energy, and biodiversity.

1. Advancing technology has enabled us to grow more food per unti of land. Massive use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides and the resulting runoff and pollution, along with the widespread conversion of natural habitats, are some of the environmental costs of conventional agriculture.

2. Artificial chemicals pollute land, water, and air.

3. Political will is crucial if we re to address the looming specter of climate change. Our dependence on fossil fuels is the major cause.


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4. Overharvesting, the introduction of non-native species, and habitat alteration cause serious problems with biodiversity, the number and diversity of living things, which is declining dramatically.

C. Fortunately, potential solutions abound.

1. Technological advances and new laws are decreasing pollution in some countries.

2. Advances in conservation biology enable scientists and policymakers to work together to protect habitat and organisms.

3. Recycling and renewable energy sources are increasing.

D. Are things getting better or worse?

F. Sustainability is a goal for the future.

1. Sustainability means living within our resources such that they sustain us, and the rest of the Earth= s biota, for the foreseeable future.

2. Sustainable development is using renewable and nonrenewable resources in a way that satisfies current needs without compromising their availability in the future.

V. Conclusion

A. The sustainable use of resources and the relationship between resource use and population are themes that you will encounter every day.

B. Finding effective ways of living peacefully, healthily, and sustainably on our diverse and complex planet will require a thorough scientific understanding of both natural and social systems.

C. It is important to keep in mind that identifying a problem is the first step in devising a solution to it.















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