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Class 2 - Ethics, Value & Sustainability.docx

Environmental Studies
Course Code
ENV 1101
Sonia Wesche

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Class 2: Ethics, Values, and Sustainability & How we think About the Environment
Factors in the Collapse of Easter Island Society
Island Environment: very clear limits on availability of resources, growth and movement
of population
Overexploitation of forests
Erosion of cleared land
Degradation of soil and water
Highly stratified society unwilling or unable to adapt to changing environmental
Contemporary Human Stressors on the environment
Population growth
Consumption of resources
Production of wastes
= Similar to Easter Island
Alteration of global-scale biophysical processes
Introduction of alien chemical & organisms into the environment
= Additional stressors
Categories of Environmental Change
Systemic: change to a global-scale system
Cumulative: changes of similar nature in multiple regions have global consequences
A number of small changes over time combine to have a large impact
Types of Systemic Change
Atmospheric Systems
Ocean circulation
Ecotone modification (where ecosystems meet)
Types of Cumulative Change
Biodiversity loss
Land degradation
Freshwater quality and availability
Historical Context of Environmental Studies
Ancient civilizations were all keenly interested in how environmental processes affect
human activities and well-being
Humans as part of Nature:
Science breaks from creationism in 19th century
Ex. Lamarck, Darwin, Agassiz… humans evolved from non-human ancestors
Ex. Malthus: human population numbers governed by food supply
Environmental Determinism
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