Week 1 in Ecology Class

Week 1 in Ecology Class

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Hello Class,

In Week 1, we studied environmental science and ecosystems and discussed the importance of environmental health. Your understanding will be deepened through building a firm foundation based on chemistry, energy flow through ecosystems, and physical laws governing matter.You will learn that environmental science is the lens through which multiple disciplines gain understanding about Earth’s ecosystems and how human behavior affects natural systems. The interface between humans and the natural world is the focus of environmental science.

As we learn economic and political systems including the development of policy, you will better understand the context and challenges faced by people and the planet in the 21st century. Environmental issues are complex. Not only do we need to study environmental issues from the perspective of interdisciplinary but, it is also necessary to include economics, sociology, anthropology, and many other disciplines, which help to explain the problems with which we are faced. Many other disciplines also help to explain the problems with which we are faced. An interdisciplinary approach will help us develop lasting solutions. Environmentalism and environmental problems are not new. Environmental problems caused by human activities have occurred since the dawn of agriculture. The current wave of environmentalism began in 1962 with the publication of Silent Spring by Rachel Carson, but its roots can be traced to the 19th century. It is not possible to understand and solve environmental problems when the problems are viewed from a narrow or single disciplinary focus. It is possible to improve how humans interact with our environment from almost any field. Anthropology, archeology, sociology, psychology, and other disciplines exploring how and why people act help a multidisciplinary environmental team determine the most effective way to educate or motivate people to act in environmentally sound ways. Economists and others involved in business decisions influence the quality of the environment around us; many are working to make business decisions "'green."

Putting the environmental movement in historical context can be very important. You may think that the current problems are the most severe and may be very upset that adults have not "'fixed" these problems. A discussion of success (and failure) stories can be useful. Knowing that people who lived more than 100 years ago cared strongly about the environment can be motivating. I like double-edged stories. John Muir's struggle to save the Retch Retchy valley near Yosemite can be both heartbreaking (because he did not succeed) and enlightening because Muir is an inspiring individual.

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Another double-edged story involves the first Clean Air Act. To solve the problem of locally high levels of air pollution, the law required the building of tall smokestacks that moved the pollutants to the upper atmosphere, resulting in acid precipitation in areas very far from the pollutant source. We solved the problem of locally severe air pollution, which caused periodic increases in death rates, but moved the problem to places distant from the pollution source. This latter example can be used to demonstrate the need to think through the effects of an action. We may be able to avoid future problems if we try to envision the downstream events that may flow from a decision.

We will continue learning environmental issues in the week 2, we will study human population, biodiversity, biomes and extinction.

Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have questions.


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