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Chapter 1 Environmental Problems, Their Causes and Sustainability


Chapter 1 Environmental Problems, Their Causes and Sustainability AP Environmental Science ENHS Discussion Questions What are the major themes of the book? – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Chapter 1 Environmental Problems, Their Causes and Sustainability

Chapter 1 Environmental Problems, Their Causes
and Sustainability
  • AP Environmental Science
  • ENHS

Discussion Questions
  • What are the major themes of the book?
  • What keeps us alive? What is an environmentally
    sustainable society?
  • How fast is the human population growing?
  • What is the difference between economic growth,
    economic development, and environmentally
    sustainable economic development?
  • What are the earths main type of resources? How
    can they be depleted or degraded?
  • What are the principal types of pollution, and
    what can we do about pollution?

  • What are the basic causes of todays
    environmental problems, and how are these causes
  • What are the harmful effects of poverty and
  • What three major cultural changes have take place
    since humans arrived?
  • What are the fours scientific principles of
    sustainability and how can they help us build
    more environmentally sustainable and just

Core Case Study - Living in a Sustainable Age
Life in the Fast Lane
  • Chess between kings
  • Exponential growth a quantity increases at a
    fixed percentage per unit of time.
  • Starts slow but (Fig. 1-1)
  • 10000 YA 5 million people
  • present 6.6 billion humans
  • 2100 8-10 billion

  • Human activities cause major changes to earths
  • Mass extinctions (0.1-1 per year) forests,
    grasslands, wetlands, coral reefs, and topsoil
    vanish or degrade.
  • Human ecological footprint spreads exponentially
    across the globe.
  • Climate change is also due to exponential growth
    of human activities
  • Can negatively effect
  • Water supply
  • Agriculture
  • Biodiversity
  • Economies

Living More Sustainably
  • What is environmental science (ES)?
  • Studies how earth works, how we interact w/ the
    earth, and how to deal w/ environmental problems.

  • Environment sum of all living and nonliving
    things that affect organisms.
  • Living things can also influence the environment.
  • Exponential increase in human population is
    accompanied by an exponential increase in
    consumption ? degradation/depletion of air,
    water, soil, and biodiversity.
  • Continuation of this trend can threaten long-term
    sustainability of our societies.

  • ES is interdisciplinary study integrating (Fig.
  • Natural sciences (Bio, Chem, Geol)
  • Social Science (Economics, Politics, Ethics)
  • Goal of ES
  • Learn how natural systems works
  • How environment affects us
  • How we affect the environment
  • How we can live sustainably w/o degrading our
    life-support system.

  • Basic tool of ES, ecology study of the
    relationships between organisms and their
  • Environmentalism (not the same as ES or Ecology)
  • Social movement for protecting earths
    life-support system for us and other species.
  • Political in nature
  • Pass and enforce laws
  • Promote solutions to environmental problems
  • Protest harmful environmental actions

Sustainability The Integrative Theme of This Book
  • Fig 1-3
  • Sustainability ability of earths systems
    (including human cultural systems and economies)
    to survive and adapt to changing environmental
    conditions indefinitely.
  • Natural capital
  • Natural capital degradation
  • Use of normally renewable resources faster than
    nature can renew them.
  • Solutions
  • Individuals matter (Fig. 1.4)
  • Sound science concepts and ideas that are
    widely accepted by experts in fields of natural
    and social sciences.

Environmentally Sustainable Societies Protecting
Natural Capital and Living off its Income.
  • Meets current and future needs of its people for
    basic resources in a just and equitable manner
    w/o compromising the ability of future
    generations to meet their needs.
  • Living sustainably living off natural income
    replenished by soils, plants, air and water and
    not depleting or degrading the earths natural
    capital that supplies this income.

  • Economic Capital
  • 10 annual interest and one million dollars
  • Spend 100 000 a year sustainable
  • Spend 200 000 a year gone in 7th year
  • Spend 110 000 a year gone in 18th year
  • Lesson, protect capital and live on income
  • Same lesson should be applied to earths natural

Population Growth, Economic Growth, and Economic
  • Human Population Growth Slowing but Still Rapid
  • Population increasing exponentially, faster in
    poor countries.
  • As of 2006, increasing by 1.23
  • 81 million in 2006
  • or, 222 000 day-1
  • 9250 h-1
  • 2.6 sec-1
  • Exponential increase in population is accompanied
    by an exponential increase in use of natural
  • Less time to find solutions to environmental

  • Economic Growth and Economic Development
  • Economic growth increase in goods and services.
  • Requires more producers and consumers (i.e.,
    population growth)
  • and/or, more production and consumption per
  • Gross domestic product (GDP) annual market
    value of all goods and services produced by all
    firms and organizations, foreign and domestic,
    operating w/in a country.
  • Growth, measured by percent change in GDP.
  • per capita GDP GDP divided by the total
    population at midyear.
  • Six largest economies in 2006 US, Japan,
    Germany, UK, France, and China.

