Environmental Science: Problems, Connections and Solutions 12th Edition
Why Is It Important to Study Environmental Science?
Welcome to environmental science—an interdisciplinary study of how the earth works, how we interact with the earth, and how we can deal with the environmental problems we face. Environmental issues affect every part of your life. Thus, the concepts, information, and issues discussed in this book and the course you are taking should be useful to you now and throughout your life.
Understandably, we are biased. But we strongly believe that environmental science is the single most important course in your education. What could be more important than learning how the earth works, how we are affecting its life-support system, and how we can reduce our environmental impact? We live in an incredibly challenging era. There is growing awareness that during this century we need to make a new cultural transition in which we learn how to live more sustainably by not continuing to degrade our life-support system. We hope this book will stimulate you to become involved in this change in the way we view and treat the earth that sustains us, our economies, and all other living things.
Ways to Improve Your Study and Learning Skills
Maximizing your ability to learn should be one of your most important lifetime educational goals. It involves continually trying to improve your study and learning skills. Here are some suggestions for doing so:
Develop a passion for learning. According to renowned biologist E.O. Wilson, “The basic ingredient for a love of learning is the same as for romantic love, or love of country, or of God: passion for a particular subject.” Get organized. Becoming more efficient at studying gives you more time for other interests.
Make daily to-do lists in writing. Put items in order of importance, focus on the most important tasks, and assign a time to work on these items. Because life is full of uncertainties, you might be lucky to accomplish half of the items on your daily list. Shift your schedule as needed to accomplish the most important items.
Set up a study routine in a distraction-free environment. Develop a written daily study schedule and stick to it. Study in a quiet, well-lighted space. Work sitting at a desk or table—not lying down on a couch or bed. Take breaks every hour or so. During each break, take several deep breaths and move around to help you stay more alert and focused. Avoid procrastination—putting work off until another time. Do not fall behind on your reading and other assignments. Set aside a particular time for studying each day and make it a part of your daily routine.
Do not eat dessert first. Otherwise, you may never get to the main meal (studying). When you have accomplished your study goals, reward yourself with play (dessert). Make hills out of mountains. It is psychologically difficult to climb a mountain, which is what reading an entire book, reading a chapter in a book, writing a paper, or cramming to study for a test can feel like. Instead, break these large tasks (mountains) down into a series of small tasks (hills). Each day read a few pages of a book or chapter, write a few paragraphs of a paper, and review what you have studied and learned. As American automobile designer and builder Henry Ford put it, “Nothing is particularly hard if you divide it into small jobs.”
Look at the big picture first. Get an overview of an assigned reading in this book by looking at the Key Questions and Concepts box at the beginning of each chapter. It lists Key Questions explored in the chapter sections and the corresponding Key Concepts, which are the key lessons to be learned in the chapter. Use this as a chapter roadmap. When you finish a chapter you can also use it as a review. You will find the book’s key concepts, listed by chapter, in Supplement 19 on pp. S81–S84.
Ask and answer questions as you read. For example, what is the main point of a particular subsection or paragraph? Relate your own questions to the Key Questions and Key Concepts being addressed in each major chapter section. In this way, you can flesh out a chapter outline, to help you understand the chapter material. You may even want to do such an outline in writing.
Focus on key terms. Use the glossary in your textbook to look up the meaning of terms or words you do not understand. This book shows all key terms in boldface type and lesser, but still important, terms in italicized type. Flash cards for testing your mastery of key terms for each chapter are available on the website for this book, or you can make your own by putting a term on one side of an index card or piece of paper and its meaning on the other side.
Interact with what you read. We do this by marking key sentences and paragraphs with a highlighter or pen. We put an asterisk in the margin next to an idea we think is important and double asterisks next to an idea we think is especially important. We write comments in the margins, such as Beautiful, Confusing, Misleading, or Wrong. We fold down the top corners of pages with highlighted passages and the top and bottom corners of especially important pages. This way, we can flip through a chapter or book and quickly review the key ideas. Review to reinforce learning. Before each class, review the material you learned in the previous class and read the assigned material.
Become a better note taker. Do not try to take down everything your instructor says. Instead, write down main points and key facts using your own shorthand system. Review, fill in, and organize your notes as soon as possible after each class.
Write out answers to questions to focus and reinforce learning. Answer the critical thinking questions found in Thinking About boxes throughout chapters, in many figure captions, and at the end of each chapter. These questions are designed to have you think critically about key ideas and connect them to other ideas and your own lifestyle. Also, answer the review questions found at the end of each chapter. The website for each chapter also has a more detailed list of review questions. Writing out your answers to the critical thinking and review questions can reinforce your learning. Save your answers for review and preparation for tests. Use the buddy system. Study with a friend or become a member of a study group to compare notes, review material, and prepare for tests. Explaining something to someone else is a great way to focus your thoughts and reinforce your learning. Attend any review sessions offered by instructors or teaching assistants.
Learn your instructor’s test style. Does your instructor emphasize multiple-choice, fill-in-the-blank, true-orfalse, factual, thought, or essay questions? How much of the test will come from the textbook and how much from lecture material? Adapt your learning and studying methods to this style. You may disagree with this style and feel that it does not adequately reflect what you know. But the reality is that your instructor is incharge.
Become a better test taker. Avoid cramming. Eat well and get plenty of sleep before a test. Arrive on time or early. Calm yourself and increase your oxygen intake by taking several deep breaths. (Do this also about every 10–15 minutes while taking the test.) Look over the test and answer the questions you know well first.
Then work on the harder ones. Use the process of elimination to narrow down the choices for multiple-choice questions. Paring them down to two choices gives you a 50% chance of guessing the right answer. For essay questions, organize your thoughts before you start writing. If you have no idea what a question means, make an educated guess. You might get some partial credit and avoid getting a zero. Another strategy for getting some credit is to show your knowledge and reasoning by writing something like this: “If this question means so and so, then my answer is ________.”
Develop an optimistic but realistic outlook. Try to be a “glass is half-full” rather than a “glass is half-empty” person. Pessimism, fear, anxiety, and excessive worrying (especially over things you cannot control) are destructive and lead to inaction. Try to keep your energizing feelings of realistic optimism slightly ahead of any immobilizing feelings of pessimism. Then you will always be moving forward.
Take time to enjoy life. Every day, take time to laugh and enjoy nature, beauty, and friendship. Becoming an effective and efficient learner is the best way to do this without falling behind in your work and living under a cloud of guilt and anxiety.
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