Bio1110 Chapter 1 Environmental Literacy
  1. Many environmental issues are "wicked problems" that involve hard choices.
    • Solutions to environmental issues often involve trade-offs.

      Causes of climate change include burning fossil fuels (petroleum, coal, natural gas), deforestation, methane released in atmosphere, and human consumption.

      Consequences include sea level rise, species endangerment, spread of tropical diseases, and possible agricultural loss.

      Solutions and trade-offs include:

      • Alternative energy sources (can be costly)
      • Irrigation (can cause water shortage)
      • Reforestation (costly in resources and land)
      • Levees and sea walls (costly and alters habitats)
  2. Social traps that provide short-term benefit but have long-term social costs include:
    • tragedy of the commons
      • Tragedy of the commons occurs in society when individuals seek to maximize their own benefit.

        The outcome is often degradation of common resources.

        "If I don’t use it, someone else will."

    • time delay
      • Time delay occurs when an action produces a benefit today while deferring costs and problems for later.

        Planning for the future often requires sacrifices at the present.

    • sliding reinforcer

    • Sliding reinforcer occurs when an action today causes environmental changes that decrease the benefits over time.

      Spraying pesticides bring immediate benefits in reduced pests.

      However, over time the remaining insects may become resistant, and the chemical is no longer useful.

  3. Long-term planning is required to achieve sustainable resource use as global wealth rises.
    • Sustainable practices ensure that natural resources will continue to be available for human use on an ongoing basis.

      • Rely on renewable energy

      • Use matter sustainably

      • Have population control

      • Depend on local biodiversity

      This set of practices comprise "biomimicry": mimicking natural processes to develop sustainable practices for human societies.

    • • There is widespread inequality in wealth across the world.

      Almost half of the 2.2 billion children live in poverty.

      About 20% of the population control 80% of resources.

      Actions of the wealthy have disproportional affect on our current and future environment.