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Lecture 4

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Environmental Studies
ENVS 1000
Peter Timmerman

ENVS 1000 Lecture Four 10/2/2013 10:23:00 AM Case Study: Gorillas  Habitat is disappearing because of where they live – bush meat, etc.  About 750 mountain gorillas left in the world b/c of ongoing war - Rwanda  High end tourism is keeping the refugee afloat.  The war makes monitoring the gorillas from poachers difficult at times. Raises the question of if there is enough genetic differentiation to sustain the species from certain disease. Ecological Collapse  Vulnerability – that which is susceptible of injury exposed to damage. What we think is vulnerable may not be what needs protection. What does it really mean to be vulnerable? The ancient term was Achilles’s heel. Sometimes systems are so complicated that they eventually fail, classic example would be the nuclear power plant fails in Chernobyl. Natural systems (degraded systems, shrinking systems, critical species) – unknown threats in the natural system are often known as invasive species. Or social systems are susceptible to various threats (disease, war, disaster) – one big question is we don’t know what keeps a social system from falling apart. Unobvious disasters: cumulative impacts, social degradation, greed, stupidity, etc.  Vulnerability and Resilience – resilience -- the capacity of a system to bounce back from a stress  What makes a system resilient? Natural systems: robust simplicity, appropriate diversity, size/refuges, patchiness (Nat. systems have tended to have robust simplicity – you cant do much to them damage wise.). Social systems: () appropriately flexible strategies, access to resources, memory. o Generally speaking the idea is to take resources form one place and transport them to the are that needs help.  Resilience vs. Reliability: Think of an elevator (reliable) but when its stuck, you’re stuck. Think of an escalator (resilience) if its broken, you can still walk. A reliable system has to work and if not your in big trouble, many of our system are like this today – electricity and water. The fundamental question is are we destroying the resilience of systems in an attempt to make them overly reliable.  If a reliable system collapses it may be that it takes all other systems with it. There are questions about how to handle this. Easter Island:  Unique characteristics: one of them is that it was 1500 miles from anything – mid pacific. Very isolated  Their dedication to the statues was in large responsible for their collapse – similarly, developed countries continue to develop well around there the world is collapsing. Mayan Collapse:  700-800 AD. Survived in tropical jungle in large numbers for almost 100 years  Over 50 different theories and some cities dint collapse until the Spaniards came  Server drought no
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