ENVS Week #1: Chapter 1-2

1. What is Environmental Science, how is it different from the other physical sciences?
An interdisciplinary field of research that draws on the natural and social sciences and the humanities in order to understand the natural world and our relationship to it. (1.1)

A field of research that is used to understand the natural world and our relationship to it—is extremely interdisciplinary. It relies on a range of natural and applied sciences (such as ecology, geology, chemistry, and engineering) to unlock the mysteries of the natural world, and to look at the role and impact of humans in the world. It also draws on social sciences (such as anthropology, psychology, and economics) and the humanities (such as art, literature, and music) to understand the ways that humans interact with, and thus impact, the ecosystems around them.

Environmental science is an empirical science: It scientifically investigates the natural world through systematic observation and experimentation. It is also an applied science: We use its findings to inform our actions and, in the best cases, to bring about positive change.

2. What makes science different from other ‘ways of knowing’?
The more evidence we have in support of an idea, especially when the evidence comes from different lines of inquiry, the more certain we are that we are on the right track. But since all scientific information is open to further evaluation, we do not expect or require “absolute” proof. (2.3)

3. What are the basic principles of the Scientific Method?

– What is the difference between a Hypothesis and a Theory?

– What is the relationship between facts and a Theory?

How do scientists collect evidence to answer questions? –> Background knowledge, question, hypothesis, scientifically test the hypothesis using an observational or experimental study, use results to develop a conclusion. (2.4)

Hypothesis- A possible explanation for what we have observed that is based on some previous knowledge. (2.3)

Theory- A widely accepted explanation of a natural phenomenon that has been extensively and rigorously tested scientifically. (2.4)

In science there are degrees of certainty; we know some things better than others. The more evidence we have in support of an idea, especially from different types of experiments, the more certain we are that we are on the right track. These degrees of certainty are expressed mathematically in terms of probabilities using statistics. (2.4)

As more evidence is discovered in support of a hypothesis, it moves closer to becoming a theory.

5. What are the roots of modern environmentalism? Consider the difference between the way in which our society views the environment and the way the Vikings did in Greenland. Are we making any of the same mistakes that the Vikings did?
When it comes to the environment, modern societies are not as different from the Vikings as one might assume. Vikings chose livestock and farming methods that were ill-suited to Greenland’s climate and natural environment. We too use farming practices that strip away topsoil and diminish the land’s fertility. We have overharvested our forests, and in so doing have triggered a cascade of environmental consequences: loss of vital habitat and biodiversity, soil erosion, and water pollution. We have overfished and overhunted and have allowed invasive species to devastate some of our most valuable ecosystems. (1.4)

We have something else in common with the Vikings of Greenland: Our attitudes frequently prevent us from responding effectively to environmental changes. (1.4)

6. Understand the connection between poverty and environmental degradation

7. Understand the broad division between the wealthy, industrialized countries and the poorer, developing countries of the world

What is Good Science?


1) Science is a human endeavor.
2) Science follows certain rules and guidelines.
3) Facts versus opinions.
4) Science generally uses the formulation of falsifiable hypotheses developed via systematic empiricism.
5) Acceptance of scientific ideas is based on a process of publication and peer review.
6) Replication is also vital to good science.

The Nature of Modern Science and Scientific Knowledge


NOVA- Intelligent Design on Trial


1.1 Environmental science is all encompassing.

The biological and physical surroundings in which any given living organism exists. (1.1)

environmental science
An interdisciplinary field of research that draws on the natural and social sciences and the humanities in order to understand the natural world and our relationship to it. (1.1)

empirical science
A scientific approach that investigates the natural world through systematic observation and experimentation. (1.1)

applied science
Research whose findings are used to help solve practical problems. (1.1)

environmental literacy
A basic understanding of how ecosystems function and of the impact of our choices on the environment. (1.1)

triple bottom line
Considering the environmental, social, and economic impacts of our choices. (1.1)

1.3 Responding to environmental problems and working with neighbors help a society cope with changes.

4. How is critical thinking used to dissect scientific arguments? How do scientists collect evidence to answer questions? Chapter 2 uses the study of CFC’s and the effects on the ozone layer while the NOVA program uses the study of evolution to illustrate this process.

Five factors in particular that determine whether any given society will succeed or fail:

In his book Collapse, University of California at Los Angeles biologist Jared Diamond details how wicked problems can lead to a society’s ultimate demise.

