Environmental Science Vocab
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Chemical characteristic that helps determine how a substance dissolved in water will interact with and affect its environment.
- Gradual shift from small, mobile hunting and gathering bands to settled agricultural communities in which people survived by breeding and raising wild animals and cultivating wild plants near where they lived.
- It began 10,000–12,000 years ago.
- Compare environmental revolution, hunter–gatherers, industrial–medical revolution, information and globalization revolution
- Unit of energy; amount of energy needed to raise the temperature of 1 gram of water by 1 C° (unit on Celsius temperature scale).
- See also kilocalorie
Money and other forms of wealth that can be used to support a lifestyle or economy.
- Method of timber harvesting in which all trees in a forested area are removed in a single cutting.
- Compare selective cutting, strip cutting
- Resource that is owned jointly by a large group of individuals.
- One example is the roughly one-third of the land in the United States that is owned jointly by all U.S. citizens and held and managed for them by the government.
- Another example is an area of land that belongs to a whole village and that can be used by anyone for grazing cows or sheep.
- Compare open access renewable resource, private property resource.
- See tragedy of the commons
- Biome in which evaporation exceeds precipitation and the average amount of precipitation is less than 25 centimeters (10 inches) per year.
- Such areas have little vegetation or have widely spaced, mostly low vegetation.
- Compare forest, grassland
- Country that is highly industrialized and has a high per capita GDP.
- Compare developing country
- Country that has low to moderate industrialization and low to moderate per capita GDP.
- Most are located in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.
- Compare developed country
- Time it takes (usually in years) for the quantity of something growing exponentially to double.
- It can be calculated by dividing the annual percentage growth rate into 70
- Amount of biologically productive land and water needed to supply a population with the renewable resources it uses and to absorb or dispose of the wastes from such resource use.
- It measures the average environmental impact of populations in different countries and areas.
- See per capita ecological footprint
ecological tipping point
Point in the development of an environmental problem where a threshold level is reached, causing an irreversible shift in the behavior of a natural system
- Biological science that studies the relationships between living organisms and their environment;
- study of the structure and functions of nature
- Exhaustion of 80% of the estimated supply of a nonrenewable resource.
- Finding, extracting, and processing the remaining 20% usually costs more than it is worth.
- May also apply to the depletion of a renewable resource, such as a fish or tree species
- Natural resources, capital goods, and labor used in an economy to produce material goods and services.
- See natural resources
System of production, distribution, and consumption of economic goods
Community of different species interacting with one another and with the chemical and physical factors making up its nonliving environment
- Natural services or natural capital that support life on the earth and are essential to the quality of human life and the functioning of the world’s economies.
- Examples are the chemical cycles, natural pest control, and natural purification of air and water.
- See natural resources.
All external conditions and factors, living and nonliving (chemicals and energy), that affect any living organism or other specified system.
- Depletion or destruction of a potentially renewable resource such as soil, grassland, forest, or wildlife that is used faster than it is naturally replenished.
- If such use continues, the resource becomes nonrenewable (on a human time scale) or nonexistent (extinct).
- See also sustainable yield.
Human beliefs about what is right or wrong with how we treat the environment
- Cultural change that includes halting population growth and altering lifestyles, political and economic systems, and the way we treat the environment with the goal of living more sustainably.
- It requires working with the rest of nature by learning more about how nature sustains itself.
- See environmental wisdom worldview.
Interdisciplinary study that uses information and ideas from the physical sciences (such as biology, chemistry, and geology), the social sciences (such as economics and political science) and the humanities (such as history and ethics) to learn how nature works, how we interact with the environment, and how we can deal with environmental problems.
Scientist who uses information from the physical sciences and social sciences to understand how the earth works, learn how humans interact with the earth, and develop solutions to environmental problems
environmental wisdom worldview
- View holding that humans are part of, and totally dependent on, nature; that nature exists for all species, not just for us; that we should encourage earth-sustaining forms of economic growth and development and discourage earth-degrading forms; and that our success depends on learning how the earth sustains itself and integrating such environmental wisdom into the ways we think and act.
- Compare planetary management worldview, stewardship worldview
- Set of assumptions and beliefs about how people think the world works, what they think their role in the world should be, and what they believe is right and wrong environmental behavior (environmental ethics).
