Jan 18 and 20 ENV222 Lecture.doc.docx

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19 Apr 2012
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ENV222H Lecture format: Jan. 18 and 20
Part 1) What are the implications of human dominance of nature?
Jan. 18/11 - Temporal and spatial trends in human impacts on nature
For another overview of impacts see Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (2005). Our Human
Planet: Summary for Decision Makers. Washington: Island Press
1. Categorizing human impacts
. categorization as an aid to understanding and management
. the challenge of categorizing interconnected impacts
. categorizing by human activity; eg, agriculture, resource extraction, manufacturing,
transportation, building design and others
. the special case of energy: should we consider generation, transportation and use of different
fuels a bundle of impacts or cause?
. Vitousek et al (1997) means of categorizing:
.land transformation .global biogeochemistry .biotic additions and losses
.grouped in two major issues: climate change and loss of biological diversity
My attempt to categorize by medium:
air: . pollution (local and global)
. change composition of atmosphere
water: . toxic pollution
. infectious disease pollution
. other - biological oxygen demand, eutrophication
. drinking water as a special case (closed system)
. remove or add organisms or species
land: . delete natural functions: single-crop agriculture, pave, develop
. damage natural functions
. fragment habitat (eg, roads)
. pollution of land, water and air caused by resource extraction (eg mining)
. remove or add organisms or species
Does not seem to be one accepted means of categorizing impacts; different forms of
categorization, from broad groupings to many specific impacts, will be useful for different
2. Chronology of human impacts
See Goudie and Viles (1997) Table 1.1 and 1.2
The following chronology adapts Table 1.2 to show both changes in impacts and the causes to be
explored in this course (admittedly this list gives a Eurocentric view):
10,000 - 5,000 years ago . development of agriculture
. transition from nomadic to settled communities; development of
human organization and power relationships
5,000 years ago - 500 AD . technological and cultural change allows development of empire,
eg Chinese, Roman and thus expansion of impacts
500 - 1400 (approx.) . feudal era; impacts largely static
1400 - 1700 . development of empirical method
. access to fossil fuel energy (coal)
. emergence of capitalism: goal of ever-increasing consumption
. development of the state; expansion of organizational power
1700 - 1945 . industrial revolution technologies, eg steam engine
. European expansion and global domination means global spread
. of organizational capacity (power)
. transportation of organisms and infectious disease
. global spread of industrial technologies
. oil becomes dominant fossil fuel; nuclear power
. internal combustion engine
. population growth in industrializing nations
. emergence of environmentalism; concern for impacts and
first questioning of anthropocentrism
1945 - 2011 . rapid acceleration in number and scale of impacts; eg, from local
to long-range transport of air pollution
. first truly global impacts: ozone layer, climate change, oceanic
fishery depletion
. rapid expansion of urbanization (both creating new impacts but
also reducing them)
. rapid expansion in number of states (organizational capacity)
. establishment of transnational corporation (organizational
. mass transportation by motor vehicle and air (tourism)
. "farming" expanded to include forests and fish
1989 - Berlin Wall falls: "triumph of capitalism" - ever-increasing
per capita consumption and impacts on nature established as the
dominant global objective
. strengthening of environmentalism
. expansion of environment as subject of study and management to
all facets of human activity (Jan. 13 lecture)
3. Spatial evolution of impacts
The basic theme is evolution of spatial impacts from local to global
. changes in transportation technology (ship design) allows spread of impacts
. European expansion, industrial techniques spread
. interconnected combination of local and global impacts; reader p. 19
"systemic" global change = truly global impact (eg ozone layer)
"cumulative" global change = sum of local impacts
. spatial distribution of impacts on humans is related to vulnerability
North (industrialized world) able to reduce and shield itself from impacts
South (non-industrialized) less able to do so
. enormous impacts in areas with both rapid population increase and industrialization, eg China
and India
Jan. 20/11 Current and Future Implications:
**Assignment uploaded electronically no hard copy
What does this picture of the evolution of impacts to the current state of a human-dominated
planet mean for nature, for us, and for the prospects of reducing these impacts?
1. Interconnectedness of impacts . difficulties in managing "wicked" problems
2. Potential irreversibility . "extinction is forever"
3. Distancing (spatial) . globalization of production and waste disposal means
those responsible (eg, you or me buying a computer) do not see the impacts; reduces motivation
to address
4. Distancing (temporal) . impacts associated with current actions not felt until
future; reduces motivation to address
5. Accelerating rate of impacts . eg, reader pp. 19-29 three-fold increase in energy use,
. nature and humans are being given little time to adapt
. we have had little time to learn to manage impacts
6. Distribution of benefit and cost . impacts on nature have resulted in enormous benefits to
some humans (not just material consumption, but things like health care)