  • Economic development improvement of human
    living standards by economic growth.
  • Classification depends on degree of
    industrialization and per capita GDP-PPP.
  • Developed countries 1.2 billion. US, Canada,
    Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and most of
  • Developing countries 5.4 billion. African,
    Asian, and Latin American
  • Moderately developed countries China, India,
    Brazil, and Mex.
  • About 97 of projected population increase will
    be from developing countries (Figs. 1.5 and 1.6).
  • Environmentally sustainable economic development

  • Doubling Time and Exponential Growth The Rule of
  • Doubling time can be calculated with the

  • What is a resource?
  • Anything obtained from the environment to meet
    our needs (and wants).
  • Food, water, shelter, and metals
  • Some directly available, others indirectly
  • Directly sun, fresh air, wind, fresh surface
    water, fertile soil, and wild edible plants.
  • Indirectly petroleum, ground water, iron, and
    modern crops.
  • Such resources require human capital (and
    ingenuity) and natural capital.

  • Perpetual and Renewable Resources
  • Perpetual resources continuously renewable on a
    human timescale
  • Renewable resource can be replenished fairly
    rapidly as long as it is not used faster than it
    can be replaced.
  • Forests, grasslands, wildlife, fresh air and
    water, and fertile soil
  • Sustainable yield highest rate a renewable
    resource can be used without degrading or
  • Environmental degradation when natural
    replacement rate is exceeded.
  • Urban sprawl, topsoil erosion, pollution,
    clearing forests, depleting groundwater,
    reduction of biodiversity because of habitat

  • Tragedy of the Commons
  • Overuse of common-property (or free access
  • Clean air, open ocean, migratory birds,
  • Degradation of renewable free access resources,
    called tragedy of the commons by biologist
    Garrett Hardin.
  • Example collapse of fisheries.
  • Solutions to preventing such degradation.
  • Use free access renewable resources at rates
    below sustainable yields.
  • Convert free-access resources to private

  • Ecological Footprint the amount of biologically
    productive land and water needed to supply an
    area with resources and to absorb the wastes and
    pollution produced from such resource use.
  • per capita ecological footprint (Fig. 1.7).
  • Humanitys ecological footprint is estimated to
    be 39 above earths ecological capacity.
  • US, EU, China, India and Japan together use 74
    of earths ecological capacity.
  • The US outdoes every other country by at least
  • If China and India were to catch up to present US
    consumption, they would need two require two
    planet earths.
  • Three factors that have the greatest ecological
    footprint agriculture, transportation, and
    heating and cooling buildings.

  • Nonrenewable Resources
  • Includes energy resources, metallic mineral
    resources, and nonmetallic mineral resources.
  • Fossil fuels would be exhausted as there is
    exponential growth in their use.
  • Recycling and reusing metals and non-metallic

  • Sources of Harmful Effects of Pollutants
  • Pollution the presence of chemicals a t high
    enough levels in air, water, soil, or food to
    threaten the health, survival, or activities of
    humans or other living organisms.
  • Point sources (Fig. 1.9)
  • Non-point sources
  • Three types of unwanted effects
  • Disrupt or degrade life-support systems
  • Damage wildlife, human health, and property
  • Create nuisances, noise and unpleasant smells,
    tastes, and sights.

  • Solutions Prevention versus Cleanup
  • Pollution prevention (input pollution control)
  • Pollution cleanup (output pollution control)
  • Problems with relying on cleanup
  • Temporary bandage
  • Removes pollutants from one part of the
    environment causing pollution elsewhere.
  • Once pollutants are at harmful level, too
    expensive or impossible to reduce them to
    acceptable levels.

