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Understanding our Environment

Chapter 01
Lecture Outline
William P. Cunningham
University of Minnesota

Mary Ann Cunningham
Vassar College

Copyright © The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. Permission required for reproduction or display.



Environment Defined


Environment Conditions that surround an organism or group(s) of organisms
 Complex of social or cultural conditions that affect an individual or community

Environmental Science is the systematic study of our environment as well as our proper role in it

- Natural Science
- Social Science
- Humanities



Many kinds of knowledge contribute to our understanding in Environmental Science

Human Population is >
7.1 Billion




Current Conditions

What impact does a population of 7 billion have on the planet? 

Climate Change: burning fossil fuels causes global climate change.

Food: food is inequitably distributed across the globe and 2/3 of agricultural lands show signs of degradation. 

Water: may be the most critical resource in the
21st century.



Signs of Hope

Energy: fossil fuel use causes pollution, there is a shift to using more renewable energy resources. Progress has been made on many fronts.

Air Pollution: air quality has worsened dramatically in many areas.

Biodiversity: species are being lost at a rapid rate. 


Population & Pollution: Many cities are more livable today than a century ago due to human birth rate stabilization and clean technology use.
Health: Incidence of life-threatening diseases has been reduced in most countries.
Access to Current Information: Expanding access to knowledge is essential to progress.
Habitat Conservation: Tropical forest destruction has slowed & habitat protection has improved in some areas.
Renewable Energy: Progress is being made in the transition to renewable energy sources.
International Cooperation: helps solve global environmental problems.

Historical Perspective
Over time there were four distinct stages
 Pragmatic Resource Conservation
 Moral and Aesthetic Nature Preservation
 Concern about Health and Ecological Damage
 Global Environmental Citizenship

“The problems that overwhelm us today are precisely those we failed to solve decades ago.”  Mostafa K. Tolba

These stages are not mutually exclusive and parts of each persist today in the environmental movement.



Pragmatic Resource Conservation

Ethical and Aesthetic Nature Preservation

Theodore Roosevelt and his conservation advisor,
Gifford Pinchot.
- Pinchot’s policy was one of
 Pragmatic Utilitarian Conservation
 “For the greatest good for the greatest number for the longest time”
 Reflected today in the Multiple Use
Policies of USFS

John Muir - President Sierra Club
 Nature deserves to exist for its own sake regardless of degree of usefulness to humans.
 Biocentric Preservation – “Why ought man to value himself more than…the one great unit of creation”. He opposed Pinchot’s view.



Modern Environmental Movement

Muir Woods, California

The industrial expansion after
WW II added new concerns to the environmental agenda.  Rachel Carson – awakened the public to the environmental threat posed by pesticides in her book Silent Spring



An example…
► By

1963 fewer that 500 Bald Eagle nests in the lower 48, Today more that 7,000 pairs
(Possibly half a million before settlers)
► The eggs become brittle



► Created

in 1873, pesticide in 1936, creator was awarded the Nobel Prize
► Used to control mosquitoes that spread diseases like malaria
► Estimated to have