Humanity and environment Donald Winslow 15 September 2010 Questions • What is the environment? • What is “environmental studies”? • What is ecology? • What is sustainability? • How do humans depend on their environment? • What can nature teach us about our lives? What is the environment? In ecology, an organism's “environment” is its surroundings. The factors that affect the organism and that are influenced by the organism. Modern global society's environment is our world—the entire Earth. Anything that “hurts our environment” hurts our world. Environmental studies & environmentalism Environmental studies—The study of the interactions of humans with their environment. Environmentalism—A political movement advocating the protection of natural resources, species, and ecosystems. Environmental studies is an interdisciplinary field Natural sciences Geography Social sciences Philosophy, religion, ethics Natural sciences Physics Chemistry Geology Oceanography Meteorology Climatology Biology Ecology What is ecology? The study of the interactions of organisms (living things) with their surroundings. An ecosystem is composed of all the different species of organisms in a given area, along with the physical and chemical factors with which they interact. Black-necked Stilt & White-faced Ibis at Hackberry Flat. Social sciences Anthropology Demography Psychology Sociology Political science Economics Sustainability Living in a way that can be sustained Not depleting or degrading resources on which future generations will depend Is economic growth compatible with sustainability? Sustainability principles in nature provide insight for human civilization. Natural capital Natural resources Timber Fossil fuels Natural services Hydrological cycling Nutrient cycling Cypress swamp in White River National Wildlife Refuge in Arkansas Sustainability principles in nature Solar energy Diversity Population regulation Recycling View from Mt. Saum Tauk in Missouri To conclude… • Environment is everything. • Many fields help us understand our world. • Ecologists study interactions. • It’s not necessarily easy to be green. • We depend on natural resources and services. • Nature can teach us about our role in the world.