Environmental science
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Environmental Science. Environmental science. Study of the interaction of people and the natural environment Particularly concerned with impact of humans on the environment. Historic roots. Many classical authors regarded earth as living being, subject to aging, illness, and even death

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Environmental Science

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Environmental science

Environmental Science


Environmental science1

Environmental science

  • Study of the interaction of people and the natural environment

  • Particularly concerned with impact of humans on the environment


Historic roots

Historic roots

  • Many classical authors regarded earth as living being, subject to aging, illness, and even death

  • Early scientific studies conducted under British and French colonial administrators

  • Pierre Poivre, governor of Mauritius appalled by destruction of forests and wildlife; ordered quarter of island preserved in forests

  • Mauritius remains model for balancing nature and human needs


Utilitarian pragmatic conservation

Utilitarian (pragmatic) conservation

  • First US forest reserves established in 1873, spurred by warnings of geographer George Marsh in Man and Nature in 1864

  • Forest Service headed by Gifford Pinchot

  • Aim was to save forests “not because they are beautiful or .. shelter wild creatures .. but only to provide homes and jobs..”

  • Resources should be used “for the greatest good, for the greatest number, for the longest time”


Biocentric aesthetic moral conservation

Biocentric (aesthetic, moral) conservation

  • John Muir, first president of Sierra Club, opposed Pinchot’s utilitarian policies

  • Argued that nature deserves to exist for its own sake, regardless of usefulness to people

  • Fundamental right of organisms to exist and preserve own interests

  • Supposition that world was created for man “not supported by the facts”

  • National Park Service headed by follower of Muir, often at odds with Forest Service


Modern environmentalism

Modern environmentalism

  • Triggered by publication of Silent Spring by Rachel Carson, which awakened the public to threats of pollution and toxic chemicals to humans and other species

  • Concerns include natural resource depletion as well as environmental pollution

  • Includes combination of activism and scientific research

  • Activists utilize lobbying, demonstrations, litigation, intervention in regulatory hearings, book campaigns publishing, and mass media


Current environmental conditions

Current environmental conditions

  • Concern exists that human populations have already exceeded environment’s carrying capacity

  • Evidence includes shortages of food and water; exhaustion of fossil fuels; pollution of air, water, and land; habitat and species losses; and dangerous territorial conflicts

  • However, poverty and equitable distribution may be the real cause of many of the above problems


Signs of hope

Signs of hope

  • Many cities in North America and Europe cleaner and less polluted today

  • Population has stabilized in most industrial countries

  • New resources have been discovered, along with technology for more efficient use of existing resources

  • Media coverage has brought environmental conditions to public attention


Rich and poor countries

Rich and poor countries

  • North America and Europe have per capita incomes which far exceed those in other regions

  • >3 billion people live in countries where per capita incomes are < $620/year

  • Affluent lifestyle in rich countries consumes an inordinate share of world’s resources; and produces high proportion of pollutants and wastes

  • The US, with <5% of the world’s population, consumes ¼ of all trade and produces ¼ of all industrial wastes


Sustainability

Sustainability

  • Population numbers and lifestyle that does not exceed the earth’s carrying capacity

  • Aim is to achieve ecological stability and human well being that can last over the long term

  • Benefits must be available to all humans; not just to members of a privileged group


Indigenous native peoples

Indigenous (native) peoples

  • “Original” inhabitants of an area; generally small in population size and political power

  • Of world’s 6000 recognized cultures, 5000 are indigenous; but amount to only 10% of world’s population

  • Many indigenous peoples still possess valuable ecological wisdom and remain guardians of highly diverse habitats

  • Recognizing native land rights and promoting political pluralism may be important way or preserving ecological habitats


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