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Environmental Science for Dummies


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Table of Contents

Introduction 1 About This Book 1 Conventions Used in This Book 2 What You're Not to Read 2 Foolish Assumptions 2 How This Book is Organized 3 Part I: Demystifying Science and the Environment 3 Part II: Planting the Seed: Foundational Concepts in Environmental Science 3 Part III: Getting Your Needs Met: Earth's Natural Resources 4 Part IV: Giving a Hoot: Pollution and Environmental Quality 4 Part V: Follow the Recycled Brick Road: A Sustainable Future 4 Part VI: The Part of Tens 5 Icons Used in This Book 5 Where to Go from Here 6 Part I: Demystifying Science and the Environment 7 Chapter 1: Investigating the Environment 9 Putting the "Science" in Environmental Science 9 Using the scientific method 10 Understanding the connection between atoms, energy, and life 10 Analyzing the Earth's Physical Systems and Ecosystems 11 Sorting the world into climate categories 12 Dividing the Earth into ecosystems 12 Observing the interactions between organisms within an ecosystem 13 Supplies Limited! Natural Resources and Resource Management 13 Factoring in food, shelter, and more 13 Thinking about energy alternatives 14 Keeping Things Habitable 14 Clearing the air (and water) 15 Tracking toxins and garbage 15 Influencing climate 16 Imagining the Future 16 Realizing a sustainable economy 16 Putting it on the books: Environmental policy 16 Chapter 2: Lab Coats and Microscopes: Thinking Scientifically 19 Asking and Answering Questions with the Scientific Method 19 Reasoning one way or another: Inductive versus deductive 20 Working through the scientific method 20 Presenting Data Graphically 25 Quantifying Uncertainty 27 Recognizing Good Science When You See It 28 Chapter 3: What's the Matter? Living and Nonliving Material 31 Changing States of Matter 31 Examining Atomic Structure 32 Making and Breaking Chemical Bonds 33 Ionic bonding 34 Covalent bonding 35 Hydrogen bonding 36 Oxidizing and reducing compounds 37 Surveying the Properties of Water 37 Taking a closer look at the water molecule 37 The unbearable lightness of ice 39 What's pH Got to Do with It? Acids and Bases 40 Defining acids and bases 40 Measuring reactivity with the pH scale 40 It's Alive! Organic Matter and Compounds 41 Proteins 42 Nucleic acids 43 Carbohydrates 43 Lipids 43 Building Organisms One Cell at a Time 44 Working together: Cell specialization 44 Separating plant cells from animal cells 44 Chapter 4: Making Things Happen: Energy 47 Identifying the Different Types of Energy 47 Transferring heat: Thermal energy 48 Setting things in motion: Work and kinetic energy 50 Storing potential energy 50 Moving in waves 51 Defining the Thermodynamic Laws 52 Counting Calories (And Joules) 52 Converting the Sun's Energy to a Useable Form 53 Spinning sugar from sunlight: Photosynthesis 54 Waiting to exhale: Respiration 55 Part II: Planting the Seed: Foundational Concepts in Environmental Science 57 Chapter 5: Studying the Environment and Your Place in It 59 Integrating Multiple Disciplines 60 Applying Common Tools of Environmental Science 61 Reviewing case studies 61 Assessing environmental indicators 61 Measuring human impacts: The ecofootprint 62 Tracing the Development of Modern Environmental Ethics 64 Managing for use: Utilitarian conservation 64 A life of its own: Preservation of wilderness 65 Reducing pollution: Battling pesticides and other toxins 66 It's a small world after all: Global environmentalism 66 The Overall Goal: Seeking Sustainability 67 To Be or Not to Be a Tree-Hugger: Looking Past Political Debates 68 Chapter 6: Exploring Ecosystems 71 Understanding Systems 71 Defining open and closed systems 72 Mapping out system dynamics 73 Systematically Understanding the Earth's Environment 74 Flowing through the hydrologic cycle 75 Recognizing important nutrient cycles 76 Transferring Energy and Matter through an Ecosystem 81 Defining ecosystem boundaries 82 Getting caught in the food web 82 Measuring productivity 85 Building ecological pyramids: Illustrating energy and biomass flow 86 Chapter 7: Biogeography: How Earth's Climate Shapes Global Ecosystem Patterns 89 Positioning Ecosystems: Latitude and Altitude 89 Recognizing Major Climate Drivers 90 Bringing on the heat: Differential absorption of the sun's energy 91 The wide blue yonder: Atmospheric circulation 93 Making waves around the globe: Patterns of ocean circulation 96 Separating the Globe into Biomes 98 Tundra to tropics: Terrestrial biomes 99 Depending on depth: Aquatic biomes 103 Swimming out to sea: Ocean ecosystems 104 Chapter 8: Playing Well with Others: Population Biology 107 Characterizing a Population 107 Predicting Population Change 109 Regulating populations with different