Lecture notes Environmental science

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Introduction 1 When you have read this chapter you will have been introduced to: • a definition of the disciplines that comprise the environmental sciences • cycles of elements and environmental interactions • the difference between ecology and environmentalism • the history of environmental science • attitudes to the natural world and the way they change over time 1 What is environmental science? There was a time when, as an educated person, you would have been expected to converse confidently about any intellectual or cultural topic. You would have read the latest novel, been familiar with the work of the better-known poets, have had an opinion about the current state of art, musical composition and both musical and theatrical performance. Should the subject of the conversation have changed, you would have felt equally relaxed discussing philosophical ideas. These might well have included the results of recent scientific research, for until quite recently the word ‘philosophy’ was used to describe theories derived from the investigation of natural phenomena as well as those we associate with philosophy today. The word ‘science’ is simply an anglicized version of the Latin scientia, which means ‘knowledge’. In German, which borrowed much less from Latin, what we call ‘science’ is known as Wissenschaft, literally ‘knowledge’. ‘Science’ did not begin to be used in its restricted modern sense until the middle of the last century. As scientific discoveries accumulated it became increasingly difficult, and eventually impossible, for any one person to keep fully abreast of developments across the entire field. A point came when there was just too much information for a single brain to hold. Scientists themselves could no longer switch back and forth between disciplines as they used to do. They became specialists and during this century their specialisms have divided repeatedly. As a broadly educated person today, you may still have a general grasp of the basic principles of most of the specialisms, but not of the detail in which the research workers themselves are immersed. This is not your fault and you are not alone. Trapped inside their own specialisms, most research scientists find it difficult to communicate with those engaged in other research areas, even those bordering their own. No doubt you have heard the cliché defining a specialist as someone who knows more and more about less and less. We are in the middle of what journalists call an ‘information explosion’ and most of that information is being generated by scientists. Clearly, the situation is unsatisfactory and there is a need to draw the specialisms into groups that will provide overarching views of broad topics. It should be possible, for example, to fit the work of the molecular biologist, extracting, cloning, and sequencing DNA, into some context that would relate it to the work of the taxonomist, and the work of both to that of the biochemist. What these disciplines share is their subject matter. All of them deal with living or once-living organisms. They deal with life and so these, as well as a whole range of related specialisms, have come to be grouped together as the life sciences. Similarly, geophysics, geochemistry, geomorphology, hydrology, mineralogy, pedology, Introduction / 1oceanography, climatology, meteorology, and other disciplines are now grouped as the earth sciences, because all of them deal with the physical and chemical nature of the planet Earth. The third, and possibly broadest, of these groupings comprises the environmental sciences, sometimes known simply as ‘environmental science’. It embraces all those disciplines which are concerned with the physical, chemical, and biological surroundings in which organisms live. Obviously, environmental science draws heavily on aspects of the life and earth sciences, but there is some unavoidable overlap in all these groupings. Should palaeontology, for example, the study of past life, be regarded as a life science or, because its material is fossilized and derived from rocks, an earth science? It is both, but not necessarily at the same time. The palaeontologist may date a fossil and determine the conditions under which it was fossilized as an earth scientist, and as a life scientist reconstruct the organism as it appeared when it was alive and classify it. It is the direction of interest that defines the grouping. Any study of the Earth and the life it supports must deal with process and change. The earth and life sciences also deal with process and change, but environmental science is especially concerned with changes wrought by human activities, and their immediate and long-term implications for the welfare of living organisms, including humans. At this point, environmental science acquires political overtones and leads to controversy. If it suggests that a particular activity is harmful, then modification of that activity may require national legislation or an international treaty and, almost certainly, there will be an economic price that not everyone will have to pay or pay equally. We may all be environmental winners in the long term, but in the short term there will be financial losers and, not surprisingly, they will complain. Over the last thirty years or so we have grown anxious about the condition of the natural environment and increasingly determined to minimize avoidable damage to it. In most countries, including the United States and European Union, there is now a legal requirement for those who propose any major development project to calculate its environmental consequences, and the resulting environmental impact assessment is taken into account when deciding whether to permit work to proceed. Certain activities are forbidden on environmental grounds, by granting protection to particular areas, although such protection is rarely absolute. It follows that people engaged in the construction, extractive, manufacturing, power-generating or power-distributing, agricultural, forestry, or distributive industries