Environment The aggregate of all the external conditions and influences affecting the life and development of an
Ecology A branch of science concerned with how living organisms are connected to each other and to their
environment; derived from the Greek oikos, household or living place.
Ecosystem The organisms of a particular habitat, such as a pond or forest, together with their physical environment.
Depending upon their purpose scientists, resource managers or policymakers consider a lake, a watershed
or an entire region an ecosystem.
Habitat The environment in which an organism lives
Sustainable Development which meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations
Development to meet their own needs.
Limits to Each species operates within environmental limits beyond which survival is not possible; if things are too
cold, hot, dry, wet--death results; if change is slow enough a species may adapt and survive.
Affluent The richer we are
Effluents The more we waste
Origins of Humans:
2 billion + years in the making of the earth
2 million +\- years in human evolutionary development
100,000 years of Homo Sapiens
40,000 years of Homo Sapiens Sapiens
Most of the history of our species is of human life as the hunter-gatherers
“Civilization‟ (living in settlements) is recent – perhaps the last 15,000 years
1. First Great Transition
a. Development of agriculture – about 15,000 years ago
b. Hunter gatherers settle in farms and villages
c. Life was leisurely, about 15 - 20 % of their time required for food gathering
d. A gradual Neolithic Revolution led to:
i. Domestication of plants and animals which produced food surpluses
ii. Permanent settlements
iii. Development of religious and military elites
iv. Specialization and the development of cities.
e. This was the First Great Transition from hunting and gathering to settled societies based on agriculture....this is
known as civilization
f. Basic equality in hunter gathering societies was replaced by the rule of self-appointed elites
g. These civilizations which developed had a cost: to the many who provided food for the few and to the ecosystems
on which they depended.
h. A change in methods of obtaining food which required settled societies
i. In three core areas: south-west Asia, China, Mesoamerica
j. Crop production and pasture provision enabled the provision of greater amounts of food, producing greater
2. Second Great Transition
a. Industrial revolution – about 300 years ago
i. Human and animal energy replaced by fuels
ii. Fuel use leads to rapid warming of the earth‟s atmosphere
b. The Industrial Revolution and urbanization
c. Devastating consequences on quality of life for humans and their ecosystems
3. A Third Great Transition?
a. A post-industrial world?
b. Underway now?
c. Globalization extends universalizing forces of Modernity and the Industrial revolution to the balance of the world
i. with predictable and unpleasant result
ii. paradoxically many now tell government to simultaneously do 'less' and 'more'. The Political Agenda
Politics as usual: always a crisis
But not always a political crisis
Great example is global warming
o Occupied the centre stage of media attention and public concern around the time of the 1992 Rio conference on the
world environment Resurfaced recently
Behavioral and Social Crisis
Can the earth support more than 7 billion people?
o People consuming resources and energy
o At the levels of the average North American?
Politics and conflict resolution
o Is the political system capable of addressing and solving the major environmental problems?
The nature of brokerage politics
o Political problems are addressed by compromise
o Often favors the needs of the business community and the market
o Political system in Canada dominated by an elite form of corporatism
o Shuts out the voices of the weaker and poorer
Lest we forget
Sophisticated advanced society with leisure and plenty
o Moai statues created to honour ancestors
o Moai transport and erection used forests unsustainably
Forest decline damaged ecosystem
Society unable to change direction
o Cannibalism (forest decline meant food decline)
o War (starvation meant war)
o Up to 80% population loss (war and starvation are connected)
Questions raised by Easter Island
In terms of sustainability is there a „point of no return‟ beyond which a society cannot recover from fundamental ecological
How can this have happened in a sophisticated society?
If a society is threatened why doesn‟t government provide an answer through the political system?
Is Easter Island‟s story an appropriate metaphor for the environmental challenges facing our planet? Plants are able to combine carbon dioxide (CO2) and water (H20), both of which have a low energy
content into high energy carbohydrates such as sugar, starch and cellulose
Photosynthesis Light energy is absorbed by green pigments called chlorophyll; oxygen is a by-product of the
production of carbohydrates...both plants and animals are able to use the new energy...animals eat
plants, or each other, or both...and so energy is passed down the chain
Cellular Cellular respiration: controlled oxidation...the slow burning of carbohydrates
Respiration Harnessed by special chemical compounds
Results: cells divide; leaves grow; reproduction takes place; muscles flex; everything else happens
Transpiration The “water cost” of photosynthesis the water loss through leaf pores by evaporation
Decomposition Soil has decomposers (bacteria, fungi, soil insects, worms)
They digest the wastes/dead bodies of other organisms; break down organic molecules and return them
to soil of water...the food chain continues
Food chains Survival depends on chains which extract nutrients and energy
The necessities of life include nutrients
Nutrients necessary for life include: 1. large amounts of nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus; 2.
moderate amounts of calcium, magnesium, sulphur, iron; 3. trace amounts of copper, zinc, boron
Nutrient loop Plants get nutrition from soil, we we nutrition from plants. Decomposers complete this loop.
A delicate system subject to erosion, misuse of fertilizers and pesticides, acid rain, fire
Soil Altered soil chemistry may destroy is biota thereby compromising its capacity to nurture plants
"Civilization can survive the exhaustion of oil reserves but not continuing wholesale loss of topsoil."
Principles of Ecology
Each species depends on nature to produce the oxygen, energy and the nutrients
Humans and species are linked in a life cycle dependent on the nutrient loop from healthy topsoil.
