Lecture 3: Introduction to Environmental Science II

Perception of Environmental Problems

  • People differ in their perception
  • Interdisciplinary communication is difficult
  • Communications about environmental issues is further complicated by differences in language and worldview

Perception is Influenced by World-Views

  • Policy/Legal/Government vs. Scientific
  • Academic vs. Applied
  • Profane/Secular vs. Religious/Sacred
  • Affluence vs. Poverty
  • Industrialized vs. Developing Nations
  • Anthropocentric vs. Ecocentric
  • Ecosphere vs. Technosphere
  • Economy vs. Ecology

Environmental Challenges

  • Population, poverty, and over­consumption are root problems
  • Human population growth exacerbates environmental problems
  • Consumption of resources has risen faster than population
  • Poverty \rightarrow people sell off their environmental assets in order to survive
  • Therefore, sustainability is important

Sustainability as a Goal

  • We need resources plus functioning natural systems in the future
  • Sustainable Development:
  • Use of resources to satisfy current needs without compromising future availability of resources
  • Sustainability conserves Earth's natural resources and maintains fully functioning ecological systems

Defining Sustainability

  • "Meeting present needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs"
  • "Bearing in mind the effects of our action on our descendants for seven generations"
  • "Maintaining your consumption without eroding your capital."
  • "When a process is sustainable, it can be carried out over and over without negative environmental effects or impossibly high costs to anyone involved."
  • "Providing the best outcomes for the human and natural environments both now and into the indefinite future."

Three ­Legged Sustainability Stool

  1. Economic Leg
  2. Good jobs
  3. Fair wages
  4. Security
  5. Infrastructure
  6. Fair trade
  7. Environmental Leg
  8. Zero pollution & waste
  9. Renewable energy
  10. Conservation
  11. Restoration
  12. Social Leg
  13. Working conditions
  14. Health services
  15. Education services
  16. Community & culture
  17. Social justice


  • Environmental science helps us understand our relationship with environment
  • Environmental science informs our attempts to solve and prevent problems
  • The global community faces many challenging environmental problems
  • Environmental science can help us find balanced, sustainable solutions to environmental problems

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