- See environmental wisdom worldview, planetary management worldview, stewardship worldview
Social movement dedicated to protecting the earth’s life support systems for us and other species
environmentally sustainable society
Society that meets the current and future basic needs of its people for basic resources in a just and equitable manner without compromising the ability of future generations of humans and other species from meeting their basic needs.
- Growth in which some quantity such as population size or economic output increases at a constant rate per unit of time.
- An example is the growth sequence 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64, and so on.
- When the increase in quantity over time is plotted, this type of growth yields a curve shaped like the letter J.
- Compare linear growth
- Biome with enough average annual precipitation to support the growth of tree species and smaller forms of vegetation.
- Compare desert, grassland
View by European colonists settling North America in the 1600s that the continent had vast resources and was a wilderness to be conquered by settlers clearing and planting land
Broad process of global social, economic, and environmental change that leads to an increasingly integrated world
- Use of new sources of energy from fossil fuels and later from nuclear fuels, and use of new technologies, to grow food and manufacture products.
- Compare agricultural revolution, environmental revolution, hunter–gatherers, information and globalization revolution
- Curve with a shape similar to that of the letter J; can represent prolonged exponential growth.
- See exponential growth
Unit of energy equal to 1,000 calories. See calorie
- Growth in which a quantity increases by some fixed amount during each unit of time.
- An example is growth that increases in the sequence 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, and so on.
- Compare exponential growth.
Process in which individuals or groups use public pressure, personal contacts, and political action to persuade legislators to vote or act in their favor
Organisms such as bacteria that are so small that it takes a microscope to see them
- Use of an ecosystem such as a forest for a variety of purposes such as timber harvesting, wildlife habitat, watershed protection, and recreation.
- Compare sustainable yield
Natural resources and natural services that keep us and other species alive and support our economies
Renewable resources such as plants, animals, and soil provided by natural capital
- Materials and energy in nature that are essential or useful to humans.
- See natural capital
- Processes of nature, such as purification of air and water and pest control, which support life and human economies.
- See natural capital.
nonrenewable resource/exhaustible resource
- Resource that exists in a fixed amount (stock) in the earth’s crust and has the potential for renewal by geological, physical, and chemical processes taking place over hundreds of millions to billions of years.
- Examples include copper, aluminum, coal, and oil.
- We classify these resources as exhaustible because we are extracting and using them at a much faster rate than they are formed.
- Compare renewable resource
Any chemical element or compound an organism must take in to live, grow, or reproduce.
The circulation of chemicals necessary for life, from the environment (mostly soil and water) through organisms and back to the environment.
open access renewable resource/free-access resource
- Renewable resource owned by no one and available for use by anyone at little or no charge.
- Examples include clean air, underground water supplies, the open ocean and its fish, and the ozone layer.
- Compare common property resource, private property resource
Any form of life.
per capita ecological footprint
- Amount of biologically productive land and water needed to supply each person or population with the renewable resources they use and to absorb or dispose of the wastes from such resource use.
- It measures the average environmental impact of individuals or populations in different countries and areas.
- Compare ecological footprint
- Resource that is essentially inexhaustible on a human time scale because it is renewed continuously.
- Solar energy is an example.
- Compare nonrenewable resource, renewable resource.
planetary management worldview
- View holding that humans are separate from nature, that nature exists mainly to meet our needs and increasing wants, and that we can use our ingenuity and technology to manage the earth’s life-support systems, mostly for our benefit.
- It assumes that economic growth is unlimited.
- Compare environmental wisdom worldview, stewardship worldview.
- Single identifiable source that discharges pollutants into the environment.
- Examples include the smokestack of a power plant or an industrial plant, drainpipe of a meat-packing plant, chimney of a house, or exhaust pipe of an automobile.
- Compare nonpoint source.
- Particular chemical or form of energy that can adversely affect the health, survival, or activities of humans or other living organisms.
- See pollution
Undesirable change in the physical, chemical, or biological characteristics of air, water, soil, or food that can adversely affect the health, survival, or activities of humans or other living organisms
- Device or process that removes or reduces the level of a pollutant after it has been produced or has entered the environment.
