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Environmental Problems, Their Causes, and Sustainability Chapter 1.

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1 Environmental Problems, Their Causes, and Sustainability Chapter 1


3 Environmental science is a study of connections in nature Environment includes all living and nonliving things with which an organism interacts. Environmental science studies how the earth works, our interaction with the earth, and ways to deal with environment problems and live more sustainably. Ecology studies relationships between living organisms, and their interaction with the environment. Environmentalism is a social movement dedicated to protecting life support systems for all species.

4 Nature’s survival strategies follow three principles of sustainability 1.Life depends on solar energy. 2.Biodiversity provides natural services. 3.Chemical/nutrient cycling means that there is little waste in nature.

5 Three principles of sustainability

6 Sustainability has certain key components Life depends on natural capital, natural resources and natural services. Many human activities can degrade natural capital. Solutions are being found and implemented. Sustainability begins at personal and local levels.

7 Key natural resources and services

8 Fig. 1-3, p. 9 Natural Capital Solar energy Air Air purification Climate control UV protection (ozone layer) Life (biodiversity) Water Population control Pest control Waste treatment Nonrenewable minerals (iron, sand) Soil Land Soil renewal Food production Natural gas Nutrient recycling Nonrenewable energy (fossil fuels) Coal seam Natural resources Natural services Oil Natural Capital = Natural Resources + Natural Services Renewable energy (sun, wind, water flows) Water purification

9 Nutrient cycling

10 Fig. 1-4, p. 10 Organic matter in animals Dead organic matter Organic matter in plants Decomposition Inorganic matter in soil

11 Some resources are renewable and some are not Humans depend on resources to meet our needs. A perpetual resource is continuously renewed and expected to last (e.g. solar energy). A renewable resource is replenished in days to several hundred years through natural processes. Sustainable yield is the highest rate at which a renewable and non-renewable resource can be used indefinitely without reducing its available supply.

12 Some resources are renewable and some are not Some resources are not renewable. –Nonrenewable resources exist in fixed quantities. –Exhaustible energy (e.g. coal and oil). –Metallic minerals (e.g. copper and aluminum). –Nonmetallic minerals (e.g. salt and sand). Sustainable solutions: Reduce, reuse, recycle.

13 Rich and poor countries have different environmental impacts Developed countries include the high income ones –e.g. United States, Canada. Developing countries include the low income ones –e.g. China, India.


15 We are living unsustainably Environmental, or natural capital, degradation is occurring. We have solutions to these problems that can be implemented.

16 Degradation of normally renewable natural resources

17 Fig. 1-5, p. 11 Natural Capital Degradation Degradation of Normally Renewable Natural Resources Climate change Shrinking forests Air pollution Decreased wildlife habitats Species extinction Soil erosion Water pollution Declining ocean fisheries Aquifer depletion

18 Pollution comes from a number of sources Point sources are single, identifiable sources (e.g., smokestack). Nonpoint sources are dispersed and often difficult to identify (e.g., lawn runoff). We can clean up pollution or prevent it. Pollution cleanup is usually more expensive and less effective. Pollution prevention reduces or eliminates the production of pollutants.

19 The tragedy of the commons: overexploiting shared renewable resources In 1968, the biologist Garrett Hardin called the degradation of openly shared resources the tragedy of the commons. Reducing degradation. –Reduce use by government regulations. –Shift to private ownership.

20 Ecological footprints: our environmental impacts Ecological footprint is the amount of biologically productive land and water needed to supply a person or country with renewable resources and to recycle the waste and pollution produced by such resource use. Per capita ecological footprint is the average ecological footprint of an individual in a given country or area.

21 Ecological footprints: our environmental impacts Ecological deficit means the ecological footprint is larger than the biological capacity to replenish resources and absorb wastes and pollution. Humanity is living unsustainably. Footprints can also be expressed as number of Earths it would take to support consumption.

22 Total and per capita ecological footprint of selected countries

23 Fig. 1-8, p. 14 Total Ecological Footprint (million hectares) and Share of Global Biological Capacity (%) Per Capita Ecological Footprint (hectares per person) United States 2,810 (25%) United States 9.7 European Union2,160 (19%) European Union4.7 China 2,050 (18%) China 1.6 India 780 (7%)India 0.8 Japan 540 (5%) Japan 4.8 2.5 Unsustainable living 2.0 1.5 Projected footprint 1.0 Number of Earths 0.5 Ecological footprint Sustainable living 1961197019801990200020102020203020402050 Year 0

24 IPAT is another environmental impact model In the early 1970s, scientists Paul Ehrlich and John Holdren developed the IPAT model. I (environmental impact) = P (population size) x A (affluence/person) x T (technology’s beneficial and harmful effects).

