Ch 01 - Philosophy and Fundamental Concepts

Ch 01 Learning Objectives
After reading and studying this chapter, students should:
* Understand the nature of geology and environmental geology
* Recognize that human population growth is the biggest challenge in environmental geology
* Understand the concept of sustainability and the forces behind “the environmental crisis”
* Understand the systems approach to science and the contrasts between open and closed systems
* Understand the concepts of environmental unity and uniformitarianism
* Recognize the importance of natural hazards and the relationship of their impacts to the history of population growth
* Understand the relationship between scientific knowledge and societal values
* Understand the scientific method and understand the potential of scientific solutions to environmental problems, as well as the societal challenges in attaining those solutions
* Recognize the importance of geologic time and uniformitarianism to environmental geology

Chapter 01 Summary
This chapter focuses on conceptual and philosophical foundations of environmental geology. It opens with a discussion of the nature of geology and environmental geology. That discussion is followed by an assessment of human population growth and its critical influence on resources and waste generation. Discussions follow on the topics of sustainability, the nature of systems and systems science, the concept of environmental unity, the impacts of natural hazards, the relationship between scientific knowledge and societal values, and the process of science and the potential that scientific solutions hold for the environmental crisis.

Chapter 01 Outline
I. Introduction to environmental geology
A. Geology
1. Definition
a. the study of processes related to the composition, structure, and history of Earth and its life
2. Geology is interdisciplinary in nature
a. relies on chemistry, physics, and biology
B. Environmental Geology
1. Definition
a. applied geology
b. use of geologic information to help solve conflicts in land use, to minimize environmental degradation, and to maximize beneficial uses of resources
2. Applications
a. earth materials
b. natural hazards
c. land resources
d. hydrologic processes
e. geologic processes
3. Environmental geology focuses on the entire spectrum of human interactions with the physical environment.
II. Fundamental concepts of environmental geology
A. Human population growth
1. The foremost environmental problem
a. population growth increases the impacts on limited resources
2. Exponential growth
a. a constant percentage of people are added to the population each year, not a constant number of people
b. growth rate (a percentage)
c. doubling time = 70/Growth rate
3. Human population through history
a. human population growth has coincided with changes in technologies and lifestyles
4. Population growth and the future
a. as population growth continues, it may be difficult to supply sufficient resources and a high-quality environment
b. carrying capacity: maximum number of people Earth can hold without causing environmental degradation that reduces the ability of the planet to support the population
c. rate of increase in population growth peaked in the late 1980s
B. Sustainability
1. Definition
a. development that ensures that future generations will have equal access to the resources that our planet offers
b. development that is economically viable, environmentally benign, and socially just
2. Limitation of resources
a. recycling is the only solution for providing ample resources
b. limitations of land-use resources
3. The environmental crisis
a. demands on resources and production of wastes by growing human population
C. Systems
1. Concept of systems
a. any part of the universe that we select for study, consisting of several components that mutually adjust to changes in one another
2. Input-output analysis
a. if input and output are not balanced, changes will occur in the system
b. average residence time = total size of stock or supply divided by the average rate of transfer through the system
3. Predicting changes in the Earth system
a. uniformitarianism
1) the present is the key to the past (and future)
2) processes we observe today also operated in the past, though not necessarily with the same magnitude or frequency
3) processes we observe today will also operate in the future and at similar rates
b. impacts of humans on Earth systems
6. Environmental unity
a. one action leads to a chain of subsequent actions in linked systems
7. Earth systems science
a. the study of the entire planet as a system in terms of component subsystems, such as atmosphere, biosphere, lithosphere, etc.

D. Hazardous Earth processes, risk assessment, and perception
1. concentration of population and resources increases the impact of natural hazards
2. predictability of natural hazards
a. risk assessment
E. Scientific knowledge and values
1. Scientific method:
a. observation
b. hypotheses: possible explanations for observed phenomena
c. testing of hypotheses
d. theory: a hypothesis that has withstood testing through a sufficient number of experiments
2. Importance of geologic time
a. distinguishes geology from most other scientific disciplines
b. rates of processes are variable, and important to environmental geology
c. environmental geology is most often concerned with recent geologic time (e.g., the last 18,000 years, or especially the last few thousand or hundred years)
3. Culture and environmental awareness
a. the entire way of life that we have transmitted from one generation to another
b. the ethical approach to the environment is a recent development
c. a land ethic assumes we are responsible to the entire environment as well as fellow humans
4. Science and values
a. chosen solutions depend upon how we value people and the environment
b. the next 50 years will require crucial decisions concerning impacts of increased population on natural resources