Human actions overload the soil; poison it; and force rapid change:
This threatens the nutrient loop and, therefore, the life cycle.
Principles of Ecology and Ecosystems
Plants and animals have evolved the ability to deal with the physical conditions to which they are normally exposed,
Many, if not most, individual plants and animals can change their tolerances to physical factors if exposed to gradually
changing conditions, (acclimation)
There are limits to evolutionary adaptation and acclimation (constraints placed on all organisms by their chemical makeup)
Humans and Nature
Human beings are embedded in and supported by natural ecosystems
Human beings and human systems are rapidly destroying these ecosystems
Understanding ecosystems helps to understand our place in the scheme of things
Saving ecosystems saves us
Limits to survival
Why and how we survive
Each of us operates within limits of survival
If it is too cold, hot, dry or wet...death!!!
In any species life is an ongoing multitude of interactions between all organisms and their physical environment
E.g. energy is captured from the sun, water flows through land, all plants and animals exchange gases with the atmosphere
Conditions vary/change but often change is slow enough to enable adaptation...adaptation is a key process and a form of self-
regulation which returns and renews life...this renewal we call the life cycle
Principles of Ecology – Introduction
resources are finite
political will is low
yet environmental problems must be solved
solutions require widespread social, economic, political change
in Western philosophy (including religion and political theory) we often place human beings and human societies above and
beyond nature (aka the environment) viewing human issues as separate from those of the environment Deforestation Complete change in land use from forest to agriculture does not include forest left to regrow even if clearcut
Soil A process that describes human-induced phenomena which lower the current and/or future capacity of the
Degradation soil to support human life (classed as light, moderate, severe, extreme) soil degradation is followed by
Forest Requires loose, reasonably fertile soil
Regeneration Seed sources from nearby stands of trees
Diverse species of pollinating and seed-dispensing birds, insects and mammals
Freedom from recurrent fires, pollution and other destruction
Agent A plant killer, which was used during the Vietnam War to destroy the massive amount of foliage.
Orange Complications in health occur much more frequently to those exposed to the chemical than those
who managed to avoid contact. The use of Agent Orange in the Vietnam War affected soldier’s and
civilian’s health and genetics.
The lungs of the earth
Green plants are the producers of life in the ecosystem
Transfer energy through photosynthesis
From physical to biological parts of the system
Oxygen is produced
Our atmosphere was created by green plants
Trees and the Ecosystem
Trees anchor, hold soil
Trees provide habitat
Trees are a source of food, shelter and many other products
Trees release water through transpiration (1 tree puts out 000's of gallons water in a day)
Since 8000 BC billions of acres of forest and woodland have been lost to agriculture
The Temperate Forest
Trees which survive in a seasonal climate
Have evolved to survive in changing conditions; hardy resilient;
97% of the nutrients necessary for new growth are in the soil
In Canada: we have 10 major climate zones with a vast number of species...climate warming may add another climate zone
197 deciduous species
128 broad/narrow leaf coniferous (evergreen) species
The Tropical Forest
Trees which survive in a relatively constant climate
Less ability to survive change (acclimation)
Less history of being under siege from harvesting
Store 90% of their nutrients in the vegetation removed during deforestation
Conditions for tropical forest regeneration: most species are pollinated by birds, insects, animals...often just one or a few
Biodiversity is essential for the tropical forest
Soils and nutrients are easily washed away...tree seedlings are sensitive to changes in temperature, humidity, light
The Retreating Rainforest
'If the Amazon is the lungs of the world, then the debt is its pneumonia„
Deforestation in Brazil, Costa Rica, India, Mynamar, the Philippines, Vietnam has accelerated
since 1992 has been known to be much worse than originally thought
Amazon rail Forest of Brazil deforestation increased from 103 sq km in March and April 2010 to 593 sq km (229 sq miles) in
the same period of 2011
Much in Mato Grosso state, centre of soya farming Deforestation and biodiversity
Tropical rainforests are the most diverse ecosystems on Earth
About 80% of the world's known biodiversity could be found in tropical rainforests
Losing 137 plant, animal and insect species every single day
Equates to 50,000 species a year
40% of the animal and plant species in Southeast Asia could be wiped out in the 21st century.
Who counts in the forest debate?
Canadian system focuses lobbying at the senior bureaucrat and senior political executive
o Often highly effective due to the closed and elite nature of Canadian governance
o Canadian are supportive of environmental quality but support counts less in this system
Dryzek notes (pg. 8) „intense conflict over the last three decades regarding logging the last of the old growth forests‟
Debate characterized by 2 discourses: „looming tragedy‟ and the „promethean response‟
Impact on Canada
In Canada, the forest, paper and packaging industries are seeing extremely poor financial results from the recession The
Conference Board of Canada (2009) predicts that the forest products industry in Canada will lose another US$675 million to
US$1 billion dollars in 2009.
Canadian exports are down dramatically, as the United States is its major trading partner in forest products.
Harvesting and the Greenhouse Effect
Tropical/rainforest harvesting has been increased dramatically:
51 million acres per year which is a 79% increase about the loss rate of 1980
Driven in domestic politics by repayment conditions for debt (World Bank, IMF) and by the demands of population growth
Forests act as 'sinks' for absorbing C02
The fewer the trees the less carbon is removed from the atmosphere
Burning wood emits CO2, methane and nitrous oxide
All present in greater amounts in the atmosphere
If the current emissions and deforestation rates continue