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Environmental Science
Carl Mitchell

EESA01 Jennifer Wu Today’s Objectives 1. Organization of course and ground rules. 2. How does science work? 3. What is Environmental Science? 4. What are the major philosophical points surrounding Environmental Science? 5. Organization of course and ground rules. 6. How does science work? 7. What is Environmental Science? 8. What are the major philosophical points surrounding Environmental Science? Learning Objectives for this Course 1. You should be able to conceptually describe how the physical, chemical, and biological workings of our environment operate. 2. Understand the science underlying current environmental issues (e.g. urbanization, Oil Sands, climate change). 3. Master the basic skills every environmental scientist will need in their further education and careers (mapping, quantitative numeracy, research skills, and data presentation and interpretation). How Does Science Work? 1. Science is CURIOSITY focused towards a question that scientific methods can help to inform. 2. The Scientific Method is a set of rules which prescribe how to derive knowledge of a particular kind – certified, validatable knowledge. 3. Using the Scientific Method, one cannot show that a theory is “right”, only that it is “not wrong”. 4. Any notion of the world (theory) is only “correct” (not wrong) until scrutiny reveals it to be incomplete. That is, any theory is good only until the first piece of information is gained which the theory can’t accommodate. (note: evolution; sun at the centre of the universe). 5. Our Science-based understanding of the universe is constantly changing because of doubt, scrutiny and the acquisition of new data (information). Doubt and questioning lead to better understanding. 6. There is no Absolute Truth in Science, but we do have Laws: “A natural phenomenon that has been proven to occur invariably whenever certain conditions are met.” 1 There are Multiple Ways to Test Hypotheses Example A farmer outside of Newmarket notices that the pond on his property has an unusually high amount of algae in it. Because of the algal growth, his cattle will not drink from the pond. Formulate a hypothesis, make a prediction, and design an experiment to determine what’s going on? 2 EESA01 Jennifer Wu “Tragedy of the Commons” • Concept proposed by Garrett Hardin (Ecologist from UCSB) in 1968. • Unregulated exploitation leads to resource depletion. • Resource users are tempted to increase use until the resource is gone. • Is this STILL the basis for ongoing environmental issues? • Can we do anything about it? Rapa Nui
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