Introduction to Environmental Science Introduction What is Environmental Science? What is an environment? Environment: all the external conditions, both abiotic and biotic, that affect an organism or group of organisms. Organisms also exert effects on their environment Introduction Environmental Science: the interdisciplinary study of how humanity interacts with other organisms and the nonliving physical environment What is the focus of environmental science? To identify, understand, and solve problems that society has generated. Environmental Science is Interdisciplinary Environmental Science includes: Biology Chemistry Geology Physics Earth science Ecology Geography Economics Sociology Demography Cultural anthropology Natural resources management Agriculture Engineering Law Politics ethics Environmental Problems are complex and seldom have simple solutions. Environmental Problems are complex and seldom have simple solutions. A significant portion of photochemical smog in New Jersey is derived from pollutants emitted by coal-burning power plants in the Midwest. Air pollution generated in China affects air quality in the western parts of the US and Canada Oxides of sulfur and nitrogen emitted by coal-burning power plants in the Midwest contribute to acid rain problems in Canada Air pollution in developing nations is partially the result of the combination of low wages in poor countries and strict environmental laws in affluent countries. Sustainability Objectives: Explain what is meant by sustainability and sustainable development 2. Explain how population growth is related to sustainable development 1. Earth has limited resources to support human societies. Sustainability There are numerous examples of civilizations which did not live within the constraints of their environment. Mayans Incas Romans Easter Island Easter Island Settled around 400-800 A.D. Ample forests were systematically cut for agriculture land, structural materials, and to move large stone monuments Deforestation led to soil erosion. Soil erosion led to water quality degradation and elimination of fish and shellfish populations Eroded soil did not support agriculture Population went from ~8000 in the 1600’s to several hundred in the 1800’s. Effect of Population Growth Effect of Population Growth Each person creates a certain demand on the Earth’s resources. Population growth AND increasing consumption per person can stress Earth’s resources Examples of unsustainable practices have led to: 1. Groundwater supplied being depleted 2. Agricultural soils being degraded 3. Oceans being overfished 4. Oil reserves being depleted 5. Forests cut faster than they can grow. Sustainability A sustainable process or system… …can continue indefinitely without depleting any of the material or energy required to keep it going. This was first applied to activities such as forestry and fisheries Can also be applied to freshwater supplies, agricultural soils, and the ability of natural systems to absorb pollutants Sustainability Historically, sustainability/pollution concerns have been a local problem. We are now faced with global sustainability issues such as: Acid rain Ozone depletion Global climate change Sustainable Society A sustainable society is in balance with the natural world, continuing generation after generation, neither depleting its resource base by exceeding sustainable yields nor producing pollutants in excess of nature’s ability to absorb them. Primative societies- usually sustainable (high mortality rates) Modern societies-many interactions with enviroment are NOT sustainable Sustainable Development Development – defined as continued improvement of living standards Sustainable development Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.