Monday, June 27, 2016

Environmental science


Environmental sciences 

  • LCSH
    • Here are entered works on the composite of physical, biological, and social sciences concerned with the conditions of the environment and their effects. 
    • Works on the interrelationship of organisms and their environment, including other organisms are entered under Ecology. Works on the relationship of humans to the natural environment are entered under Human ecology. Works on the relationship of humans to their sociocultural environment are entered under Social ecology. 
Definitions 
“Environmental Science comprises those disciplines, or parts of them, that consider the physical, chemical and biological aspects of the environment. Like the earth and life sciences, it transcends disciplinary boundaries and is concerned with the interactions among processes each of which is best described by a particular discipline. It is the study of natural cycles and systems and their components.” 
Allaby, M. Basics of Environmental Science. 1996 
“Study of how we and other species interact with each other and with the nonliving environment of matter and energy. It is a holistic science that uses and integrates knowledge from physics, chemistry, biology (especially ecology), geology, resource technology and engineering, resource conservation and management, demography, economics, politics and ethics.” 
Miller. Living in the Environment. 
“Environmental Science is the application of scientific knowledge from many disciplines to issues and questions relating to the rapidly increasing population, the sustainability of resource use, degradation caused by pollution and disturbance, and the endangerment and extinction of species and natural systems. As such, it is not geology, zoology, chemistry, or mathematics; it integrates all these disciplines as well as many more.” 
Environmental Science Program. University of Manitoba. 
“The systematic, scientific study of our environment as well as our role in it.” 
Cunningham & Saigo. Environmental Science: A Global Concern. 

Ecology: the relationship of an organism or group of organisms to their environment. 

Environmental science 

  • The study of environmental science includes the fields of ecology, geophysics, geochemistry, forestry, public health, meteorology, agriculture, oceanography, soil science, and mining, civil, petroleum, and power engineering. 
Environmental science is:

  • Highly interdisciplinary o integrating natural science, social sciences, and humanities in a broad, holistic study of the world around us
  • Mission-oriented, problem solving o Seeks new knowledge about (and impacts of humans on) the natural world 
    • Identifies solutions to environmental problems 
      • These solutions often involve human social systems as well as natural science 
Historic roots of nature protection 
Recognizing human misuse of nature is not unique to modern times. 

Plato (4th century B.C.) wrote about how the people of Greece turned their country into a “skeleton of a body wasted by disease.” 

“The problems that overwhelm us today are precisely those we failed to solve decades ago.” M. K. Tolba (199?), former Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme. 

Some of the earliest scientific studies of environmental damage were carried out in the eighteenth century by: 

  • Stephen Hales (British) – suggested conservation of green plants preserved rainfall (1764).
  • Pierre Poiver (French) – developed forest reserves on Mauritius (1769), 
Pragmatic resource conservation 
George Perkins Marsh – Man and Nature (1864)
  • Warned of ecological damage from destruction of forest resources. Establishment of National Forest Reserve (1873).
Utilitarian conservation
Theodore Roosevelt and Gifford Pinchot (circa 1905)
  • Framework for national forest, park, and refuge system
  • Pinchot promoted the conservation of natural resources to provide for the “greatest good, for the greatest number (of people) for the longest time.”
  • “The first principle of conservation is development and use of the natural resources now existing on this continent for the benefit of the people who live here now. There may be just as much waste in neglecting the development and use of certain natural resources as there is in their destruction.” (Pinchot) 
Moral and aesthetic nature preservation 
Preserving nature on the basis of moral and aesthetic values has been termed biocentric or “altruistic” preservation 
“The world, we are told, was made for man. A presumption that is totally unsupported by the facts… Nature’s object in making animals and plants might possibly be first of all the happiness of each one of them… Why ought man to value himself as more than an infinitely small unit of the one great unit of creation?” 
John Muir, geologist, author and the first president of the Sierra Club 

Nature deserves to exist for its own sake. 

Often at odds with Utilitarian Conservation approach. 

Modern environmentalism 
Modern industrial expansion and development of domestic and defense-related chemicals during and after the Second World War created a new set of environmental problems. 

1962: Rachel Carlson, Silent Spring http://clinton2.nara.gov/WH/EOP/OVP/24hours/carlson.html 
Carlson wrote about chemical pollution and the threats posed to humans and other species. 


  • Wrote about chemical pollution and the threats posed to humans and other species
  • Her warnings awakened the public and engendered a movement of environmentalism, extending previous concerns to include both environmental resources and pollution 
  • Developed for activists, litigation, intervention in regulatory process, use of mass media, promotion of scientific research 
1969: University of Toronto, first undergrad degree in Canada in Environmental Studies 
1971: Greenpeace founded in B.C. 
1972: first Earth Summit
1987: Brundtland Report Our Common Future

  • established the foundation for all future work on sustainable development
1990: International Institute for Sustainable Development established in Canada, headquartered in Winnipeg
1992: Rio Earth Summit 

  • produced a number of conventions:
    • Rio Declaration on Environment and Development 
    • Agenda 21: The United Nations Program of Action from Rio
    • Convention on Biological Diversity 
    • Framework Convention on Climate Change
    • Statement of Forest Principles
1997: United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change – Kyoto Protocol

Issues

  • Pre 1960s pollution issues largely concerned with health
  • 1960s public awakening to environmental issues usually local in scale 
  • late 1970s regional, more complex problems
  • 1980s on, global issues 
Current conditions 

  • Planet Earth
  • Environmental dilemmas
    • Population
    • Food shortages 
    • Energy
    • Pollution

Environmental agenda has expanded to include issues such as: 

  • Human population growth
  • Atomic weapons testing
  • Atomic power
  • Fossil fuel extraction and use
  • Recycling
  • Air and water pollution

Global concerns 

  • The movement of global environmentalism recognizes that we must be concerned with the life support system of the whole planet. 
  • Leaders of this movement have been central in bringing global issues to the forefront of the public’s attention 
  • 1992 U.N. “Earth Summit” – international cooperation and awareness of the need for global environmentalism 
A Divided world
  • Rich vs. poor
  • North vs. South 
  • Developed countries vs. Undeveloped countries
    • First, second, third and fourth countries 
Sources of environmental information
  • Environmental groups 
    • Grey literature 
      • Produces reports and brochures 
  • Government 
    • Multiple levels (federal, provincial, municipal, international) 
    • Multiple departments/agencies
    • Obstacles to access include scattering of information, grey literature 
  • Report literature, particularly government reports, can be valuable 
  • Scientific sources
    • Question of reliability/interpretation 
  • Corporate sources 
    • E.g. businesses such as Shell
    • Bias
  • The media 
    • TV and newspapers major source of information on the environment, along with the Internet. Do you trust them anymore? 
Green consumerism 

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