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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
Ashlyn Weber and Kimberly Bryant

2 Environment: all external conditions and factors, living and nonliving, that affect any living organism or other specified system. Ecology: biological science that studies the relationship between living organisms and their environment; it is the study of the structure and functions of nature.

3 1. What are the major themes of this book?
The major theme of this book is sustainability which is built on the subthemes of natural capital, national capital degradation, solutions, trade-offs, and how individuals matter.

4 Natural Capital: natural resources and services that keep us and other species alive and support our economies. Sustainability: the ability of earth’s various systems, including human cultural systems and economies, to survive and adapt to changing environmental conditions indefinitely. Social capital: positive force created when people with different views and values find common ground and work together to build understanding, trust, and informed shared visions of what their communities, states, nations, and the world could and should be.

5 2. What is an environmentally sustainable society?
An environmentally sustainable society meets the basic resource needs of its people in a just and equitable manner without degrading or depleting the natural capital that supplies these resources for future generations.

6 3. How fast is the human population growing?
In 2006, the world’s population was growing at an exponential rate of about 1.23%, adding about 81 million people in that year alone. This rate of growth has slowed, but the population is still increasing rapidly, and it is unequally distributed between rich and poor countries.

7 4. What is the difference between economic growth, economic development, and environmentally sustainable economic development? Environmentally sustainable economic development is using political and economic systems to encourage environmentally beneficial and more sustainable forms of economic development and discourage environmentally harmful and unsustainable forms of economic growth. Economic growth provides people with more goods and services, and economic development uses economic growth to improve living standards.

8 GDP: annual market value of all goods and services produced by all firms and organizations operating within a country. Globalization: broad process of global social, economic, and environmental change that leads to an increasingly integrated world. Exponential growth: growth in which some quantity increases at a constant rate per unit of time. Sustainable yield: highest rate at which a potentially renewable resource can be used indefinitely without reducing its available supply.

9 5. What are the earth’s main types of resources
5. What are the earth’s main types of resources? How can they be depleted or degraded? The earth’s main types of resources are perpetual, renewable, or nonrenewable. Renewable resources that are freely available to everyone can be degraded. When a country’s ecological footprint is larger than its ecological capacity, it is using and degrading its cropland, forests, groundwater, and other renewable resources faster than nature can replenish them, and it is exceeding the capacity of its environment to absorb and degrade the resulting wastes and pollution.

10 Common-property: resource that people are normally free to use; each user can deplete or degrade the available supply. Most such resources are renewable and owned by no one. Renewable resource: resource that can be replenished rapidly through natural processes as long as it is not used up faster than it is replaced. Nonrenewable resource: resource that exists in a fixed amount in the earth’s crust. Perpetual resource: essentially inexhaustible resource on a human time scale because it is renewed continuously. Ecological footprint: amount of biologically productive land and water needed to supply a population with renewable resources it uses and to absorb or dispose of the wastes from such resource use. It measures the average environmental impact of populations in different countries and areas. Tragedy of the Commons: depletion or degradation of a potentially renewable resource to which people have free and unmanaged access.

11 6. What are the principal types of pollution, and what can we do about pollution?
The principal types of pollution are point sources and nonpoint sources. Pollution prevention, or input pollution control, reduces or eliminates the production of pollutants. Point sources: single identifiable source that discharges pollutants into the environment Nonpoint sources: large or dispersed land areas such as crop fields, streets, and lawns that discharge pollutants into the environment over a large area

12 7. What are the basic causes of today’s environmental problems, and how are these causes connected?
The major causes of environmental problems are population growth, wasteful resource use, poverty, poor environmental accounting, and environmental ignorance. These causes are connected mostly as a result of the exponential growth of population and resource use.

13 8. What are the harmful environmental effects of poverty and affluence?
For many poor people, their daily lives are focused on getting enough food, water, and fuel for cooking and heating to survive. Many also deplete and degrade forests, soil, grasslands, and wildlife for short-term survival. Affluenza has an enormous environmental impact. Because of this exponential growth in resource use, large amounts of pollution, environmental degradation, and wastes are produced

14 Affluenza: unsustainable addiction to overconsumption and materialism exhibited in the lifestyles of affluent consumers in the U.S. and other developed countries. Input pollution control: process that prevents a potential pollutant from forming or entering the environment or reduces the amount of pollutant. Output pollution control: process that removes or reduces the level of a pollutant after it has been produced or has entered the environment.

15 9. What three major human cultural changes have taken place since humans arrived?
Since our hunter-gatherer days, three major human cultural changes have occurred. First, the agricultural revolution, which began 10,000-12,000 years ago, allowed people to settle in villages and raise crops and domesticated animals. Next the industrial-medical revolution, which began about 275 years ago, led to a shift from rural villages and animal-powered agriculture to an urban society using fossil fuels. The third cultural shift, the information-globalization revolution, began about 50 years ago. It is based on using new technologies for gaining rapid access to much more information on the global scale.

16 10. What are four scientific principles of sustainability and how can they help us build more environmentally sustainable and just societies? The principles of sustainability are reliance on solar energy, biodiversity, population control, and nutrient recycling. These principles can help us understand how nature has sustained a variety of life on the earth for about 3.7 billion years.

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