Introducing environmental science and sustainability
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Introducing Environmental Science and Sustainability. 1. Overview of Chapter 1. Human Impacts on The Environment Population, Resources and the Environment Sustainability Environmental Science Addressing Environmental Problems. The Environment (Earth).

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Introducing Environmental Science and Sustainability

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Introducing Environmental Science and Sustainability


Overview of Chapter 1

  • Human Impacts on The Environment

  • Population, Resources and the Environment

  • Sustainability

  • Environmental Science

  • Addressing Environmental Problems

The Environment (Earth)

  • Life has existed on earth for 3.8 billion yrs

  • Earth well suited for life

    • Water over ¾ of planet

    • Habitable temperature, moderate sunlight

    • Atmosphere provides oxygen and carbon dioxide

    • Soil with essential minerals for plants

Human Impacts on Environment- Population

  • Earth’s Human Population is at 6.9 billion

    • Growing exponentially

  • Expected to add several billion more people in 21st century

World Population Clock



  • 1 in 4 people live in extreme poverty

    • Cannot meet basic need for food, clothing, shelter, health

  • Difficult to meet population needs without exploiting earth’s resources

Gap Between Rich and Poor

  • Highly Developed Countries (HDC)

    • Complex industrialized bases, low population growth, high per capita incomes

    • Ex: US, Canada, Japan

Gap Between Rich and Poor

  • Less Developed Countries (LDC)

    • Low level of industrialization, very high fertility rate, high infant mortality rate, low per capita income

    • Ex: Bangladesh, Mali, Ethiopia

Types of Natural Resources


  • People overpopulation

    • Too many people in a given geographic area

    • Problem in many developing nations

  • Consumption overpopulation

    • Each individual in a population consumes too large a share of the resources

    • Problem in many highly developed nations, US in particular


  • Consumption

    • Human use of materials and energy

    • People in HDCs are big consumers

  • Unsustainable Consumption

    • Occurs when the level of demand on a country’s resources damages or depletes the resource enough to reduce the quality of life for future generations

    • Caused by overpopulation and/or overconsumption

Ecological Footprint

  • The average amount of land, water and ocean required to provide that person with all the resources they consume

Ecological Footprint

  • Humans have an ecological overshoot

Ecological Footprint Comparison

Environmental Impact

Affluence per person

I = P A T

Environmental effect of technologies

Number of people

IPAT Model

  • Measures 3 factors that affect environmental impact (I)

Environmental Sustainability

Environmental Sustainability

  • The ability to meet current human need for natural resources without compromising the needs of future generations

  • Requires understanding:

    • The effects of our actions on the earth

    • That earth’s resources are not infinite

Day 2 Notes

Tragedy of the Commons

  • Garrett Hardin (1915–2003)

  • Solving Environmental Problems is result of struggle between:

    • Short term welfare

    • Long term environmental stability and societal welfare

  • Common pool resources

  • Garrett used Common Pastureland in medieval Europe to illustrate the struggle

Sustainable Development- Systems Concept

  • Economic development that meets the needs of the present generation without compromising future generations

Environmental Science

  • An interdisciplinary study of human relationship with other organisms and the earth

    • Biology

    • Ecology

    • Geography

    • Chemistry

    • Geology

  • Physics

  • Economics

  • Sociology

  • Demography

  • Politics

Earth System and Environmental Science

  • System

    • A set of components that interact and function as a whole

  • Global Earth Systems

    • Climate, atmosphere, land, coastal zones, ocean

  • Ecosystem

    • A natural system consisting of a community of organisms and its physical environment

Earth Systems and Environmental Science

  • Negative feedback

    • Change triggers a response that counteracts the changed condition


  • Positive feedback

    • Change triggers a response that intensifies the changing condition

Scientific Method

Controls and Variables in Experiment

  • Variable

    • A factor that influences a process

    • The variable may be altered in an experiment to see its effect on the outcome

  • Control

    • The variable is not altered

    • Allows for comparison between the altered variable test and the unaltered variable test

Five Steps to Addressing An Environmental Problem

  • Five steps are idealistic

  • Case Study: Lake Washington

Assessing Environmental ProblemCase Study: Lake Washington

  • Large, freshwater pond

  • Suburban sprawl in 1940’s

    • 10 new sewage treatment plants dumped effluent into lake

  • Effect = excessive cyanobacteria growth that killed off fish and aquatic life

Assessing Environmental ProblemCase Study: Lake Washington

  • Scientific Assessment

    • Aquatic wildlife assessment done in 1933 was compared to the 1950 assessment

    • Hypothesized treated sewage was introducing high nutrients causing growth of cyanobacteria

  • Risk Analysis

    • After analyzing many choices, chose new location (freshwater) and greater treatment for sewage to decrease nutrients in effluent

Assessing Environmental ProblemCase Study: Lake Washington

  • Public Education/Involvement

    • Educated public on why changes were necessary

  • Political Action

    • Difficult to organize sewage disposal in so many municipalities

    • Changes were not made until 1963!

  • Evaluation

    • Cyanobacteria slowly decreased until 1975 (gone)

Assessing Environmental ProblemCase Study: Lake Washington

  • Results

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