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Essay #2 answer and questions for midterm ENVS-2400 test - Copy.docx

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Environmental Studies
ENVS 2400
Harris Ali

Essay answer for 2400 test. An ecosystem is a „self‟ regulating system. This quality of „self regulation‟ is due to the efficient cyclical interactions of all energy and matter within the ecosystem. In an ecosystem there is no waste. Every form of material residue is used (food-webs) and has an important regulatory mechanism which is sunlight. On the other hand, industrial systems are structured in a linear „input-transformation-output‟ process of resources and energy. Due to a lack of natural imposing constraints and because human desire for goods does not respect biophysical limits, industrial systems fall into inefficiency. Preventative environmental management is based on the strategy of redesigning economic activities so their potentially disruptive impacts on ecosystems are minimized or eliminated to avoid “killing the goose that lays the golden eggs” (the goose is the symbolic metaphor of the earth). Industrial ecology has the goal of reducing human dependence on the biosphere as the ultimate source as well as decreasing matter and energy consumption by emulating ecosystems and their cyclical matter-energy flows. Waste has to be avoided and residuals would be the ideal outputs in order to be re-used (reduction of dissipative consumption). The industrial ecology classifies industrial systems in three categories; type one „linear‟ where there is unlimited input flow with no possible usage of outputs (waste). To illustrate this system, a car is left to rust after its useful life. The second system is quasicyclical and the post consumer car is stripped of useful subassemblies, although 75% of the car is still wasted. The third system is the ultimate goal of industrial ecology where the causes of externalities are responsibility of the system (product stewardship), eventually turning them into internalities (such as recycling the water steam from the factory and using it to heat up the factory itself). The life cycle analysis (LCA) is the identification and quantification of energy and material usage; as well as the environmental releases across all stages of the life cycle of the product. Through a „scope of evaluation‟, the materials, processes or products are considered to know how broadly will alternatives be defined. The comparison of the use of gas cars versus electric cars, serves to illustrate a LCA scope of evaluation, where the gas cars are apparently and more visibly pollutant, but electric cars might be using electricity produced in a coal plant. In this case, quantifying the CO2 emissions of both types over a period of time would tell us which type of car is „less environmentally adequate‟. The ecological footprint analysis is complementary to industrial ecology and LCA as a set of preventative strategies that redefine industrial/economical activities as „less nature equilibrium disruptive‟ trying to emulate the self-regulatory characteristics of an eco-system. The ecological footprint analysis estimates the amount of land required for specific activities and their overall effects on the environment and its potential for pollution absorbtion. To illustrate ecological footprint analysis, the use of paper plates might have less footprint impact than reusing porcelain dishes because all the water and soap that involves the process of washing them. In order to increase the sustainability of our economic activities, preventative environmental strategies such as industrial ecology, life cycle analysis and footprint analysis, serve to identify the causes that might be disrupting the natural equilibrium. If the media keeps influencing the behavior of society the way it does, our patterns of consumption will keep increasing resulting in a very different scenario, totally opposed to a limited self-regulating ecosystem. In my opinion, the utilization of renewable sources of energy (wind, solar, geothermic), the decrease of conspicuous consumption and the obsession of economical grow, the arousal of awareness and education, the development of strict regulatory policies to industries as well as a constant modification and implementation of industrial systems; are some of the few alternatives we have in order to start developing our societies in more sustainable ways. It is clear that unless we start integrating the social, financial, technological and ethical aspects of our society, we will be far from achieving a world of harmony between the natural and human constructed environments. Questions 1. A STANDARD is the benchmark to which products are measured against. a. Those concerned with; ensuring health and safety, maintaining environmental quality, ensuring the quality of products. 2. Environmental managers use standards to do meaningful evaluations, exchange and compare data. Standards aid to recognize crucial thresholds and improve the „objectivity‟ of a judgment. Standards facilitate the negotiation and establishment of regulations between sites, countries, years. 3. MONITORING has the function of a „watch dog‟. It provides observations and evaluations of different levels of pollution, such as air quality and water quality. 4. ENVIRONMENTAL MONITORING is necessary to prevent and mitigate future damage and further destruction of the environment. It provides us with early warnings related with pollution and with the opportunity to act accordingly. 5. SUPPLY CHAIN AUDIT allows an environmental manager to analyze each step of the life of a product in order to identify irregularities. With a supply chain audit, an environmental manager makes sure that the regulations that help protect the environment and the people are being followed. 6. ISO 14000 Series has benefits such as; reduced cost of waste management, savings in consumption of energy and materials, lowers distribution costs, improves corporate image among regulators, customers and the public. 7. MAJESTA TOILET PAPER does questionable environmental practices such as; depletion of resources/unplanned logging, contributes to the loss of biodiversity by the utilization of tree monocultures, and the labeling of the products with misleading information. 8. Genetically modified labeling in Europe increases awareness among people about GMO‟s and potentially decreases their availability on the market due to the lack of demand of such products. On the other hand, North America would be the market of GMO products, but some people might be inclined to buy less health-detrimental products and insist on the adoption of labeling as an internationally standardized policy. People in both areas may also not care about GM products and consume them. 9. Global climate change according to the thermodynamic laws.1) Energy cannot be created or destroyed. The energy we use gets transformed from another form of energy such as burning coal that will transform into electricity and CO2 emissions. 2) Entropy law, where the organized prime source of energy (coal) being used to transform it into electricity, would also transform into CO2 which is a less-organized low-quality form of energy. These processes influence green gas accumulation in the atmosphere and create a positive feedback which melts the north and south icecaps and reduces their capacity to reflect solar energy, with the following accumulation of hit that would contribute to the process with the earth getting warmer as less and less sunlight is reflected by the ice. 10. Ecological footprint analyses the carbon traces of our activities and their impact on the environment. The carrying capacity of the earth is being surpassed because of the increasing demand for goods or a “high standard of living”. We need to reduce this rate of consumption in order to keep equilibrium between natural and human constructed environments. 11. Appropriated carrying capacity refers to the finite capacity of the ecosystems to provide resources and absorb pollution. 12. The city is an “entropic black hole” because it requires great quantities of resources that exceed its own carrying capacity and have to be obtained from other cities/areas. A city is a massive consumer and producer of waste (low quality energy). 13. Carbon footprint is the total amount of CO2 produced by a good or service. It is then converted to a number based on grams. Generally, electricity consumption, CO2 emissions by factories are calculated as PLUSES, and sustainable practices such as the growing of bananas (that mainly requir
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