Miller Chapter 1 Reading Questions
1. Three ways that human activities are affecting the environment include our exponential increase in population and our resource consumption, which have degraded the air, water, soil, and species in the natural systems that support our lives and economies. A third way is limiting the access that other species have to resources.
2. The goals of environmental science are to learn how nature works, how the environment affects us, how we affect the environment, and how we can live more sustainably without degrading our life-support system.
3. Environmentalism is a social movement dedicated to protecting the earth’s life-support systems for us and other species, and is political in nature. Sustainability, also known as durability, is the ability of earth’s various systems to survive and adapt to changing environmental conditions indefinitely.
4. The five steps towards sustainability are understanding the components and importance of natural capital, recognizing that human activities degrade natural capital by using resources faster than they can be renewed, looking for workable solutions, making trade-offs or compromises, and recognizing that individuals matter. They must be supported by sound science, or the concepts and ideas that are widely accepted by experts in a particular field of the natural or social sciences.
5. Natural capital is the natural resources and services that keep us and other species alive and support our economies. It changes over millions of years in response to environmental changes such as global warming and cooling and huge asteroids hitting the earth.
6. Economic growth is an increase in the capacity of a country to provide people with goods and services. It’s measured by GDP, the annual market value of all goods and services produced by all firms and organizations, foreign and domestic, operating in a country. It goes up with either a population increase, more production and consumption, or both. Changes in this growth are measured by per capita GDP, or the GDP divided by the total population at midyear. Economic development is the improvement of human living standards by economic growth. The United Nations classifies this based on a country’s degree of industrialization and their per capita GDP.
7. Developed countries are highly industrialized and have high average per capita GDP. All other nations are developing countries, whether they are middle-income or low-income. Developing countries tend to have the greatest population increases, as well as the greatest disparities between the rich and the poor as far as income goes.
8. 82% of the world’s population comes from developing countries.
9. 1.5% of the world’s population growth comes from developing countries, as compared to merely 0.1% in developed countries.
10. The rule of 70 calculates how long it takes to double the world’s population or economic growth at various exponential rates of growth. The formula is 70/percentage growth rate = doubling time in years.
11. The tragedy of the commons is the degradation of renewable free-access resources. The term was coined in 1968 by biologist Garrett Hardin. Basically, the logic is that “if I don’t use it, somebody else will anyway”. On a large scale, this only leads to waste and overconsumption.
12. One solution to the tragedy of the commons is to use free-access resources at rates well below their estimated sustainable yields by reducing population, regulating access to resources, or both. Another solution is to convert free-access resources to private ownership, so investments are protected.
13. Privatization doesn’t always work if a private owner values increasing profit over protecting natural resources that they own. It is also impractical for global common resources that cannot be divided up and converted to private property.
14. An ecological footprint is the amount of biologically productive land and water...
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