Environmental Science: A Global Concern 11th Edition
Environmental Science Has Never Been More Important
“These were the best of times. These were the worst of times.” The opening lines from Charles Dicken’s A Tale of Two Cities provide a good description of our current global environmental situation. We see increasing signs of global warming. Arctic sea ice is disappearing at a frightening rate. Most commercial marine fisheries are either declining or exploited at unsustainable levels. Droughts and catastrophic wildfires threaten many parts of the world. Habitat destruction threatens an ever increasing number of species and ecosystems. In spite of warnings about the environmental, social, and economic costs of our dependence of fossil fuels, we continue to use ever increasing quantities of them.
And yet, there are also signs of hope. Human population growth is slowing almost everywhere. New technologies offer alternatives to fossil fuels. Renewable sources, such as solar, wind, biomass, and geothermal could supply all the energy we need. Conservation measures are reducing wasteful uses of energy, water, and soil. Air and water pollution have been reduced dramatically in many places.
Perhaps most encouraging, governments around the world have become aware of the costs of environmental degradation and are beginning to take steps to reduce their environmental impacts. As you’ll read in Chapter 1, China has announced ambitious plans to restore forests, conserve water, reduce air and water pollution, and to move toward sustainable energy supplies. They’ve even agreed to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, something they refused to consider when the Kyoto Protocol was signed a decade ago.
In the United States, there’s new attitude toward both science and the environment. Experienced scientists are being appointed to governmental posts previously given to political appointees. President Obama has announced plans to use sound, scientific practice and evidence to guide federal policy. He has taken many steps to safeguard our environment and its resources for future generations, and public support for these steps has been overwhelmingly enthusiastic. The economic recovery bill passed in the first weeks of the Obama administration contains at least $86 billion in grants and tax incentives to develop clean and sustainable energy sources and create millions of green jobs. And he promised to take positive steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the United States as well as to work with other governments to control climate change.
Businesses, too, now recognize the opportunities in conservation, recycling, producing nontoxic products, and reducing their ecological footprints. Many are hiring sustainability experts and beginning to recognize environmental impacts in their business accounting. Venture capitalists have increased their investments in “cleantech” (renewable energy, pollution reduction, etc.) from $270 million in 2003 to $4.1 billion in 2008.
This is a good time to study environmental science. Millions of new jobs are being created in environmental fields. Public opinion is shifting toward approval of environmental protection, because of its benefits for health and the economy, and organizations—many of them made up of young people using the tools of modern technology—are having an increasing voice in public policy. As an example, more than 12,000 people—most of them students— gathered in Washington, D.C. in March, 2009 to lobby for renewable energy and climate change control. In nearly every chapter of this book you’ll find lists of smaller, but important positive steps individuals can take to help sustain our common environment.
As the British ecologist Norman Meyers said, “The present has a unique position in history. Now, as never before, we have technical, political, and economic resources to solve our global environmental crisis. And if we don’t do it now, it may be too late for future generations to do so.”
We hope that you’ll find information and inspiration in this book to do something to help make the world a better place. Let’s get started!
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