Environmental Problems Causes and Connections
  • Key Environmental Problems and Their Basic Causes
  • Problems are mostly the result of exponential
    population growth and resource use (Fig. 1.10).
  • Underlying causes (Fig. 1.11)
  • Three other likely causes
  • Global trade policies that undermine
    environmental protection.
  • Influence of money and politics.
  • Failure to provide inspiring and positive visions
    of a more sustainable and durable economic

  • Poverty is the inability to meet ones basic
    economic needs and is concentrated mostly in the
    southern hemisphere.
  • Many desperate for basic needs (Fig. 1.12)
  • Deplete or degrade forests, soil, grasslands, and
    wildlife for short-term survival
  • Dont have luxury of worrying about long-term
    environmental quality
  • Poor people often have many children as a form of
    economic security
  • 7 million die prematurely each year
  • Malnutrition
  • Depressed immunity
  • Lack of clean drinking water
  • Respiratory disease from inhaling indoor

  • Beneficial Effects of Affluence on Environmental
  • Money for developing cleaner and more efficient
  • Affluence financed improvements in the US since
    the 1970s
  • Downside
  • Clean up by transferring wastes and pollution to
    more distant locations
  • Obtain resources from anywhere in the world w/o
    seeing harmful environmental impacts of
    high-consumption life styles.

  • Resource Consumption and Environmental Problems
  • Prosperous over-consume
  • Affluenza term coined to describe the
    unsustainable addiction to over-consumption and
    materialism exhibited in the lifestyles of many
    affluent consumers in the US and other developed
    countries and the rising middle class in China
    and India.
  • Has enormous environmental impact
  • Large amounts of pollution, environmental
    degradation, and wastes.
  • Expert on the growth and decline of civilizations
    Arnold Toynbee
  • True measure of growth law of progressive
    simplification shift from material to
    nonmaterial developing culture, compassion, sense
    of community, and strength of democracy.

  • Connections between Environmental Problems and
    Their Causes
  • Three factor model (Fig. 1-14)
  • Impact Population x Affluence x Technologies
  • In US, per capita resource use is up to 100 times
    greater than the worlds poorest countries.
  • Some technologies are environmentally harmful,
    others beneficial.

Cultural Changes and the environment
  • Human Cultural Changes
  • Homo sapiens sapiens 90 to 195 thousand y.a.
  • Agricultural revolution 12 000 y.a.
  • Industrial-medical revolution 275 y.a. (Fig.
  • Information-globalization revolution 50 y.a.
  • Living conditions are better, but progress has
    put a strain on earths natural capital.

  • Eras of Environmental History in the US
  • Tribal era, at least 10 000 years before European
  • Frontier era, 1607-1890
  • Early conservation era, 1832-1870
  • Modern environmental era, 1870 to present
    government and private citizens in resource
    conservation, public health, and environmental

Sustainability and Environmental Worldviews
  • Are Things Getting Better or Worse? A Millennium
  • Two schools of thought
  • Technological advances will allow us to keep
  • Global economy is outgrowing the capacity for
    earth to support it.

  • The 2005 UNs Millennium Ecosystem Assessment
  • 1360 experts from 95 countries
  • Human activity degrading or using unsustainably
    about 60 of worlds free natural services.
  • Report also says we have the tools to preserve
    earths natural capital.
  • Challenge not to get trapped into confusion and
    inaction by listening primarily to either two
  • Technological optimists
  • Environmental pessimists

  • Sustaining our current global civilization
    depends on
  • Shifting to a renewable energy-base
  • a reuse/recycle economy
  • and a diversified transport system.
  • Making the transition requires
  • restructuring a global economy to sustain
  • an all-out effort to eradicate poverty, stabilize
    population, and restore hope and
  • a systematic effort to restore natural systems.

  • Environmental Worldviews and Ethics
  • Differing views on the state of the environment
    depends on environmental worldview and
    environmental ethics.
  • Environmental worldview set of assumptions and
    values about how you think the world works and
    what you think your role in the world should be.
  • Planetary management worldview separate from
    the natural world
  • Stewardship worldview manage earth for our
    benefit, stewardship
  • Environmental wisdom worldview part of and
    totally dependent on nature nature exists for
    all species.
  • Environmental ethics beliefs about what is
    right and wrong w/ how we treat the environment.

  • Four Scientific Principles Copy Nature
  • Four basic components of the earth natural
  • Reliance on solar energy
  • Biodiversity genes, species, ecosystems, and
    ecological processes
  • Population control
  • Nutrient recycling (Fig. 1-16)
  • Fig. 1-17
  • The four scientific principles of sustainability
    as a guide could lead to an environmental
    revolution (Fig. 1-18).

  • Building Social Capital Talking and Listening to
    One Another
  • Social capital positive force created when
    people w/ 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 world could and
    should be.
  • Stakeholders of all sides have some legitimate
    and useful insights.
  • Social capital can be built by finding trade-off
  • Individuals matter 5 to 10 of population can
    bring major social change.