Environmental Science - Chapter 1 Notes - Environmental Problems, Their Causes, and Sustainability

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  • Topic: Sustainability, Ecology, Natural environment
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  • Published : October 14, 2012
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Environmental Problems, Their Causes, and Sustainability
Chapter 1
Case Study
Living in an Exponential Age
Exponential growth – concept in which a quantity increases at a constant rate per unit of time •Global economic output is a rough measure of the human use of the earth’s resources •Poverty affects environmental quality, from the poor depleting and degrading forests, grasslands, and wildlife •Exponential growth plays a key role in five important and interconnected environmental issues: population growth, resource use and waste, poverty, loss of biological diversity, and global climate change Questions

What keeps us alive? What is an environmentally sustainable society? •How fast is the human population increasing? What are economic growth, economic development, and globalization? •What are the earth’s main types of resources? How can they be depleted or degraded? •What are the principal types of pollution? What can we do about pollution? •What are the basic causes of today’s environmental problems? How are these causes connected? •Is our current course sustainable? What is environmentally sustainable development? Living More Sustainably

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What Is the Difference between Environment, Ecology, and Environmental Science? Defining Some Basic Terms •Environmental science is a study of how the earth works, how we interact with the earth, and how to deal with environmental problems. •Environment – everything that affects a living organism (any unique form of life) •Ecology – a biological science that studies the relationships between living organisms and their environment •Environmental science – study that uses information from the physical sciences and social sciences to learn how the earth works, how we interact with the earth, and how to deal with environmental problems; it involves integrating ideas from the natural world and our cultural world •Environmentalism – social movement dedicated to protecting the earth’s life support systems for us and other species What Keeps Us Alive? The Sun and the Earth’s Natural Capital •All life and economies depend on energy from the sun (solar capital) and the earth’s resources and ecological services (natural capital) •Solar capital – energy from the sun

Solar energy – direct sunlight and indirect forms of renewable solar energy such as wind power, hydropower (energy from flowing water), and biomass (direct solar energy converted to chemical energy and stored in biological sources of energy such as wood) •Natural resources / natural capital – resources and ecological services from the planet itself such as air, water, fishery, mineral, processes of natural purification, and recycling •Biological income examples are renewable supplies of wood, wish, grassland, and underground water for drinking and irrigation

What is an Environmentally Sustainable Society? One that Preserves Natural Capital and Lives Off Its Income •An environmentally sustainable society meets all the basic resource needs of is people indefinitely without degrading or depleting the natural capital that supplies these resources •Environmentally sustainable society – society that meets current needs of its people for food, clean water, clean air, shelter, and other basic resources without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs •Living sustainably means living off natural income replenished by soils, plants, air, and water and not depleting or degrading the earth’s natural capital that supplies this biological income •Protect your capital and live off the income it provides Population growth, economic growth, economic development, and globalization 1-2

How Rapidly Is the Human Population Growing? Pretty Fast
The rate at which the world’s population is growing has slowed but is still growing pretty rapidly •Currently the population is growing exponentially at a rate of ~1.25% a year •It is actually a lot (average increase of 219,000 people a day)...
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