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School of Environment
Karen Ing

January 15, 2013 What is environmental science? Environmental Sustainability – challenges we are facing - Population, Consumption - Sustainability - Sustainable Development Scientific Assumptions: - World (the natural world) is knowable - Universal patterns - Inductive reasoning: specific  general - Change in knowledge is inevitable - If generalizations cannot be tested, then not a scientific statement - Science can never provide absolute proof - BUT can provide increasingly accurate approximations Environmental Science – the study of how the natural world works, how our environment affects us, and how we affect our environment - Central questions of environmental science: o What is our proper place in the natural world? o What ought we do? o What can we do to protect the irreplaceable habitat that produced and support us? Challenges of environmental science: - Can never provide absolute truth, but can provide increasingly better approximations - Change in knowledge is inevitable as new information is gathered - Uncertainties are inherent in data - Dealing with complex phenomena - Direct experimentation not always possible - Operates within complex web of society Environmental Sustainability: What is the problem? Human Population - Overpopulation: how many people live on Earth? 7 billion as of Oct 2012 o Within the past 200 years we have gone from 1 billion to 7 billion people on earth – exponential growth - Nearly 1 in 4 live in extreme poverty - The concern is: how big will our population get? o And how big can it get? - In our developed economies there seems to be a correlation between consumption and economic growth Rich & Poor - Highly developed countries: ~ 20% of world’s population – example, Canada, Japan, US, Europe - Poor countries make up 80% o Moderately developed – example Mexico, Turkey o Less developed (LDCs) – example Bangladesh, Ethiopia Characteristic of LDCs - Cheap, unskilled labor - Economy agriculturally based - Hunger, disease, illiteracy common - Developing countries o Rapid population growth overwhelming o Natural resource depletion – to feed the growing population - Developed countries o Slower population growth o Higher rate of consumption o Natural resources required to supply desires and needs Types of Natural Resources
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