Philosophy and Fundamental Concepts
to Review Questions & Critical Thinking Questions
1. The application of geologic information to solving societal and environmental
2. Observations lead to hypotheses (possible explanations of observed
phenomena), which are then tested by additional investigation.
3. The environmental crisis is rooted in the increasing demands on resources
and the increasing waste production of an increasing population.
4. Exponential population growth will make it difficult to supply resources
and a high-quality environment for all.
5. Sustainability is the concept of development that assures future generations
will have sufficient resources and quality of life.
6. Environmental unity is the principle that one action leads to a chain
of subsequent actions in linked systems.
7. Exponential growth is growth that occurs not at a constant rate, but
as a constant percentage. It ultimately leads to rapid increase.
8. Earth system science is the study of the entire planet as a system
in terms of component subsystems, such as atmosphere, biosphere, lithosphere,
etc. An open system exchanges energy and materials with its surroundings,
while a closed system has no such exchanges.
9. Average residence time is the ratio of the amount of some stock or
supply that is in a system to the average rate of transfer through a system.
10. The principle of uniformitarianism can be applied to environmental
geology in the sense that the “present is the key to the future.”
That is, understanding of current processes and their rates leads to better
11. The Gaia Hypothesis holds that the Earth is, metaphorically, a superorganism.
The interaction of Earth systems is likened to the interaction of life
systems in an organism.
Critical Thinking Questions
1. An answer to this question should reflect the interaction between Earth
systems and the human influences on those systems. Possible solutions
depend strongly on the cultural, political, and economic situation of
a nation or region.
2. An answer to this question should focus on the costs, in terms of environmental
impacts, of producing food for that many people, and whether that level
of food production and the collective impacts of that many people are
3. A response to this task must focus on the perceived necessity of sustainability,
and on the varying levels of economic vitality that are acceptable to
the people and cultures involved in a sustainable approach.
4. This assignment must focus on the various linked systems that might
be affected by the development, and what actions or reactions the development
might set off in those interacting systems.
5. An answer to this question should focus on possible genetic and cultural
linkages over thousands of years. The answer should address the degree
to which behaviors and attitudes reflect characteristics passed on between
6. This question refers to the nature of science. An answer should reflect
knowledge of the scientific method and the nature of scientific inquiry,
and should focus on the testability of linkages between Earth systems.
7. A response to this question should focus on perceived influences of
humans on Earth resources and systems and the viability of sustainable
development. There are many value judgements involved in this question.