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CHAPTER 1 Environmental Problems, Their Causes, and Sustainability

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1 CHAPTER 1 Environmental Problems, Their Causes, and Sustainability

2 1-1 What Are Three Principles of Sustainability?
Concept 1-1A Nature has sustained itself for billions of years by using solar energy, biodiversity, and nutrient cycling. Concept 1-1B Our lives and economies depend on energy from the sun and on natural resources and natural services (natural capital) provided by the earth.

3 Environmental Science Is a Study of Connections in Nature
Everything around us “The environment is everything that isn’t me.“ Environmental science: interdisciplinary science connecting information and ideas from Natural sciences: ecology, biology, geology, chemistry… Social sciences: geography, politics, economics Humanities: ethics, philosophy

4 What do we learn in Environmental Science?
How the environment affects us How nature works How to live more sustainably How we affect the environment How to deal with environmental problems

5 Nature’s Survival Strategies Follow Three Principles of Sustainability
Reliance on solar energy The sun provides warmth and fuels photosynthesis Biodiversity Astounding variety and adaptability of natural systems and species Chemical cycling Circulation of chemicals from the environment to organisms and then back to the environment Also called nutrient cycling

6 Three Principles of Sustainability
Figure 1.3: Three principles of sustainability. We derive these three interconnected principles of sustainability from learning how nature has sustained a huge variety of life on the earth for at least 3.5 billion years, despite drastic changes in environmental conditions (Concept 1-1a).

7 Sustainability Has Certain Key Components
Natural capital: supported by solar capital Natural resources: useful materials and energy in nature Natural services: important nature processes such as renewal of air, water, and soil Humans degrade natural capital Scientific solutions needed for environmental sustainability

8 Nutrient Cycling Figure 1.5: Nutrient cycling: This important natural service recycles chemicals needed by organisms from the environment (mostly from soil and water) through those organisms and back to the environment. Fig. 1-5, p. 10

9 Natural Capital Degradation
Figure 1.6: Natural capital degradation. This was once a large area of diverse tropical rain forest in Brazil, but it has now been cleared to grow soybeans. According to ecologist Harold Mooney of Stanford University, conservative estimates suggest that between 1992 and 2008, an area of tropical rain forest larger than the U.S. state of California was destroyed in order to graze cattle and plant crops for food and biofuels. Do we protect our rainforests or destroy them? Fig. 1-6, p. 10


11 Earth’s Resources Resource Perpetual resource
Anything we obtain from the environment to meet our needs Some directly available for use: sunlight Some not directly available for use: petroleum Perpetual resource Solar energy

12 Some Sources Are Renewable….
Renewable resource Several days to several hundred years to renew E.g., forests, grasslands, fresh air, fertile soil Sustainable yield Highest rate at which we can use a renewable resource without reducing available supply 12

13 ….. and Some Are Not Nonrenewable resources Energy resources
Metallic mineral resources Nonmetallic mineral resources


15 SOLUTIONS: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

16 Reuse Figure 1.7: Reuse: This child and his family in Katmandu, Nepal, collect beer bottles and sell them for cash to a brewery that will reuse them. Fig. 1-7, p. 11

17 Recycle Figure 1.8: Recycling: This family is carrying out items for recycling. Scientists estimate that we could recycle and reuse 80–90% of the resources that we now use and thus come closer to mimicking the way nature recycles essentially everything. Recycling is important but it involves dealing with wastes we have produced. Ideally, we should focus more on using less, reusing items, and reducing our unnecessary waste of resources. Fig. 1-8, p. 12

18 Countries Differ in Levels of Unsustainability
Economic growth: increase in output of a nation’s goods and services HOW IS IT MEASURED? Gross domestic product (GDP): annual market value of all goods and services produced by all businesses, foreign and domestic, operating within a country CHANGES IN COUNTRY’S GROWTH PER PERSON Per capita GDP: one measure of economic development

19 Countries Differ in Levels of Unsustainability (2)
Economic development: using economic growth to raise living standards More-developed countries (MDC): North America, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, most of Europe Less-developed countries (LDC): most countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America

20 Countries by Gross National Income per Capita
Figure 2 This map shows high-income, upper-middle income, lower-middle-income, and low-income countries in terms of gross national income (GNI) PPP per capita (U.S. dollars) in (Data from World Bank and International Monetary Fund) Supplement 8, Fig 2

21 GLOBAL OUTLOOK: What are the world’s trends?

22 1-2 How Are Our Ecological Footprints Affecting the Earth?
Concept 1-2 As our ecological footprints grow, we are depleting and degrading more of the earth’s natural capital.