are increasingly expected to predict and take responsibility for the environmental effects of their activities. They should have at least a general understanding of environmental science and its application. For this reason, many courses in planning and industrial management now include an environmental science component. This book provides an overview of the environmental sciences. As with all the broad scientific groupings, opinions differ as to which disciplines the term covers, but here the net is cast widely. All the topics it includes are generally accepted as environmental sciences. That said, the approach adopted in Basics of Environmental Science is not the only one feasible. In this rapidly developing field there is a variety of ideas about what should be included and emphasized and what constitutes an environmental scientist. This opening chapter provides a general introduction to environmental science, its history, and its relationship to environmental campaigning. It is here that an important point is made about the overall subject and the content of the book: environmental science and ‘environmentalism’ are not at all the same thing. Environmental science deals with the way the natural world functions; environmentalism with such modifications of human behaviour as reformers think appropriate in the light of scientific findings. Environmentalists, therefore, are concerned with more than just science. As its title implies, Basics of Environmental Science is concerned mainly with the science. 2 / Basics of Environmental ScienceThe introduction is followed by four chapters, each of which deals with an aspect of the fundamental earth and life sciences on which environmental science is based, in each case emphasizing the importance of process and change and, where appropriate, relating the scientific description of what happens to its environmental implications and the possible consequences of perturbations to the system. The fifth and final chapter deals with environmental management, covering such matters as wildlife conservation, pest control, and the control of pollution. You do not have to be a scientist to understand Basics of Environmental Science. Its language is simple, non-technical, and non-mathematical, but there are suggestions for further reading to guide those who wish to learn more. Nor do you have to read the book in order, from cover to cover. Dip into it in search of the information that interests you and you will find that each short block is quite self-contained. It is the grouping of a range of disciplines into a general topic, such as environmental science, which makes it possible to provide a broad, non-technical introduction. The grouping is natural, in that the subjects it encompasses can be related to one another and clearly belong together, but it does not resolve the difficulty of scientific specialization. Indeed, it cannot, for the great volume of specialized information that made the grouping desirable still exists. Except in a rather vague sense, you cannot become an ‘environmental scientist’, any more than you could become a ‘life scientist’ or an ‘earth scientist’. Such imprecise labels have very little meaning. Were you to pursue a career in the environmental sciences you might become an ecologist, perhaps, or a geomorphologist, or a palaeoclimatologist. As a specialist you would contribute to our understanding of the environment, but by adding detailed information derived from your highly specialized research. Environmental science exists most obviously as a body of knowledge in its own right when a team of specialists assembles to address a particular issue. The comprehensive study of an important estuary, for example, involves mapping the solid geology of the underlying rock, identifying the overlying sediment, measuring the flow and movement of water and the sediment it carries, tracing coastal currents and tidal flows, analysing the chemical composition of the water and monitoring changes in its distribution and temperature at different times and in different parts of the estuary, sampling and recording the species living in and adjacent to the estuary and 1 measuring their productivity. The task engages scientists from a wide range of disciplines, but their collaboration and final product identifies them all as ‘environmental scientists’, since their study supplies the factual basis against which future decisions can be made regarding the environmental desirability of industrial or other activities in or beside the estuary. Each is a specialist; together they are environmental scientists, and the bigger the scale of the issue they address the more disciplines that are likely to be involved. Studies of global climate change currently engage the attention of climatologists, palaeoclimatologists, glaciologists, atmospheric chemists, oceanographers, botanists, marine biologists, computer scientists, and many others, working in institutions all over the world. You cannot hope to master the concepts and techniques of all these disciplines. No one could, and to that extent the old definition of an ‘educated person’ has had to be revised. Allowing that in the modern world no one ignorant of scientific concepts can lay serious claim to be well educated, today we might take it to mean someone possessing a general understanding of the scientific concepts from which the opinions they express are logically derived. In environmental matters these are the concepts underlying the environmental sciences. Basics of Environmental Science will introduce you to those concepts. If, then, you decide to become an environmental scientist the book may help you choose what kind of environmental scientist to be. Introduction / 32 Environmental interactions, cycles, and systems Inquisitive children sometimes ask whether the air they breathe was once breathed by a dinosaur. It may have been. The oxygen that provides the energy to power your body has been used many times by many different organisms, and the carbon, hydrogen, and other elements from which your body is made have passed through many other bodies