1. Natural climate change
2. Failure to properly respond to environmental changes
3. Self-inflicted environmental damage
4. Hostile neighbors
5. Loss of friendly neighbors.
According to Diamond, the relative impact of each factor varies by society. (1.1)

1.2 The Greenland Vikings’ demise was caused by natural events and human choices
– Natural climate change: When the Vikings first arrived in Greenland, the climate was uncharacteristically warm. Then they experienced a mini ice age.
– Self-inflicted environmental damage: Overgrazed land, deforestation, rapid population growth, all had lasting effects on the environment.
– Failure to respond to the natural environment: The Greenland Vikings did not conserve their natural resources (forests, grassland, etc.) and spent a significant amount of time, energy, and resources raising cattle. They also did not adopt a diet that contained fish.
– Hostile neighbors: The Greenland Vikings detested their indigenous neighbors, the Inuit.
Loss of friendly neighbors: The Greenland Vikings refused to seek friendship or counsel with the Inuit. Visits from European ships also declined.

sustainable development
Economic and social development that meets present needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. (1.3)

1.4 Humans are an environmental force that impacts Earth’s ecosystems.
In part, these problems stem from a disconnect between our actions and their environmental consequences.
Population size, resource use, pollution

carrying capacity
The population size that a particular environment can support indefinitely; it depends on resource availability and the rate of per capita resource use by the population. (1.4)

ecological footprint
The land needed to provide the resources for and assimilate the waste of a person or population. (1.4)

anthropogenic climate change
Climate change caused by or related to human action. (1.4)

1.5 Human societies can become more sustainable.

A method of using resources in such a way that we can continue to use them indefinitely. (1.5)

renewable energy
Energy from sources that are replenished over short time scales or that are perpetually available. (1.5)

The variety of life on Earth; it includes species, genetic, and ecological diversity. (1.5)

nonrenewable resource
A resource that is formed more slowly than it is used, or is present in a finite supply. (1.5)
Humans tend to rely on these. The most obvious example of this is our reliance on fossil fuels such as coal, natural gas, and petroleum, culled from deep within Earth, to power our society. Fossil fuels are replenished only over vast geologic time—far too slowly to keep pace with our rampant consumption of them.

sustainable ecosystem
A sustainable ecosystem is one that makes the most of renewable energy—energy that comes from an infinitely available or easily replenished source.

Naturally sustainable ecosystems waste nothing; they recycle matter so that the waste from one organism ultimately becomes a resource for another.

They also keep populations in check so that the resources are not overused and there is enough food, water, and shelter for all.

Lastly, sustainable ecosystems depend on local biodiversity (the variety of species present) to perform many of the jobs just mentioned; different species have different ways of trapping and using energy and matter, the net result of which boosts productivity and efficiency.

1.6 Humanity faces some challenges in dealing with environmental issues.

social traps
Decisions by individuals or groups that seem good at the time and produce a short-term benefit, but that hurt society in the long run. (1.6)
Includes the tragedy of the commons, time delay, and sliding reinforce traps. All of these have a negative effect later on.

tragedy of the commons
The tendency of an individual to abuse commonly held resources in order to maximize his or her own personal interest. The idea that “if I don’t use it, someone else will.” (1.6)

time delay
Actions that produce a benefit today set into motion events that cause problems later on. (1.6)

sliding reinforce
Actions that are beneficial at first but that change conditions such that their benefit declines over time. (1.6)

wealth inequality
In the Greenland Viking colony, wealth at first insulated the people in power from the environmental problems and they didn’t feel the strain of the decline until it was too late. Today, wealthier nations are less affected by resource availability, while 2 billion or more people lack adequate resources to meet their needs. In fact, just 20% of the population controls roughly 80% of all the world’s resources.

Deep pockets allow us (the United States) to exploit resources for wants, not just needs, and to exploit them all over the world, so that we can spare our own natural environments at the expense of someone else’s.

On the other hand, the underprivileged also exploit the environment in an unsustainable way. With limited access to external resources, they are often forced to over-exploit their immediate surroundings just to survive. (1.6)

The window through which one views one’s world and existence. (1.6)

environmental ethic
The personal philosophy that influences how a person interacts with his or her natural environment and thus affects how one responds to environmental problems. Determined by a person’s worldviews. (1.6)

anthropocentric worldview
A human-centered view that assigns intrinsic value only to humans. (1.6)

instrumental value
The value or worth of an object, organism, or species is based on its usefulness to humans. (1.6)

biocentric worldview
A life-centered approach that views all life as having intrinsic value, regardless of its usefulness to humans. (1.6)

intrinsic value
An object’s or species’ worth, based on its mere existence; it has an inherent right to exist. (1.6)

ecocentric worldview
A system-centered view that values intact ecosystems, not just the individual parts. (1.6)

Learning Curve

In the Greenland Viking colony, the inability of those in power from feeling the strain of environmental decline has been attributed to ___________________.
wealth inequality

Which of the following is a nonrenewable resource? (1.5)

– uranium mined for nuclear energy
– solar energy
– energy that comes from a resource that is replenished faster than it is used
– timber
– wind energy

uranium mined for nuclear energy

Which of the following is TRUE regarding the relationship between wealth inequality and sustainable development? (1.5)
In poorer nations people often overexploit their immediate surroundings in order to survive.

