INTRODUCTION: SUSTAINABILITY, STEWARDSHIP AND SOUND SCIENCE
I. The Global Environmental Picture. What are we facing?
a) Population growth and increasing consumption per person.
b) Degradation of soils.
c) Global atmospheric changes.
d) Loss of biodiversity.
Fig. 1.5 World population started a rapid growth phase in the early 1800s
and has grown sixfold in the last 200 years. It continues to grow by nearly
88 million people per year.
Fig. 1.7 The zero baseline represents the 1950D1980 global average. Note the cooling effect of the Mount Pinatubo, in the Philippines, volcanic eruption in 1991. Global temperatures quickly recovered setting a new record in 1995.
II. Three Unifying Themes: Having a long-term relationship with the natural world.
A. What is Sustainability?
1. Sustainability can be defined differently depending upon the individual's perspective.
a. Economist's definition: Will growth be sustained? Is the process efficient?
Are resources being wasted?
b. Ecologist's definition: Is the ecosystem sustainable? Are we using resources at a rate
that is faster than can be produced in nature?
c. Sociologist's definition: Are the social structures sustainable? Is there social cohesion?
Are resources distributed in a manner that is socially sustainable?
2. What is Sustainable Development?
a. Like the definition of sustainability, sustainable development differs by perspective.
b. Some individuals believe that sustainable development is an oxymoron. These
individuals are basing their understanding on current development practices and
assumptions that are not sustainable from an environmental perspective.
Fig. 1.9 Sustainability, stewardship, and sound science represent three vital concepts that must be embraced by our society These concepts must be employed in the development of environmental public policy and private environmental concern.
Fig. 1.10 The concerns of sociologists, economists, and ecologists must
intersect in order to achieve sustainable solutions in a society.
1. Justice and Equity.
2. Define Environmental Racism. An example:
In the early 1980s The California Waste Management Board was very concerned about its
ability to site municipal landfills. It contracted with a consulting firm to help it determine
how to be more successful in siting landfills. The consultant's report suggested siting landfills
in poor and minority neighborhoods because these individuals were less apt to know how to
go about stopping the building of a landfill in their neighborhood.
1. Historical Environmental Movement
a. John Muir and Hetch Hetchy Valley
b. The National Park System Yellowstone National Park
2. Modern Environmental Movement
a. Silent Spring by Rachel Carson resulted in the movement to reduce exposure to a
wide variety of chemicals; chemistry was no longer seen as only beneficial.
b. The Ban the Bomb movement grew into the anti-nuclear power movement. In the
1960s the Sierra Club supported the building of nuclear power plants because of the air
pollution produced by the then-most-common type of electric generating plant coal.
Friends of the Earth was formed by the individuals in the Sierra Club who disagreed
with the building of nuclear power plants.
3. Environmentalism Acquire Critics.
a. In the 1980s the Wise-Use movement began in the western USA.
b. Organized opposition to the Endangered Species Act began.
A. What is Science?
1. Science seeks to acquire and explain factual knowledge, not just belief and opinion.
2. Science restricts itself to considering objects and events that can be observed in an
objective way. Although religion, ethics, and emotions are important, they cannot be
observed in an objective fashion, so they are outside the realm of science.
B. Scientific Method: a process of gaining knowledge; a hierarchical ordering of knowledge
from innumerable observations to a few universal laws.
1. Based on observation and facts.
2. Subject to verification by researchers.
Fig. 1.16 The process leading to theory formation, natural laws, and concepts is a
continual interplay between observations, experimentation, hypothesis formulation,
and further refinement.
1. Hypothesis testing.
2. Controlled experiments: explain the difference between a controlled and an uncontrolled
1. Theories are consistent with current observations and unify observations (facts) into an
understanding of the big picture. Theories help explain our observations.
2. Theories suggest further research/observation to be done.
3. Some theories are better than other theories. Better theories fit the facts better and provide
a better understanding of how the world works.
a. Theory of atomic structure.
b. Theory of evolution.
c. Theory of natural selection.
d. Theory of descent by modification.
e. Theory of punctuated equilibrium.
f. Theory of relativity.
E. Natural Laws.
1. Laws are based on the idea that matter and energy do not behave randomly.
2. What is the difference between a theory and a natural law? Unlike a theory, laws
are not subject to further articulation; there are not facts needing resolution. There are no
a. Law of gravity.
b. Law of conservation of matter.
c. First law of thermodynamics.
d. Second law of thermodynamics.
F. Scientific Controversies.
1. No controversy exists when a question has been asked many times and the same answer
has been obtained repeatedly. When clear-cut answers exist, no controversy exists.
2. Controversy exists when:
a. Data are limited.
b. New observations are made.
c. Interpretations of data differ.
d. Cultures differ (Western medicine and Eastern medicine).
e. Funding sources are not perceived to be objective (American Tobacco Institute).
IV. Sound versus Junk Science.
A. Sound Science and the Scientific Community.
1. The Peer Review Process.
B. Junk Science.
1. Selective presentation of results.
2. Politically motivated distortion of scientifically sound papers.
3. Attribution of false information to a respected researcher or research organization.
C. Evaluating Science.
1. What are the basic observations (facts) underlying the conclusions (theory)?
2. Can the observations be satisfactorily verified?
3. Do the conclusions follow logically from the observations?
4. Does the conclusion account for all observations?
5. Is the conclusion or predicted outcome supported by the community of scientists with
the greatest competence to judge the work? If not, it is highly suspect.