during the almost four billion years that life has existed on our planet. All the materials found at the surface of the Earth, from the deepest ocean trenches to the top of the atmosphere, are engaged in cycles that move them from place to place. Even the solid rock beneath your feet moves, as mountains erode, sedimentary rocks are subducted into the Earth’s mantle, and volcanic activity releases new igneous rock. There is nothing new or original in the idea of recycling The cycles proceed at widely differing rates and rates that vary from one part of the cycle to another. Cycling rates are usually measured as the time a molecule or particle remains in a particular part of the cycle. This is called its ‘residence time’ or ‘removal time’. On average, a dust or smoke particle in the lower atmosphere (the troposphere) remains airborne for a matter of a few weeks at most before rain washes it to the surface, and a water molecule remains in the air for around 9 or 10 days. Material reaching the upper atmosphere (the stratosphere) resides there for much longer, sometimes for several years, and water that drains from the surface into ground water may remain there for up to 400 years, depending on the location. Water that sinks to the bottom of the deep oceans eventually returns to the surface, but this takes very much longer than the removal of water molecules from the air. In the Pacific Ocean, for example, it takes 1000 to 1600 years for deep water to return to the surface and in the Atlantic and Indian Oceans it takes around 500 to 800 years (MARSHALL, 1979). This is relevant to concerns about the consequences of disposing industrial and low-level radioactive waste by sealing it in containers and dumping them in the deep oceans. Those monitoring the movement of materials through the environment often make use of labelling, different labels being appropriate for different circumstances. In water, chemically inert dyes are often used. Certain chemicals will bond to particular substances. When samples are recovered, analysis reveals the presence or absence of the chemical label. Radioisotopes are also used. These consist of atoms chemically identical to all other atoms of the same element, but with a different mass, because of a difference in the number of neutrons in the atomic nucleus. Neutrons carry no charge and so take no part in chemical reactions, the chemical characteristics of an element being determined by the number of protons, with a positive charge, in its atomic nucleus. You can work out the atmospheric residence time of solid particles by releasing particles labelled chemically or with radioisotopes and counting the time it takes for them to be washed back to the ground, although the resulting values are very approximate. Factory smoke belching forth on a rainy day may reach the ground within an hour or even less; the exhaust gases from an aircraft flying at high altitude will take much longer, because they are further from the ground to start with and in much drier air. It is worth remarking, however, that most of the gases and particles which pollute the air and can be harmful to health have very short atmospheric residence times. Sulphur dioxide, for example, which is corrosive and contributes to acid rain, is unlikely to remain in the air for longer than one month and may be washed to the surface within one minute of being released. The atmospheric residence time for water molecules is calculated from the rate at which surface water evaporates and returns as precipitation. The deep oceans are much less accessible than the atmosphere, but water carries a natural label in 14 the form of carbon-14( C). This forms in the atmosphere through the bombardment of nitrogen 4 / Basics of Environmental Science14 12 ( N) by cosmic radiation, but it is unstable and decays to the commoner C at a steady rate. While 12 14 water is exposed to the air, both C and C dissolve into it, but once isolated from the air the 14 12 14 decay of C means that the ratio of the two changes, C increasing at the expense of C. It is 14 12 14 assumed that C forms in the air at a constant rate, so the ratio of C to C is always the same and certain assumptions are made about the rate at which atmospheric carbon dioxide dissolves into sea water and the rate at which water rising from the depths mixes with surface water. Whether or 14 not the initial assumptions are true, the older water is the less C it will contain, and if the 14 assumptions are true the age of the water can be calculated from its C content in much the same 14 way as organic materials are C-dated. Carbon, oxygen, and sulphur are among the elements living organisms use and they are being cycled constantly through air, water, and living cells. The other elements required as nutrients are also engaged in similar biogeochemical cycles. Taken together, all these cycles can be regarded as components of a very complex system functioning on a global scale. Used in this sense, the concept of a ‘system’ is derived from information theory and describes a set of components which interact to form a coherent, and often self-regulating, whole. Your body can be considered as a system in which each organ performs a particular function and the operation of all the organs is coordinated so that you exist as an individual who is more than the sum of the organs from which your body is made. Biochemical cycles The surface of the Earth can be considered as four distinct regions and because the planet is spherical each of them is also a sphere. The rocks forming the solid surface comprise the lithosphere, the oceans, lakes, rivers, and icecaps form the hydrosphere, the air constitutes the atmosphere, and the biosphere contains the entire community of living organisms. Materials move cyclically among these spheres. They originate in the rocks (lithosphere) and are released by weathering or by volcanism. They enter water (hydrosphere) from where those serving as nutrients are taken up by plants and from there enter animals and other organisms (biosphere). From living organisms they may enter the air (atmosphere) or