Environmental Science For Dummies|Paperback (2023)

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

(Video) Environmental Science

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

(Video) How do we teach environmental education?

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

(Video) Bill Nye explains Seasons

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

(Video) Introduction to Cells: The Grand Cell Tour

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

(Video) What Causes the Wind?

Conserving Farm and Ranch Land 340

Advising Investment 341

Index 333


What is environmental science in simple terms? ›

"(Environmental science is) an interdisciplinary field that integrates areas of life, physical and earth science to study and address problems facing the environment and to implement science-based solutions."

What are the 5 major areas of environmental science? ›

These are some of the more prominent fields that are components of environmental science:
  • Atmospheric Sciences. ...
  • Environmental Chemistry. ...
  • Forestry and Agricultural Sciences. ...
  • Geosciences. ...
  • Oceanography and Marine Sciences.

What are the 3 types of environmental science? ›

Today it provides an integrated, quantitative, and interdisciplinary approach to the study of environmental systems.
  • 3.1 Atmospheric sciences.
  • 3.2 Ecology.
  • 3.3 Environmental chemistry.
  • 3.4 Geosciences.

What are the 4 types of environmental science? ›

There are five major fields of environmental science; each one made up of multiple smaller disciplines. These five fields are atmospheric sciences, ecology, environmental chemistry, geosciences, and social sciences.

What is the main focus of environmental science? ›

Environmental Science provides an overview of how science affects our environment. We focus on interactions between the solid Earth, its water, its air and its living organisms, and on dynamic, interdependent relationships between these four components.

Is environmental science hard? ›

Despite environmental science's reputation, it's still a comparatively challenging major that requires an understanding of core sciences such as chemistry, physics, biology, and geology, as well as scientific methodology. Environmental science is popular with students who enjoy learning outside of the classroom.


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