STIA-102 Introduction to Environmental Science
Spring for 2017-2018
This is an introductory course on the science of environmental systems. We will survey the breadth of this interdisciplinary field with lectures, discussions, and laboratory and field exercises designed to introduce the basics of what I think every citizen should know. Whatever one's ideological perspective, environmental science is about the home of humanity, our basic life-support systems. We introduce the earth's spheres: atmosphere, hydrosphere, lithosphere, and biosphere. These make life, including human life, possible, and understanding them is analogous to a scuba diver understanding scuba tanks. Humans influence each of these spheres, sometimes in ways that affect the production of ecosystem services for humans and the whole ecosystem. Thus, we study the scientific aspects of how these systems work and how humans are changing and, in some cases, degrading them. For example, we study the systems of the atmosphere that support and influence life, and we study air pollution and how the atmosphere may both accentuate and ameliorate pollution. Environmental science has always been a science that integrates natural with social science because it studies natural systems not only to understand nature but also to understand human relationships with nature. Global Warming, for example, is a central concern of environmental science, but to understand it fully requires we must understand the history and science of natural climate change, the history of human-induced greenhouse gas emissions, and the models that predict climate change. Moreover, environmental science has always been an applied science; thus we must also introduce the practical approaches for solving problems. The course will emphasize the positive gains as well as the abject failures of human-environment interactions. We will compare different management approaches (such as market-based, grass-roots, and command-and-control) and the government (such as the EPA) and non government entities (such as the World Bank) that influence them.
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