The term “environment” describes the __________ (living components) and ___________ (non-living components) surroundings or conditions in which any given living organism exists.
biological, physical

Which social trap is characterized by individuals maximizing their usage of a commonly held resource at the expense of the resource itself? It is summed up by the idea that “if I don’t use it, someone else will.”
tragedy of the commons

Which of the following is/are an example(s) of sustainability?
Planting forests to replace timber used for wood products.
Installing solar panels on your home.
Switching transportation from car to bicycle.
All of the choices above are examples of sustainability.
None of the choices above is correct.
All of the choices above are examples of sustainability.

Living sustainably is analogous to living off __________________.
interest earned on capital

Which of the following challenges our ability to deal with the recent changes in global climate?

– Refusal to accept the scientific consensus that human activity is driving the changes
– Strong emphasis on meeting short-term human needs
– All of the above are challenges.
– Adoption of an anthropocentric worldview
– Increased demand for energy from fossil fuels

All of the above are challenges.

Sustainable ecosystems rely on _________ energy, they use _________ sustainably, they have __________ control, and they depend on __________ ___________ to meet the first three requirements.
renewable, matter, population, local biodiversity

In U.S. environmental history shown in the infographic, which policy was NOT effective in preserving the environment? (Infographic 1.9 in Ch 1.6)

Montreal Protocol
Superfund Act
National Forest Service established
Homestead Act
None; all of the above were effective in preserving the environment.

Homestead Act

True or False: Anthropology and Literature can help answer questions in environmental science.

Which of the following is FALSE regarding environmental science?

It is interdisciplinary.
It is used to systematically collect and analyze data.
It uses scientific conclusions to propose reasonable courses of action.
It uses social protest as a way to advocate for change.
It seeks to understand our environment and how humans interact with and impact it.

It uses social protest as a way to advocate for change.

True or False: Social traps are decisions that seem good at the time and produce a short-term benefit but in the long run can hurt society.

Rachel Carson’s 1962 book, Silent Spring, provided evidence that helped inform decisions regarding what environmental issue?

human overpopulation
habitat alteration
environmental toxins
climate change

environmental toxins

True or False: The interdisciplinary aspect of environmental science reflects the complex nature of most environmental problems.

Which worldview resulted in the nearly complete conversion of tall grass prairie into agricultural land in the Midwestern United States?

List the three underlying causes associated with many environmental problems.
____________, ______________, ____________
population size, resource use, pollution

In animal confinement facilities, antibiotics are administered to dense animal populations to reduce the likelihood of disease outbreaks. When antibiotics enter the surrounding environment (water and soil), populations of bacteria that are naturally resistant to the antibiotics increase. Subsequently, animals or humans infected by resistant strains do not respond to antibiotic treatment. Which social trap(s) is/are in effect here?
sliding reinforcer only

Environmental science is:
an interdisciplinary field of research that seeks to understand the natural world and our relationship to it.

According to the United Nations’ Millennium Ecosystem Assessment:
human actions are straining the planet’s ecosystems, imperiling the ability to sustain future generations.

Which of the following demonstrates a lack of environmental literacy?
The Greenland Viking middens show no evidence of the Vikings eating locally available fish—instead they continued to eat beef, scraping off every last bit of meat and marrow from the bones.

Fishing while allowing sufficient numbers to be left behind for the fish population to regenerate reflects:
sustainable resource use.

Jack is opposed to the selective killing of deer that have vastly overpopulated the local forest. Jill argues that the ecosystem will be destroyed if some are not removed. While Jack is _______ as he sees deer as having intrinsic value, Jill is _______ as she values not just the species but the ecosystem processes as well.
biocentric; ecocentric

2.1 Science gives us tools to observe the natural world.

Information detected with the senses—or with equipment that extends our senses. (2.1)

Conclusions we draw based on observations. (2.1)

Blanket of gases that surrounds Earth and other planets. (2.1)

Region of the atmosphere that starts at ground level and extends upward about 7 miles. (2.1)

Region of the atmosphere that starts at the top of the troposphere and extends up to about 31 miles; contains the ozone layer. (2.1)