water (hydrosphere). Eventually they enter the oceans (hydrosphere), where they are taken up by marine organisms (biosphere). These return them to the air (atmosphere), from where they are washed to the ground by rain, thus returning to the land. The idea that biogeochemical cycles are components of an overall system raises an obvious question: what drives this system? It used to be thought that the global system is purely mechanical, driven by physical forces, and, indeed, this is the way it can seem. Volcanoes, from which atmospheric gases and igneous rocks erupt, are purely physical phenomena. The movement of crustal plates, weathering of rocks, condensation of water vapour in cooling air to form clouds leading to precipitation—all these can be explained in purely physical terms and they carry with them the substances needed to sustain life. Organisms simply grab what they need as it passes, modifying their requirements and strategies for satisfying them as best they can when conditions change. Introduction / 5Yet this picture is not entirely satisfactory. Consider, for example, the way limestone and chalk rocks form. Carbon dioxide dissolves into raindrops, so rain is very weakly acid. As the rain water washes across rocks it reacts with calcium and silicon in them to form silicic acid and calcium bicarbonate, as separate calcium and bicarbonate ions. These are carried to the sea, where they react to form calcium carbonate, which is insoluble and slowly settles to the sea bed as a sediment that, in time, may be compressed until it becomes the carbonate rock we call limestone. It is an entirely inanimate process. Or is it? If you examine limestone closely you will see it contains vast numbers of shells, many of them minute and, of course, often crushed and deformed. These are of biological origin. Marine organisms ‘capture’ dissolved calcium and bicarbonate to ‘manufacture’ shells of calcium carbonate. When they die the soft parts of their bodies decompose, but their insoluble shells sink to the sea bed. This appears to be the principal mechanism in the formation of carbonate rocks and it has occurred on a truly vast scale, for limestones and chalks are among the commonest of all sedimentary rocks. The famous White Cliffs of Dover are made from the shells of once-living marine organisms, now crushed, most of them beyond individual recognition. Here, then, is one major cycle in which the biological phase is of such importance that we may well conclude that the cycle is biologically driven, and its role extends further than the production of rock. The conversion of soluble bicarbonate into insoluble calcium carbonate removes carbon, as carbon dioxide, from the atmosphere and isolates it. Eventually crustal movements may return the rock to the surface, from where weathering returns it to the sea, but its carbon is in a chemically stable form. Other sedimentary rock on the ocean floor is subducted into the mantle. From there its carbon is returned to the air, being released volcanically, but the cycle must be measured in many millions of years. For all practical purposes, most of the carbon is stored fairly permanently. As the newspapers constantly remind us, carbon dioxide is a ‘greenhouse gas’, one of a number of gases present in the atmosphere that are transparent to incoming, short-wave solar radiation, but partially opaque to long-wave radiation emitted from the Earth’s surface when the Sun has warmed it. These gases trap outgoing heat and so maintain a temperature at the surface markedly higher than it would be were they absent. Since the Earth formed, some 4.6 billion years ago, the Sun has grown hotter by an estimated 25 to 30 per cent, and the removal of carbon dioxide from the air, to a significant extent as a result of biological activity, has helped prevent surface temperatures rising to intolerable levels. Gaia A hypothesis, proposed principally by James Lovelock, that all the Earth’s biogeochemical cycles are biologically driven and that on any planet which supports life conditions favourable to life are maintained biologically. Lovelock came to this conclusion as a result of his participation in the preparations for the explorations of the Moon and Mars. One object of the Mars programme was to seek signs of life on the planet. Martian organisms, should they exist, might well be so different from organisms on Earth as to make them difficult to recognize as being alive at all. Lovelock reasoned that the one trait all living organisms share is their modification of the environment. This occurs when they take materials from the environment to provide them with energy and structural materials, and discharge their wastes into the environment. He argued that it should be possible to detect the presence of life by an environment, especially an atmosphere, that was far from chemical equilibrium. Earth has such an atmosphere, with anomalously 6 / Basics of Environmental Sciencelarge amounts of nitrogen and oxygen, as well as methane, which cannot survive for long in the presence of oxygen. It then occurred to him that the environmental modifications made and sustained by living organisms actually produced and maintained chemical and physical conditions optimum for those organisms themselves. In other words, the organisms produce an environment which suits them and then ‘manage’ the planet in ways that maintain those conditions. Does this suggest that our climate is moderated, or even controlled, by biological manipulation? Certainly this is the view of James Lovelock, whose Gaia hypothesis takes the idea much further, suggesting that the Earth may be regarded as, or perhaps really is, a single living organism. It was this idea of a ‘living planet’ that he came to call ‘Gaia’ (LOVELOCK, 1979). His hypothesis has aroused considerable interest, but Gaia remains controversial and there are serious objections to it. Expressed in its most extreme form, which is that almost all surface processes are biologically driven, it appears circular, with an explanation for everything, as when the existence of Gaia is introduced to explain the