Environmental Studies Program

1114 Words5 Pages
Since the release of Rachel Carson' s Silent Spring in the 1960' s, mankind has expanded its quest to come to grips with the competing virtues of human economic entropy and of maintaining the integrity and diversity of the natural environment. As awareness of environmental degradation has increased, so has the realization of the complexity of interconnected webs of relationships among organisms and the physical and chemical environment. With this awareness, we have also come to realize that environmental problems are not easily fixed by simply focusing on a single problem with no analysis of other issues. This tendency to blindly solve environmental problems without understanding the full complexity of the problem was evident in the Environmental Protection Agency' s (EPA) recent mandate that Methyl Tertiary Butyl Ether (MTBE) be a required ingredient in gasoline formulas with the goal of increasing combustion efficiency. A fuel oxygenate, MTBE enhances the octane in gasoline and decreases carbon monoxide emission by increasing burning efficiencies. In its haste to declare MTBE as a required ingredient in gasoline, the EPA failed to consider a basic chemical property of MTBE and its long-term effects upon the environment. Because MTBE is highly water-soluble, it dissolves in water, leading to higher concentrations of MTBE in many lakes in the California Sierra Nevada mountains and in many groundwater supplies. Hence, by addressing only one component of a system separately, the EPA failed to see the ramifications of our apparent solution. This myopic approach to environmental remediation commonly subverts our good intentions to solve environmental problems and demonstrates a lack of understanding of how inter-related systems work. It is my goal to aid in our understanding of environmental pollution on a global scale by not only researching the fate and transport of contaminants, but also by analyzing how our current philosophies and policies affect these problems. By applying an interdisciplinary approach to both the specific scientific and technical aspects of a problem and by thoroughly analyzing social and cultural factors, I believe I can more effectively in analyze the true extent of our pollution problem and help to determine an appropriate response. In preparation for this work, my undergraduate degree in environmental studies has provided me with a solid foundation in both the sciences and state and federal environmental policy. My undergraduate emphasis in hazardous materials has given me a broad knowledge of the types of chemical releases common in both developed and undeveloped countries and their chemical and physical effects upon the environment.
Open Document