Environmental Science - PowerPoint PPT Presentation

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Environmental Science

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  1. Environmental Science

  2. Environmental science • Study of the interaction of people and the natural environment • Particularly concerned with impact of humans on the environment

  3. 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

  4. 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”

  5. 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

  6. 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

  7. 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

  8. 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

  9. 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

  10. 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

  11. 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