Welcome to our very first Environmental Science blog in the series on STEM Talks!
Throughout this series, we are going to focus on how our planet functions to support life, how we interact with nature, our human impact on nature and incorporate many connections between topics in the science.
Environmental Science is defined as the interdisciplinary study of the relationship between humans and the environment. We begin this journey learning about sustainability. Making sure we use resources, any material we use from the environment, in a way that does not deplete the resource and effectively uses the resource to meet the current need without compromising the future use of the resource.
Types of resources include perpetual, renewable, and non-renewable:
Perpetual resources never go away such as the sun’s rays and light energy or the wind currents. Renewable resources can be used, but are replenished naturally by the Earth’s processes, and can be used for generations to come if used sustainably. Water or hydroelectric power is a renewable resource, renewed by the water cycle. Non-renewable resources are not replenished, and once used are gone. These resources are the most responsible for environmental issues such as air pollution and include fossil fuels, coal, and natural gas.
Sustainability consists of four major principles:
Solar Capital: This consists of the energy we gain from the sun, which produces light energy used in photosynthesis (check out our talk on photosynthesis!) to begin the food chain.
Biodiversity: This accounts for the abundant variety of different species of organisms we have on our planet, the many genetic information each carry, and the niche each play in their ecosystem, allowing for the continuous adaption and evolution of life.
Chemical/Nutrient Recycling: Naturally nutrients are recycled by the earth and its organisms. For example the recycling of CO2 and O2 between animals and plants.
Population Control: The control of population size is vital, for if a population of a species exponentially grows then resources could be depleted and ecosystems destroyed.
These four principles of sustainability should be used as a guide to living a sustainable lifestyle. An unsustainable lifestyle leads to many pressing issues on the planet such as food shortage, biodiversity depletion, pollution, waste, global warming, etc.
Major causes of environmental problems include:
These four are the most prominent causes of environmental problems. Families living in poverty typically have more children for better chances at survival, contributing to population growth. A higher population requires more use of resources, and typically people trying to survive in poverty use resources unsustainably. Many corporations and businesses also use resources unsustainably, such as the mass burning of fossils fuels, and usually do not include the cost in the product to help stop or fix the environmental issue caused by the manufacturing of the product.
Although many NGO’s (Non-Governmental Organizations) and government organizations try to solve environmental issues, they fail due to not fully understanding the science of nature. Without understanding ecosystems, resource recycling, all the essence of nature, many of our solutions to problems like pollution end up creating more pollution. For example, if we are trying to help reduce land pollution we might burn up trash, but that converts into harmful chemicals that pollute the air.
Overall in this talk, we briefly introduced environmental science beginning with sustainability. The next talk will be about population dynamics, digging deeper into what a population really means, and how their cycles and trends can be analyzed.
-Written By: Neil D. 2/2/2019
Living in the Environment –
G. TYLER MILLER, JR.
SCOTT E. SPOOLMAN