23 Ecological Footprints: A Model of Unsustainable Use of Resources
Ecological footprint: the amount of biologically productive land and water needed to provide the people in a region with indefinite supply of renewable resources, and to absorb and recycle wastes and pollution Per capita ecological footprint: per person Unsustainable: footprint is larger than biological capacity for replenishment


25 Natural Capital Use and Degradation
Figure 1.13: Natural capital use and degradation. These graphs show the total and per capita ecological footprints of selected countries (top). In 2008, humanity’s total, or global, ecological footprint was at least 30% higher than the earth’s biological capacity (bottom) and is projected to be twice the planet’s biological capacity by around Question: If we are living beyond the earth’s renewable biological capacity, why do you think the human population and per capita resource consumption are still growing rapidly? (Data from Worldwide Fund for Nature, Global Footprint Network, Living Planet Report See Fig. 1-13, p. 16

26 Global Human Footprint Map
Figure 7 This map shows the relative risk of tornados across the continental United States. (Data from NOAA) Supplement 8, Fig 7

27 We Are Living Unsustainably
Environmental degradation: wasting, depleting, and degrading the earth’s natural capital Happening at an accelerating rate Also called natural capital degradation

28 Natural Capital Degradation
Figure 1.9: These are examples of the degradation of normally renewable natural resources and services in parts of the world, mostly as a result of rising populations and resource use per person. Fig. 1-9, p. 13

29 Pollution: Sources and Types
Sources of pollution Point sources E.g., smokestack Nonpoint sources E.g., pesticides blown into the air Main type of pollutants Biodegradable break down over time Nondegradable can’t be broken down Unwanted effects of pollution

30 Point-Source Air Pollution
Figure 1.10: This point-source air pollution rises from a pulp mill in New York State (USA). Fig. 1-10, p. 14

31 Nonpoint Source Water Pollution
Figure 1.11: The trash in this river came from a large area of land and is an example of nonpoint water pollution. Fig. 1-11, p. 14

32 UNwanted Effects of Pollution
disrupt/degrade life support system for animals damage wildlife, human health and property create nuisances, e.g. noise, unpleasant smells, tastes, sights The first photo, taken in 1908, shows a 200-year-old statue at a castle in Germany. There were few changes during its first 200 years. After 1908, the amount of acid rain components emitted from human activities increased. In just 60 years, the statue showed the effects of acid rain. What changes do you notice?

33 SOLUTIONS: How do we control pollution?
Pollution cleanup (output pollution control) cleaning up or diluting pollutants after we have produced them Pollution prevention (input pollution control) reduces or eliminates the production of pollutants What is the best solution? What are the problems?

34 Overexploiting Shared Renewable Resources: Tragedy of the Commons
Three types of property or resource rights Private property Common property Open access renewable resources Tragedy of the commons Common property and open-access renewable resources degraded from overuse Solutions

35 IPAT is Another Environmental Impact Model
I = P x A x T I = Environmental impact P = Population A = Affluence T = Technology

36 IPAT Illustrated Figure 1.14: Connections: This simple model demonstrates how three factors—number of people, affluence (resource use per person), and technology—affect the environmental impact of populations in less-developed countries (top) and more-developed countries (bottom). Fig. 1-14, p. 17

37 Natural Systems Have Tipping Points
Ecological tipping point: an often irreversible shift in the behavior of a natural system Environmental degradation has time delays between our actions now and the deleterious effects later Long-term climate change Over-fishing Species extinction

38 Cultural Changes Have Increased Our Ecological Footprints
12,000 years ago: hunters and gatherers Three major cultural events Agricultural revolution Industrial-medical revolution Information-globalization revolution Current need for a sustainability revolution

39 Technology Increases Population
Figure 1.16: Technological innovations have led to greater human control over the rest of nature and to an expanding human population. Fig. 1-16, p. 19

40 1-3 Why Do We Have Environmental Problems?
Concept 1-3 Major causes of environmental problems are population growth, wasteful and unsustainable resource use, poverty, and exclusion of environmental costs of resource use from the market prices of goods and services.

41 Experts Have Identified Four Basic Causes of Environmental Problems
Population growth Wasteful and unsustainable resource use Poverty Failure to include the harmful environmental costs of goods and services in market prices Figure 1.17: Environmental and social scientists have identified four basic causes of the environmental problems we face (Concept 1-3). Question: For each of these causes, what are two environmental problems that result?