- Examples include automobile emission control devices and sewage treatment plants.
- Compare pollution prevention.
- Device or process that prevents a potential pollutant from forming or entering the environment or sharply reduces the amount entering the environment.
- Compare pollution cleanup.
Number of individuals making up a population’s gene pool.
Inability to meet basic needs for food, clothing, and shelter
principles of sustainability
Principles by which nature has sustained itself for billions of years by relying on solar energy, biodiversity, and nutrient recycling.
private property resource
- Land, mineral, or other resource owned by individuals or a firm.
- Compare common property resource, open access renewable resource.
- Collecting and reprocessing a resource so that it can be made into new products.
- An example is collecting aluminum cans, melting them down, and using the aluminum to make new cans or other aluminum products.
- See primary recycling, secondary recycling.
- Compare reuse
- First of the three Rs; choosing to consume a smaller amount of resources or products in order to lessen one’s ecological footprint.
- Compare recycling, reuse.
- Resource that can be replenished rapidly (hours to several decades) through natural processes as long as it is not used up faster than it is replaced.
- Examples include trees in forests, grasses in grasslands, wild animals, fresh surface water in lakes and streams, most groundwater, fresh air, and fertile soil.
- If such a resource is used faster than it is replenished, it can be depleted.
- Compare nonrenewable resource, perpetual resource.
- See environmental degradation
- Anything obtained from the environment to meet human needs and wants.
- It can also be applied to other species
- Using a product over and over again in the same form.
- An example is collecting, washing, and refilling glass beverage bottles.
- Compare recycling
rule of 70
- Doubling time (in years) = 70/(percentage growth rate).
- See doubling time, exponential growth
Result of getting people with different views and values to talk and listen to one another, find common ground based on understanding and trust, and work together to solve environmental and other problems
Complex mixture of inorganic minerals (clay, silt, pebbles, and sand), decaying organic matter, water, air, and living organisms.
- Direct radiant energy from the sun and a number of indirect forms of energy produced by the direct input of such radiant energy.
- Principal indirect forms of solar energy include wind, falling and flowing water (hydropower), and biomass (solar energy converted into chemical energy stored in the chemical bonds of organic compounds in trees and other plants).
- View of the earth as a spaceship: a machine that we can understand, control, and change at will by using advanced technology.
- See planetary management worldview.
- Compare environmental wisdom worldview.
- Group of similar organisms, and for sexually reproducing organisms, they are a set of individuals that can mate and produce fertile offspring.
- Every organism is a member of a certain species.
- View that we can manage the earth for our benefit but have an ethical responsibility to be caring and responsible managers, or stewards, of the earth.
- It calls for encouraging environmentally beneficial forms of economic growth and discouraging environmentally harmful forms.
- Compare environmental wisdom worldview, planetary management worldview
- Flowing body of surface water.
- Examples are creeks and rivers
Ability of earth’s various systems, including human cultural systems and economies, to survive and adapt to changing environmental conditions indefinitely.
Taking no more potentially renewable resources from the natural world than can be replenished naturally and not overloading the capacity of the environment to cleanse and renew itself by natural processes.
- Society that manages its economy and population size without doing irreparable environmental harm by overloading the planet’s ability to absorb environmental insults, replenish its resources, and sustain human and other forms of life over a specified period, usually hundreds to thousands of years.
- During this period, the society satisfies the needs of its people without depleting natural resources and thereby jeopardizing the prospects of current and future generations of humans and other species
sustainable yield (sustained yield)/maximum sustainable yield
- Highest rate at which a potentially renewable resource can be used indefinitely without reducing its available supply.
- See also environmental degradation
Set of components that function and interact in some regular and theoretically predictable manner
Threshold level at which an environmental problem causes a fundamental and irreversible shift in the behavior of a system.
tragedy of the commons
- Depletion or degradation of a potentially renewable resource to which people have free and unmanaged access.
- An example is the depletion of commercially desirable fish species in the open ocean beyond areas controlled by coastal countries.
- See common-property resource, open access renewable resource.
- All free, undomesticated species.
- Sometimes the term is used to describe animals only.
- How people think the world works and what they think their role in the world should be.
- See environmental wisdom worldview, planetary management worldview, stewardship worldview.
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