25 I = P x A x T

26 Fig. 1-9, p. 15 Less-Developed Countries Consumption per person (affluence, A) Population (P) Technological impact per unit of consumption (T) Environmental impact of population (I) More-Developed Countries


28 Experts have identified four basic causes of environmental problems 1.Population growth. 2.Unsustainable resource use. 3.Poverty. 4.Excluding environmental costs from market prices.

29 Fig. 1-10, p. 16 Causes of Environmental Problems Population growth Unsustainable resource use Poverty Excluding environmental costs from market prices

30 The human population is growing exponentially at a rapid rate Human population is increasing at a fixed percentage so that we are experiencing doubling of larger and larger populations. Human population in 2009 was about 6.8 billion. Based on the current increase rate there will be 9.6 billion people by 2050. We can slow population growth.

31 Exponential growth

32 ? Industrial revolution Black Death—the Plague 2–5 million years 4000 B. C.A. D. 800060002000 2100 Hunting and gathering Agricultural revolutionIndustrial revolution Time Billions of people 0 13 12 11 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 Fig. 1-11, p. 16

33 Affluence has harmful and beneficial environmental effects Wealth results in high levels of consumption and waste of resources. Average American consumes 30 times as much as the average consumer in India. “Shop-until-you-drop” affluent consumers are afflicted with a disorder called affluenza. Affluence has provided better education, scientific research, and technological solutions, which result in improvements in environmental quality (e.g., safe drinking water).

34 Poverty has harmful environmental and health effects Poverty occurs when the basic needs for adequate food, water, shelter, health, and education are not met. One in every five people live in extreme poverty (<$1.25/day), and more are susceptible.

35 Poverty has harmful environmental and health effects Poverty causes harmful environmental and health effects. –Environmental degradation caused by need for short-term survival. –Malnutrition. –Inadequate sanitation and lack of clean drinking water. –Severe respiratory disease. –High rates of premature death for children under the age of 5 years.

36 Harmful effects of poverty

37 Fig. 1-13, p. 18 Lack of access to Number of people (% of world's population) Adequate sanitation facilities 2.6 billion (37%) Enough fuel for heating and cooking 2 billion (29%) Electricity 2 billion (29%) Clean drinking water 1.1 billion (16%) Adequate health care 1 billion (14%) Adequate housing Enough food for good health 900 million (13%) 1 billion (14%)

38 Malnutrition

39 Prices of goods and services due not include harmful environmental and health costs A company’s goal is often to maximize the profit. Often consumers do not know the damage caused by their consumption. Government subsidies may increase environmental degradation. There are ways to include harmful costs of goods and services. –Shift from environmentally harmful to beneficial government subsidies. –Tax pollution and waste heavily while reducing taxes on income and wealth.

40 People have different views about environmental problems and their solutions Each individual has their own environmental worldview—a set of assumptions and values reflecting how you think the world works and what your role should be. Environmental ethics are beliefs about what is right and wrong with how we treat the environment. Planetary management worldview holds that we are separate from and in charge of nature.

41 People have different views about environmental problems and their solutions Stewardship worldview holds that we can and should manage the earth for our benefit, but that we have an ethical responsibility to be caring and responsible managers. Environmental wisdom worldview holds that we are part of, and dependent on, nature and that nature exists for all species, not just for us.


43 What is an environmentally sustainable society? Environmentally sustainable societies protect natural capital and live off its income. –Increase reliance on renewable resources. –Protect earth’s natural capital. We can work together to solve environmental problems. –Trade-off solutions provide a balance between the benefits and the costs. –Individuals matter especially in success of bottom-up grassroots action.

44 Three Big Ideas 1.Rely more on renewable energy from the sun. 2.Protect biodiversity by preventing the degradation of the earth’s species, ecosystems, and natural processes, and by restoring areas we have degraded. 3.Help sustain earth’s natural chemical cycles by reducing waste and pollution, not overloading natural systems with chemicals, and don’t remove natural chemicals faster than the cycles can replace them.

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