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CHAPTER 1 ENVIRONMENTAL PROBLEMS, THEIR CAUSES, AND SUSTAINABILITY Chapter Outline 1.1 What is an environmentally sustainable society? A. Environmental science is a study of connections in nature. 1. Environment includes all living and nonliving things with which an organism interacts. 2. Environmental science studies how the earth works, our interaction with the earth, and the methods/procedures we use to deal with environmental problems. 3. Ecology studies relationships between living organisms, and their interaction with the environment. 4. Environmentalism is a social movement dedicated to protecting life support systems for all species. B. Sustainability is the central theme of this book. 1. Life depends on natural capital (Earth’s resources and ecological services) to continuously cycle materials. 2. Four components of sustainability. a. Life depends on solar energy and natural capital. b. Recognize many human activities can degrade natural capital. c. Solutions are being found and implemented. d. Sustainability begins at personal and local levels. C. Environmentally sustainable societies protect natural capital and live off its income. 1. Protect your capital and live on the interest it provides. 2. Plan for future generations. 1-2 How are our ecological footprints affecting the earth? A. Some resources are renewable. 1. Perpetual resource is continuously renewed and expected to last (e.g. solar energy). 2. Renewable resource is replenished in days to several hundred years through natural processes (forests, grasslands, fish populations, freshwater, fresh air, and fertile soil). 3. Sustainable yield is the highest rate at which a renewable and non-renewable resource can be used indefinitely without reducing its available supply. 4. Environmental degradation occurs when the available supply declines. B. Renewable resources and the tragedy of the commons. 1. In 1968, the biologist Garrett Hardin called the degradation of openly shared resources the tragedy of the commons . 2. Reducing degradation. a. Reduce use by government regulations. b. Shift to private ownership. C. We are living unsustainably. 1. Case study: It’s all about sustainability. 2. Hope with solutions. D. Ecological footprints represent the amount of biologically productive land and water needed to indefinitely supply the people in a particular country or area with renewable resources and to absorb and recycle the wastes and pollution produced by such resource use. 1. Countries with large footprints include the United States and the EU. 2. Countries with small footprints include India and Japan. 3. Footprints can also be expressed as number of Earths it would take to support consumption.
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E. Some resources are not renewable. 1. Nonrenewable resources exist in fixed quantities.
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