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Intro to Environmental Science
Environmental Science
• Interdisciplinary area of study dealing with
human impact on the world
• Has been around since earliest civilizations
• Renewed interest in the 1970s
• First “Earth Day” was in 1970
What is part of Environmental
Science?
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Ecology
Conservation
Geography
Economics
Sociology
Political Science
Interrelated Nature of Environmental
Problems
• Example: air pollution and acid rain going
from U.S. to Canada
• Companies have to lower emissions ($) OR
build plants in other countries where
environmental restrictions are not as strict
6 Regions of North America
• Wilderness North
• Lots of government owned land
• Little human influence
• Issues: Exploitation of resources (mining, oil
exploitation, clear cutting) takes a long time
for land to heal after human disturbance
6 Regions of North America
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Agricultural Middle
Very few wild areas- lots of private land
Government involvement (subsidies, research)
# of farmers is decreasing (high risk: drought)
• Issues: Pollution (water & air), Pesticides,
using water for irrigation
6 Regions of North America
• Dry West
• Primarily government owned land, provide
cheap grazing and irrigation rights
• Low population density
• Issues: development or preservation of wild
areas, water use for urban areas or irrigation
6 Regions of North America
• The Forested West
• Government and large timber industries own
big chunks of land
• Government sold timber cutting rights too
cheaply
• Issues: Preserving wilderness vs. economy
6 Regions of North America
• The Great Lakes & Industrial Northeast
• Heavily populated parts of the country
• Issues: Mining, introduced species (zebra
mussels, Japanese knotweed), Chesapeake
Bay, urban sprawl
6 Regions of North America
• Diverse South
• Mix of all previous regions
• Issues: Development along the coast (loss of
marshes as habitat), Increased population, Oil
rigs and refineries (BP), draining Everglades for
sugar cane farms
Ecosystems Approach to
Environmental Issues
• What is an ecosystem?
• Tough to define an ecosystem, can be as big or
as small as we decide. Ex: Lake Glendale
watershed vs. Chesapeake Bay watershed
• Landscape ecology- large scale entity (the
Bay) instead of just an ecosystem (like a pond)
Sustainable Development
• Is there such a thing?
• If there is, how can it be achieved?
Environmental Ethics
• Ethics- branch of philosophy seeking to
fundamentally determine what is wrong and
what is right
• Morals- personal or cultural feelings about
ethical issues
Environmental Viewpoints
1. Anthropocentric viewpoint- environment
exists to benefit ONLY humans
2. Biocentric viewpoint- ALL organisms have a
right to exist (gradiations some species
valued higher than others)
3. Ecocentric viewpoint- All living things and
environments have rights
Environmental Viewpoints Summary
• Humans are part of nature (not apart from
nature)
• Duty to respect nature, care for Earth, protect
biodiversity…looking out for future
generations
• Actions toward environment should be viewed
as right or wrong and NOT made strictly on
self-interest
Environmental Attitudes
1. Development Ethic- (tied to anthropocentric
view)
• Humans are masters of nature
• Nature is only valuable to extent humans can
use it (i.e. to make the most $)
• Extremely common view (most common view
in U.S.)
Environmental Attitudes
2. Preservation Ethic- (ecocentric and biocentric
views)
• Take what you need and leave the rest
• Not profitable
• Nature’s value is intrinsic
• All creatures have right to live regardless of $
• Natural diversity & complexity superior to
humanized domesticity and uniformity
Environmental Attitudes
3. Conservation Ethic- (balance b/t first two)
• Recognizes desirability of a decent living but
strives to balance resource use and availability
• Middle ground between total development
and absolute conservation
• Goal: One global community living together
indefinitely