Question 1: Chapter 1
1) Identify and explain four basic causes of the environmental problems we face. a. “Population growth, wasteful and unsustainable resource use, poverty and failure to include in their market prices the harmful environmental costs of goods and services.” (p.15)
2) What is exponential growth?
b. “Occurs when a quantity such as the human population increases at a fixed percentage per unit of time, such as two percent per year. Exponential growth starts off slowly. But after only a few doublings, it grows to enormous numbers because each doubling is twice the total of all earlier growth.” (p.16)
3) Describe the past, current, and projected exponential growth trends of the world’s human population. c. “The human population has been growing exponentially. Collectively, the world’s people consume vast amounts of food, water, raw materials, and energy, and they produce huge amounts of pollution and wastes in the process. There are about 7 billion people on the earth with about 83 million more people added each year. There may be 9.6 billion of us by 2050.” (p.16)
4) What is poverty and what are three of its harmful environmental and health effects? d. “Poverty is a condition in which people are unable to fulfill their basic needs for adequate food, water, shelter, healthcare, and education.” (p.17) e. Three of its harmful environmental and health effects are “pollution and environmental degradation, limited access to adequate sanitation facilities and clean drinking water, severe respiratory disease.” (p.18)
5) Describe the connection between poverty and population growth. f. “To many poor people, having more children is a matter of survival. Their children help them gather fuel, haul drinking water, and tend crops and live stock. The children also help to care for their parents in their old age because they don’t have social security, health care, and retirement funds. This is largely why populations in some less-developed countries continue to grow at high rates.” (p.18)
6) Describe the environmental harm and benefits of affluence. g. “Some see the rapid population growth of the poor in less-developed countries as the primary cause of our environmental problems. Others say that the much higher resource use per person in more-developed countries is a more important factor.” (P.19)
7) Explain how not including the harmful environmental costs in the prices of goods and services affects the environmental problems we face. h. “The primary goal of a company is to maximize profits for its owners or stockholders, which is how capitalism works. Indeed, it would be economic playing field by using taxes or regulations to require all businesses to pay for the environmental costs of producing their products.” (p.19)
8) What is the connection between government subsidies, resource use, and environmental degradation? i. This leads to another problem “when governments give companies subsides such as tax breaks and payments to assist them with using resources to run their businesses. This helps to create jobs and stimulate economies. But environmentally harmful subsidies encourage the depletion and degradation of natural capital.” (p.19)
Question 2: Chapter 1
1) Explain the concept of the “tragedy of the commons”. a. “Some renewable resources can be used by almost anyone. Examples are the atmosphere and the open ocean and its fished. Many open-access renewable resources have been environmentally degraded. In 1968, biologist Garrett Hardin (1915-2003) called such degradation the tragedy of the commons. It occurs because each user of a shared common resource or open-access resource reasons, “If I do not use this resource, someone else will.” The little bit that I use or pollute is not enough to matter, and anyway, it’s a renewable resource.” (p.13)
2) Give two examples of common-pool resources and solutions that have been offered to avoid the “tragedy of the commons” for each of your examples. b. “One is to use a shared renewable resource at a rate well below its estimated sustainable yield by using less of the resource, regulating access to the resource, or doing both. For example, governments can establish laws and regulations limiting the annual harvests of various types of ocean fishes that we are harvesting at unsustainable levels, and regulating the amount of pollutants we add to the atmosphere or the oceans.” (p.13) c. The second one is to “convert open-access renewable resources to private ownership. The reasoning is that if you own something, you are more likely to protest your investment. That sounds good, but this approach is not practical for global open-access resources such as the atmosphere and the oceans, which can’t be divided up and sold as private property.” (p.13)
Question 3: Chapter 3
1) What are biogeochemical cycles and why are they important? * “The elements and compounds that make up nutrients move continually through air, water, soil, rock, and living organisms within ecosystems, as well as in the biosphere in cycles called biogeochemical cycles” (p.50) * Importance: “This is in keeping with one of the three principles of sustainability. These cycles, which are driven directly or indirectly by incoming solar energy and by the earth’s gravity, include the hydrologic, carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus and sulfur cycles.” (p.50)
2) Based on the information about nutrient cycling in chapter 3, explain how nitrogen and phosphorus are good and bad related to people and the environment.
* “This important natural service recycles chemicals needed by organisms from the environment through those organisms and back to the environment.” It’s a circulating circle from “dead organic matter, decomposition, inorganic matter in soil, organic matter in plants, organic
matter in animals, and back to dead organic matter again.” (p.10) * Nitrogen: “Plants and animals return nitrogen-rich organic compounds to the environment as both wastes and cast-off particles of tissues such as leaves, skin, or hair and through their bodies when they die and are decomposed or eaten by detritus feeders.” (p.54) “Human activities have more than doubled the annual release of nitrogen from the land into the rest of the environment.
This excessive input of nitrogen into the air and water contributes to pollution. Nitrogen overload is a serious and growing local, regional, and global environmental problem that has attracted attention.” (p.55) * Phosphorus: “Compounds of phosphorous circulate through water, the earth’s crust, and living organisms in the phosphorus cycle. Most of these compounds contain phosphate ions, which serve as an important nutrient. In both producer and consumers phosphates are a component of biologically important molecules such as nucleic acids and energy transfer molecules such as ADP and ATP. Human activities are affecting the phosphorous cycle. This includes removing large amounts of phosphate from the earth to make fertilizer and reducing phosphate levels in tropical soils by clearing forests.” (p.56)
3) Explain the scientific and economic reasons why farmers apply nitrate and phosphate fertilizers to their crops. * Why farmers apply phosphate fertilizers to their crop? “It is because “topsoil is eroded from fertilized crop fields, lawns, and golf courses carries large quantities of phosphate ions into stream, lakes, and oceans. As water runs over exposed rocks, it slowly erodes away inorganic compounds that contain phosphate ions. The running water carries there phosphate ions into the soil where they can be absorbed by the roots of plants and by other producers.” (p.55) * Why farmers apply nitrate fertilizers to their crop? It’s because “Nitrogen is a crucial component of proteins, many vitamins, and nucleic acids such as DNA. Two natural processes convert, or fix, N2 into compounds that plants and animals can use as nutrients.” (p.54)