growth factors 109 Modeling population growth 109 Reproducing strategies 112 Watching Species Interact 114 Survival of the fittest: Competition 114 Eat or be eaten: Predation 115 Mutually surviving: Symbiosis 117 From Indicator Species to Ecosystem Engineers: Filling Every Niche 117 Working Together: Biological Communities 119 Succeeding through different stages 119 Responding to disturbances 120 The People Principle: Human Population Biology 122 Tracking exponential growth 122 Calculating population size 123 Diagramming age structure 124 Experiencing a demographic transition 126 Getting caught in a demographic trap 127 Understanding human impacts 128 Part III: Getting Your Needs Met: Earth's Natural Resources 129 Chapter 9: Water, Water Everywhere: Freshwater Resources 131 Thirsty for More: The Never-Ending Need for Fresh Water 131 Withdrawal versus consumption 132 Scarcity and stress 132 Meeting human water needs 133 Finding Fresh Water 136 Diverting surface flow 136 Tapping what flows below: Groundwater 137 Conserving Fresh Water 139 Creating Fresh Water 140 Chapter 10: This Land Belongs to You and Me: Land as a Resource 143 Sharing Land 143 Watching a tragedy unfold: Land resource depletion 144 Classifying shared land 144 Managing Land Resources 145 Timber! Harvesting the forest 146 Grazing the grasslands 147 Questioning Smokey the Bear: Fire management 148 Considering the Connection between Urbanization and Land Use 148 Sprawling across the horizon 149 Growing smarter 150 Chapter 11: Dishing it Up: Food Resources 153 Seeking Food Security 153 Identifying the factors that lead to famine 154 Eating for health 155 Feeding the world: The green revolution 156 Digging in the Dirt: Components of Healthy Soil 157 Learning the ABC's of soil 158 Considering erosion: The removal of topsoil 160 The Pitfalls of Pesticides 161 Concocting a formula for every pest 161 Running in circles: The pesticide treadmill 161 Spreading poisons far and wide 162 "Frankenfood": Genetically Modifying Food 164 Splicing and dicing chromosomes 164 Debating GMOs 165 Considering the ethical issues related to GMOs 166 Farming Fish and Other Animals 167 Eating less efficiently 167 Confining animals for mass production 168 Farming fish 169 Establishing Sustainable Agriculture 169 Conserving soil 169 Integrating pest management 170 Defining Organic 172 Chapter 12: Greater Than the Sum of Its Parts: Biodiversity 175 Variety is the Spice of Life: Defining Biodiversity 175 Examining species richness and evenness 176 Benefitting from biodiversity 177 Becoming Biodiverse: Evolution by Natural Selection 178 Combining genetic material 178 Selecting for survival 179 The HIPPO in the Room: Major Threats to Biodiversity 180 Habitat destruction 181 Invasive species 182 Pollution 183 Population growth (of the human variety) 183 Overharvesting 184 Creating Effective Conservation Plans 184 Of singular importance: The species approach to conservation 185 Size does matter: Preserving entire ecosystems 186 Chapter 13: Hitting the Hard Stuff: Geologic Resources and Energy 191 Getting to Know the Earth 191 Finding Value in Rocks 193 Rocks and minerals 193 Metals and ores 194 Extracting Geologic Resources 195 Scraping the surface: Surface mining 196 Digging deep: Subsurface mining 198 Forming and Depleting Fossil Fuels 199 Creating rocks from life 199 Down and dirty: Mining and burning coal 199 Perusing petroleum and natural gas resources 201 Reacting to Nuclear Energy 203 Splitting atoms: Nuclear fission 203 Fusing atoms: Nuclear fusion 204 The once and future fuel: Debating nuclear energy 204 Chapter 14: Shifting Gears: Alternative Energy 207 Looking for Alternative Energy 207 Farming Fuel: Biofuel Energy Sources 208 Biomass 209 Biodiesel, ethanol, and other liquid biofuels 209 Methane gas 210 Harnessing Energy from Water 211 Damming rivers: Hydropower 211 Feeling the pull: Tidal and wave energy 213 Getting Steamed: Geothermal Energy 213 Soaking Up the Sun: Solar Energy 214 Chasing Windmills: Wind Energy 216 Energy on Demand: Creating Fuel Cells 216 Making the Most of the Energy You Already Have: Energy Conservation 217 Cogenerating: A two-for-one deal 218 Building smarter power grids 218 Getting around town more efficiently 219 Capturing energy at home 220 Part IV: Giving a Hoot: Pollution and Environmental Quality 221 Chapter 15: Breathing Room: Addressing Manmade Air Pollution 223 Sorting Out Common Pollutants 223 Observing the Effects of Air Pollution 226 Losing vegetation 227 Tinting the sky a hazy shade of brown 227 Trapping pollutants: Temperature inversion and smog 227 Melting monuments: Acid rain 228 Holy Ozone! Remembering the Hole in the Ozone Layer 229 Creating ozone naturally 230 Depleting the ozone layer 232 Halting ozone depletion: The Montreal Protocol 233 The Air in There: Watching Out for