Molecule with 3 oxygen atoms that absorbs UV radiation in the stratosphere. (2.1)

ultraviolet (UV) radiation
Short-wavelength electromagnetic energy emitted by the Sun. (2.1)

A body of knowledge (facts and explanations) about the natural world, and the process used to get that knowledge. Understanding the process is more important than the “facts,” since facts may change as more information is collected through the scientific process. Science, however, is limited to asking questions about the natural world—not all questions are open to science. Scientific investigation, in both the natural and social sciences, is based on data gathered through empirical evidence, or observations. (2.1)

empirical evidence
Information gathered via observation of physical phenomena. Only physical phenomena that can be objectively observed—meaning data that could be collected by anyone in the same place, using the same equipment, etc.—are fair game for science. Scientists can gather empirical evidence about the environment and living things using a wide variety of tools, including natural tools, such as their eyes, ears, and other senses. (2.1)

2.2 Scientific opinions do not change overnight.
All conclusions in science are considered tentative and open to revision (because our understanding of a concept or process will change as scientists learn more). (2.2)

2.3 The scientific method systematically rules out explanations.

scientific method
Procedure scientists use to empirically test a hypothesis. (2.3)

A possible explanation for what we have observed that is based on some previous knowledge. (2.3)

We do not claim that the hypothesis is proven, only that it is supported (or confirmed). This is a hallmark of the tentative nature of science. “Proven” suggests we have the final answer; science, however, is open ended, and no matter how much evidence accumulates, there are always new questions to ask and new studies to conduct that could alter our conclusions.

Scientific hypotheses:
must be testable (generate predictions about what we could objectively observe if we conducted the test). In turn, these predictions must be falsifiable, meaning that it would be possible to produce evidence that shows the prediction is wrong. (2.3)

2.4 Different types of studies amass a body of evidence.

observational study
Research that gathers data in a real-world setting without intentionally manipulating any variable. (2.4)

experimental study
Research that manipulates a variable in a test group and compares the response to that of a control group that was not exposed to the same variable. (2.4)

control group
The group in an experimental study that the test group’s results are compared to; ideally, the control group will differ from the test group in only one way. (2.4)

test group
The group in an experimental study that is manipulated somehow such that it differs from the control group in only one way. (2.4)

independent variable
The variable in an experiment that the researcher manipulates or changes to see if it produces an effect. (2.4)

dependent variable
The variable in an experiment that is evaluated to see if it changes due to the conditions of the experiment. (2.4)

In an experimental study:
we have both an independent variable and a dependent variable. We manipulate the independent variable and measure the dependent variable to see if it is affected. Scientists often represent their data on a graph, on which the x-axis (horizontal axis) displays the independent variable and the y-axis (vertical axis) shows the response (dependent variable). (2.4)

A widely accepted explanation of a natural phenomenon that has been extensively and rigorously tested scientifically. (But just like well-supported hypotheses, we do not claim that a theory is proven. Even well-substantiated theories are always open to further study.) (2.4)

2.5 The international community got together to meet the problem head on.

Montréal Protocol (1987)
International treaty that laid out plans to phase out ozone depleting chemicals like CFC. The Montréal Protocol, administered by the United Nations, outlined a series of deadlines over the next decade for cutting back production of CFCs. Governments would have to put in place their own plans for achieving a desired outcome, or policy, for reducing CFCs. The Montréal Protocol has been hailed as the most successful international environmental agreement in history.(2.5)

precautionary principle
Acting in a way that leaves a safety margin when the data is uncertain or severe consequences are possible. (2.5)

adaptive management
Plan that allows room for altering strategies as new information comes in or the situation itself changes. This has occurred with the Montréal Protocol as more information has discovered over the years. (2.5)

True or False: A scientific theory is a widely accepted explanation of a natural phenomenon that has been extensively and rigorously tested.

A scientific study that manipulates a variable in a test group and compares the response to that of a control group is called a(n) ______________ study.

Which of the following is TRUE regarding ozone?
It protects living organisms from UV-B radiation.

True or False: The scientific method works by systematically ruling out explanations.

Ideally, society uses the best scientific information available to enact policies that take into account all of the following issues EXCEPT?

None; all of the above should be taken into account.

None; all of the above should be taken into account.

As the “CFC hypothesis” has found overwhelming support from multiple lines of evidence, it has been elevated to the status of ____________.

In this experimental study, the percentage of mice with skin cancer is the _______________.
dependent variable

CFCs were specifically designed to be stable. However, exposure to ________ in the atmosphere can break them apart.
UV light

Susan Solomon hypothesized that free chlorine atoms could destroy ozone (O3). Does an increase or decrease in the stratospheric concentration of chlorine monoxide (ClO) support this hypothesis?