42 Exponential Growth of Human Population
Figure 1.18: Exponential growth: The J-shaped curve represents past exponential world population growth, with projections to 2100 showing possible population stabilization as the J-shaped curve of growth changes to an S-shaped curve. (This figure is not to scale.) (Data from the World Bank and United Nations, 2008; photo L. Yong/UNEP/Peter Arnold, Inc.) Fig. 1-18, p. 21

43 Affluence Has Harmful and Beneficial Environmental Effects
Harmful environmental impact due to High levels of consumption High levels of pollution Unnecessary waste of resources Affluence can provide funding for developing technologies to reduce Pollution Environmental degradation Resource waste

44 Poverty Has Harmful Environmental and Health Effects
Population growth affected Malnutrition Premature death Limited access to adequate sanitation facilities and clean water

45 Extreme Poverty Figure 1.19: Extreme poverty: This boy is searching through an open dump in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, for items to sell. Many children of poor families who live in makeshift shantytowns in or near such dumps often scavenge most of the day for food and other items to help their families survive. Fig. 1-19, p. 22

46 Harmful Effects of Poverty
Figure 1.20: These are some of the harmful effects of poverty. Questions: Which two of these effects do you think are the most harmful? Why? (Data from United Nations, World Bank, and World Health Organization) Fig. 1-20, p. 22

47 Effects of Malnutrition
Figure 1.21: Global Outlook: One of every three children younger than age 5, such as this child in Lunda, Angola, suffers from severe malnutrition caused by a lack of calories and protein. According to the World Health Organization, each day at least 16,400 children younger than age 5 die prematurely from malnutrition and from infectious diseases often caused by drinking contaminated water. Fig. 1-21, p. 23

48 Prices Do Not Include the Value of Natural Capital
Companies do not pay the environmental cost of resource use Goods and services do not include the harmful environmental costs Companies receive tax breaks and subsidies Economy may be stimulated but there may be a degradation of natural capital

49 Environmentally Unfriendly Hummer
Figure 1.22: This Hummer H3 sport utility vehicle burns a great deal of fuel compared to other, more efficient vehicles. It therefore adds more pollutants to the atmosphere and, being a very heavy vehicle, does more damage to the roads and land on which it is driven. It also requires more material and energy to build and maintain than most other vehicles on the road. These harmful costs are not included in the price of the vehicle. Fig. 1-22, p. 24

50 Different Views about Environmental Problems and Their Solutions
Environmental ethics: what is right and wrong with how we treat the environment Planetary management worldview We are separate from and in charge of nature Stewardship worldview Manage earth for our benefit with ethical responsibility to be stewards Environmental wisdom worldview We are part of nature and must engage in sustainable use

51 1-4 What Is an Environmentally Sustainable Society?
Concept 1-4 Living sustainably means living off the earth’s natural income without depleting or degrading the natural capital that supplies it.

52 Environmentally Sustainable Societies Protect Natural Capital and Live Off Its Income
Environmentally sustainable society: meets current needs while ensuring that needs of future generations will be met Live on natural income of natural capital without diminishing the natural capital

53 Case Study: The Environmental Transformation of Chattanooga, TN
Environmental success story: example of building their social capital 1960: most polluted city in the U.S. 1984: Vision 2000 1995: most goals met 1993: Revision 2000

54 Chattanooga, Tennessee
I Figure 1.23: Since 1984, citizens have worked together to make the city of Chattanooga, Tennessee, one of the best and most sustainable places to live in the United States. Fig. 1-23, p. 26

55 Individuals Matter 5–10% of the population can bring about major social change We have only years to make the change to sustainability before it’s too late Rely on renewable energy Protect biodiversity Reduce waste and pollution

56 Three Big Ideas We could rely more on renewable energy from the sun, including indirect forms of solar energy such as wind and flowing water, to meet most of our heating and electricity needs. Figure 1.24: Capturing wind power is one of the world’s most rapidly growing and least environmentally harmful ways to produce electricity.

57 Three Big Ideas We can protect biodiversity by preventing the degradation of the earth’s species, ecosystems, and natural processes, and by restoring areas we have degraded. Figure 1.25: This young child—like the grandchild of Emily and Michael in our fictional scenario of a possible future (Core Case study)—is promoting sustainability by preparing to plant a tree. A global program to plant and tend billions of trees each year will help to restore degraded lands, promote biodiversity, and reduce the threat of climate change from atmospheric warming.

58 Three Big Ideas We can help to sustain the earth’s natural chemical cycles by reducing our production of wastes and pollution, not overloading natural systems with harmful chemicals, and not removing natural chemicals faster than those chemical cycles can replace them.

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