Indoor Air Pollution 234 Clearing the Air 235 Chapter 16: Drip Drop Splash: Water Pollution 237 Polluting Water in Many Ways 237 Getting to the Point(And Nonpoint) Source 238 Endangering Human Health 239 Bacteria, viruses, and parasites, oh my! 239 Pesticides, drugs, and metals 240 Disrupting Ecosystems 241 Measuring dissolved oxygen 241 Creating zones in aquatic ecosystems 242 Growing to extremes: Nutrient pollution 243 Breaking with Tradition: Wastewater Treatment and Constructed Wetlands 245 Chapter 17: What's Your Poison? Toxins and Infectious Disease 249 Identifying Common Toxins 249 Sticking Around: Persistent Organic Pollutants 251 Understanding the Ins and Outs of Toxic Exposure 252 Accumulating in fatty tissue: Bioaccumulation 252 Magnifying up the food chain: Biomagnification 253 Risky Business: Assessing the Dangers of Chemicals 255 Measuring risk 255 Perceiving risk 256 Choosing a risk management strategy 258 Tracking Infectious Disease 258 Emerging on the scene: Modern infectious disease 258 Evolving resistance 260 Chapter 18: A River of Garbage Runs through it: Solid and Hazardous Waste 263 Wading into the Waste Stream 264 Disposing of Waste 265 Tossing it aside and covering it up: Dumps and landfills 265 Burning trash: Incineration 266 Exporting electronics: E-waste disposal 267 Swimming in Waste: The Ocean Garbage Patches 267 Swirling and whirling: Concentrating trash in ocean gyres 268 Fighting photodegradable flotsam 269 Stopping trash at the source 270 Reduce, Reuse, Recycle (and Compost): Shrinking the Waste Stream 271 Handling Hazardous Waste 272 Cleaning up the mess: The Superfund 273 Danger lying dormant: Bringing up brownfields 275 Chapter 19: Is It Getting Warm in Here? Modern Climate Change 277 Hothouse Humans: The Greenhouse Effect 278 Filling the air: The top six greenhouse gases 279 Recognizing human influences 280 The proof is in the isotopes 281 Considering Past, Present, and Future Climates 283 The ghost of climates past 283 Measuring carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere 284 Tracking patterns of variability 285 Predicting the future: Climate models 286 Feeling the Heat: Environmental Effects of Modern Climate Change 287 Facing a Warmer Future 290 Feeling the effects on human society 290 Turning down the heat: Mitigating human influences 291 Adapting along the way 293 Part V: Follow the Recycled Brick Road: A Sustainable Future 295 Chapter 20: Building a Sustainable Future 297 Overlapping Spheres of Sustainability 298 Looking at Ecosystem Lessons 299 Counting Coins: Mainstream Economics 300 Measuring Earth's capital 300 Going to the market 300 Calculating a nation's wealth 301 Tripling the Bottom Line 301 Taxing harmful practices 302 Instituting incentive-based regulations 302 Exercising the Precautionary Principle 303 Looking at the World in New Ways 304 Evolving economics 304 Reevaluating production and consumption 305 It Takes a Global Village: Poverty and Sustainability 307 Seeking justice 308 Microlending a hand 309 Chapter 21: Cooperating to Sustain the Earth 311 Understanding What's at Stake 311 Uniting Nations: International Agreements on Planetary Stewardship 312 The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands 312 The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species 313 The Convention on Biological Diversity 313 United Nations agreements 314 Other international agreements 315 From Sea to Shining Sea: Environmental Protection in the U.S. 316 Overseeing environmental regulations 316 Legislating for the environment 317 Part VI: The Part of Tens 321 Chapter 22: Ten Ways to Live Sustainably 323 Reducing Household Energy Use 323 Eating Locally 324 Disposing with Disposables 325 Planting Seeds 326 Recycling 326 Reselling and Donating Items 327 Drinking from the Tap 327 Saving Water 327 Relying Less on Your Car 328 Purchasing Fair-Trade Products 329 Chapter 23: Ten Real-Life Examples of the Tragedy of the Commons 331 Grand Banks Fisheries 331 Bluefin Tuna 332 Passenger Pigeons 332 Ocean Garbage Gyres 333 Earth's Atmosphere 333 Gulf of Mexico Dead Zone 334 Traffic Congestion 334 Groundwater in Los Angeles 335 Unregulated Logging 335 Population Growth 335 Chapter 24: Ten Careers in Environmental Science 337 Marketing Sustainability 337 Restoring Natural Landscapes 338 Spreading the Word and Educating Others 338 Continuing Study and Research 339 Defending the Environment 339 Assessing Risk 339 Analyzing Policy 340 Engineering Solutions 340 Conserving Farm and Ranch Land 340 Advising Investment 341 Index 333

About the Author

Alecia M. Spooner teaches Earth and Environmental Sciences at a community college and enjoys developing active-learning science curriculums for adults. Alecia is also the author of Geology For Dummies .

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