Which of the following describes the precautionary principle?
It is best to act in the face of uncertainty when there is a chance that serious consequences might occur.

The infographic shows increasing certainty as evidence mounts and the scientific method promotes a hypothesis to the status of theory. However, because all scientific information is open to further evaluation, __________ is not expected or required.
absolute proof

Which of the following describes a possible explanation for what is observed that is based on some previous knowledge?

True or False: UV-C is important in the formation of ozone.

Decreased levels of ozone were observed in the Antarctic. Human-made chlorine compounds were observed in the atmosphere. Based on these observations, the idea that chlorine compounds and ozone are somehow connected is an example of a(n) ________________.

True or False: The Montreal Protocol used the precautionary principle to outline a series of deadlines for reducing the production of CFCs before definitive studies were published explaining the harmful effects of CFCs on ozone.

Which of the following criteria must be met for a hypothesis to be considered valid?

It must be testable.
Predictions derived from the hypothesis must be falsifiable.
95% of experiments must produce evidence in support of the hypothesis.
A and B only
A and C only

A and B only

___________ is a process by which a group of scientists in the field evaluate a report and determine if it is of high enough quality (well controlled and free of bias) to publish in a journal.
Peer review

Susan Solomon tested the prediction that if polar clouds and sunlight were causing chlorine to react with ozone, then the atmosphere should contain many _________ molecules.

The observations of CFCs in the atmosphere, along with decreased stratospheric ozone levels, provide which of the following?
a correlation between CFCs and ozone depletion

Which is correct regarding the Montreal Protocol?
Administered by the United Nations, the protocol outlines a series of deadlines for cutting back production of CFCs.

True or False: Phenomena that are not objectively observable cannot be empirically studied and are therefore not under the purview of science.

What evidence did Susan Solomon discover that led NASA ozone-modeler Paul Newman to reject his hypothesis in favor of her polar cloud hypothesis?
The level of ClO in the stratosphere supported the hypothesis that UV-B breaks down CFCs, which in turn break down ozone molecules.

Ozone in the stratosphere is destroyed by reacting with ___________.
chlorine atoms

Susan Solomon’s hypothesis that ozone was being depleted by CFCs was supported by which of the following?

Gases were observed moving upward in the atmosphere.
In the South Pole levels of NOx were found to have decreased.
In the South Pole levels of NOx were found to have increased.
Levels of ClO in the stratosphere were elevated.
Both B and D are correct.

Both B and D are correct.

True or False: The ozone hole shown in the figure forms over Antarctica because polar clouds form more readily in the extreme cold of the Antarctic stratosphere.

Which study (observational or experimental) shown in the infographic provides stronger support for the hypothesis that lower ozone levels will lead to more cases of skin cancer?

True or False: Experimental studies have proven that smoking causes lung cancer in humans.

Susan Solomon hypothesized that ClO levels would be increased if ozone depletion came about because of CFCs. Her team found elevated levels of ClO in support of her hypothesis by measuring the composition of the atmosphere where the ozone hole was found, and also by analyzing light reaching the ground to determine whether it was changing in the region with less ozone and more ClO. Was this an observational or experimental study?

As levels of CFC12 increased, levels of ozone decreased. This is an example of a _________ correlation.

In the observational study, the data provides a ______________ between living close to the ozone hole and increasing one’s chance of developing skin cancer. In the experimental study, where variables are directly manipulated and controlled, a _______________ relationship between exposure to higher levels of UV-B and contracting skin cancer is tested in mice.
correlation, cause-and-effect

True or False: Without ozone, the world as we know it would not exist.

Researchers want to know if a new eco-friendly window cleaner works just as well as a standard cleaner that contains ammonia. In an experiment, half of the windows receive the eco-friendly cleaner and the other half receive the standard cleaner containing ammonia. Which of the following refers to the windows receiving the new eco-friendly cleaner?
test group

Environmental science relies or draws on which of the following?

– humanities such as literature
– social sciences such as anthropology
– applied sciences such as engineering
– natural sciences such as ecology
– All of the answers apply

All of the answers apply

Which phrase best describes “environment”?

– the living surroundings in which an organism exists
– the living and nonliving surroundings in which an organism exists
– the climate where an organism lives
– the nonliving surroundings where an organism lives

the living and nonliving surroundings in which an organism exists

Of the following, which one is an example of an empirical study?

– developing pest control methods that do not include pesticides
– developing ultra-fast passenger trains
– producing models of the impact of various greenhouse gas concentrations on global temperature
– developing more efficient photovoltaic cells for electricity production

producing models of the impact of various greenhouse gas concentrations on global temperature