Environmental Science and Technology: A Sustainable Approach to Green Science and Technology
Throughout the brief period that humankind has populated planet Earth, the species has faced challenges to its survival. Human ingenuity and science have been remarkably effective in meeting these. Diseases that once virtually wiped out entire populations have been conquered. Modern agriculture has enabled the support of a global population several times larger than would have been possible without it. Enough water has been coaxed from often-scarce sources to support large human populations in arid regions. The growth of human population has slowed to an extent that predictions of runaway population growth from just a few decades ago have proven to be unduly pessimistic.
However, despite its remarkable powers of adaptation, humankind is on a collision course with the carrying capacity of planet Earth, which, in the extreme, raises questions of human survival on Earth, at least with anything like the standard of living that we have come to expect. Peak production levels of petroleum, a resource upon which modern economic systems are based have now been reached and wrenching adjustments must occur as this resource dwindles to insignififi cant levels over the next several decades. During the last 50 years, a mere moment in the life span of human existence on Earth, atmospheric carbon dioxide levels have increased by 15%, well on their way to doubling from preindustrial levels during the next century. The potential effects of this greenhouse warming gas on global climate and all that implies for Earth’s carrying capacity, are many and profound. Many other examples can be cited of trends that must change if we are to continue to exist comfortably on Earth.
So, the enormous challenge facing humankind can be summarized in one word: sustainability. The defifi nition of sustainability is essentially self-evident; achieving it is a challenge of enormous proportions. In 1987 the World Commission on Environment and Development (the Bruntland Commission) defifi ned sustainable development as “industrial progress that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” The achievement of sustainable development is the central challenge facing the present generations and those that immediately follow. The need is urgent, and time is short.
Environmental pollution has long been recognized as a problem and measures have been taken to alleviate it. Dating somewhat arbitrarily to the 1960s, various laws and regulations have been implemented to deal with environmental pollution.
These have concentrated on a “command-and-control” approach mandating maximum amounts of pollutants that can be released to water, the atmosphere, and other parts of the environment. Measures taken to control pollution have largely been “end-of-pipe” measures that remove pollutants from exhaust gases or wastewater before they are released and that deal with solid wastes by burying them in a (hopefully) secure location.
In more recent times the limitations of “end-of-pipe” measures have become obvious and emphasis has shifted to pollution prevention. An even more sophisticated approach has been the evolution of green science, as exemplififi ed by the green chemistry movement and its engineering counterpart, green technology. Green science and green technology are designed to carry out science, engineering, manufacturing, and other areas of human endeavor in ways that are oriented toward minimal environmental and resource impact with the highest degree of sustainability. Although there are excellent basic books in the areas of green chemistry and green engineering, little is available at a very basic level in the general area of green science and technology. Environmental Science and Technology: A Sustainable Approach to Green Science and Technology, second edition, is designed to provide a general overview of green science and technology and their essential role in ensuring sustainability and sustainable development. The book is designed to be useful for individuals who need to know the principles of green science.
This book differs in a fundamental way from the other standard environmental science textbooks in that it recognizes a fifi fth distinct sphere of the environment, the anthrosphere, that has developed into a huge part of Earth’s environment made and operated by humans. In so doing, the book recognizes that humans simply will modify and manage Earth to their own perceived self-benefifi t. Therefore, we must recognize that reality and, to the best of our ability, manage Earth in a positive way, avoiding those measures that are unsustainable and certain to do environmental harm on a large scale, doing things in ways that minimize environmental impact, and even using anthrospheric activities to enhance the environment as a whole and to maintain sustainability. With the anthrosphere in mind as a major environmental sphere, the book is organized into six major sections as outlined below. Chapter 1 to Chapter 3 are written to provide the essential background for understanding green science and technology. Chapter 1, “Sustainability Through Green Science and Technology” is an introduction to green science and technology and how they relate to sustainability. It recognizes natural capital, consisting of Earth’s resources and its capacity to support life and human activities. Chapter 2, “The Five Environmental Spheres,” defifi nes and explains the four traditionally recognized environmental spheres — the hydrosphere, atmosphere, geosphere, and biosphere (water, air, earth, and life) — as do all common works on environmental science. Additionally, it recognizes the fifi fth environmental sphere, the anthrosphere, which is defifi ned above and has an enormous inflfl uence on the environment as a whole and that must be considered as an integral part of Earth’s environment. Chapter 3, “Green Chemistry, Biology, and Biochemistry,” is a brief overview of these disciplines that are essential to understanding green science and technology. These topics are covered at a fundamental level in recognition of the fact that many of the users will have minimal backgrounds in the sciences.
Chapter 4 to Chapter 6 deal with the hydrosphere. Chapter 4, “Water: A Unique Substance Essential for Life,” explains the special physical and chemical characteristics of water and bodies of water which determine its crucial role in the environment.
Chapter 5, “Aquatic Biology, Microbiology, and Chemistry,” discusses the chemical and biochemical processes that occur in water. Chapter 6, “Keeping Water Green,” covers the essential role of water in green science and technology and the preservation of this valuable resource.
The next three chapters cover the atmosphere and air. Chapter 7, “The Atmosphere: A Protective Blanket Around Us,” is a discussion of the properties of air and the atmosphere emphasizing the protective role of the atmosphere for life on Earth. Atmospheric chemical processes and their effects on air pollution are discussed in Chapter 8, “Environmental Chemistry of the Atmosphere.” Protection of the atmosphere as a green resource is discussed in Chapter 9, “Sustaining an Atmosphere Conducive to Life on Earth.”
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