hospitable environment and the hospitable environment proves the existence of Gaia (JOSEPH, 1990). On the other hand, the more moderate version, which emphasizes the biological component of biogeochemical cycles more strongly than most traditional accounts, commands respect and promises to be useful in interpreting environmental phenomena, although not all scientists would associate this with the name ‘Gaia’ (WESTBROEK, 1992). It has been found, for example, that the growth of marine plankton can be stimulated by augmenting the supply of iron, an essential and, for them, limiting nutrient, with implications for the rate at which carbon dioxide is transferred from the atmosphere to the oceans and, therefore, for possible climate change (DE BAAR ET AL., 1995). Authorities differ in the importance they allot to the role of the biota (the total of all living organisms in the world or some defined part of it) in driving the biogeochemical cycles, but all agree that it is great, and it is self-evident that the constituents of the biota shape their environment to a considerable extent. Grasslands are maintained by grazing herbivores, which destroy seedlings by eating or trampling them, so preventing the establishment of trees, and over-grazing can reduce semi-arid land to desert. The presence of gaseous oxygen in the atmosphere is believed to result from photosynthesis. We alter the environment by the mere fact of our existence. By eating, excreting, and breathing we interact chemically with our surroundings and thereby change them. We take and use materials, moving them from place to place and altering their form. Thus we subtly modify environmental conditions in ways that favour some species above others. In our concern that our environmental modifications are now proceeding on such a scale as to be unduly harmful to other species and possibly ourselves, we should not forget that in this respect we differ from other species only in degree. All living things alter their surroundings, through their participation in the cycles that together comprise the system which is the dynamic Earth. 3 Ecology and environmentalism Our concern over the condition of the natural environment has led to the introduction of a new concept, of ‘environmental quality’, which can be measured against defined parameters. To give one example, if the air contains more than 0.1 parts per million (ppm) of nitrogen dioxide (NO ) or sulphur dioxide 2 Introduction / 7(SO ) persons with respiratory complaints may experience breathing difficulties, and if it contains 2 more than about 2.5 ppm of NO or 5.0 ppm of SO healthy persons may also be affected (KUPCHELLA 2 2 AND HYLAND, 1986). These are quantities that can be monitored, and there are many more. It is also possible, though much more difficult, to determine the quality of a natural habitat in terms of the species it supports and to measure any deterioration as the loss of species. These are matters that can be evaluated scientifically, in so far as they can be measured, but not everything can be measured so easily. We know, for example, that in many parts of the tropics primary forests are being cleared, but although satellites monitor the affected areas it is difficult to form accurate estimates of the rate at which clearance is proceeding, mainly because different people classify forests in different ways and draw different boundaries to them. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has pointed out that between 1923 and 1985 there were at least 23 separate estimates of the total area of closed forest in the world, ranging from 23.9 to 60.5 million 2 km . The estimate UNEP prefers suggests that in pre-agricultural times there was a total of 12.77 2 million km of tropical closed forest and that by 1970 this had been reduced by 0.48 per cent, to 2 12.29 million km , and that the total area of forests of all kinds declined by 7.01 per cent, from 46.28 2 to 39.27 million km , over the same period (TOLBA ET AL., 1992). Edward O.Wilson, on the other hand, has written that in 1989 the total area of rain forests was decreasing by 1.8 per cent a year (WILSON, 1992). (A rain forest is one in which the annual rainfall exceeds 2540 mm; most occur in the tropics, but there are also temperate rain forests.) Similar differences occur in estimates of the extent of land degradation through erosion and the spread of deserts (called ‘desertification’). Before we can devise appropriate responses to these examples of environmental deterioration we have to find some way of reconciling the varying estimates of their extent. After all, it is impossible to address a problem unless we can agree on its extent. Even when quantities can be measured with reasonable precision controversy may attend interpretations of the measurements. We can know the concentration of each substance present in air, water, soil, or food in a particular place at a particular time. If certain of those substances are not ordinarily present and could be harmful to living organisms we can call them ‘pollutants’, and if they have been introduced as a consequence of human activities, rather than as a result of a natural process such as volcanism, we can seek to prevent further introduction of them in the future. This may seem simple enough, but remember that someone has to pay for the measurement: workers need wages, and equipment and materials must be bought. Reducing pollution is usually inconvenient and costly, so before taking action, again we need to determine the seriousness of the problem. The mere presence of a pollutant does not imply harm, even when the pollutant is known to be toxic. Injury will occur only if susceptible organisms are exposed to more than a threshold dose, and where large numbers of very different species of plants, animals, and microorganisms are present this threshold is not easily calculated. Nor is it easy to calculate thresholds for human exposure, because only large populations can be used for the epidemiological studies that will demonstrate effects, and small changes cannot always be separated statistically from natural fluctuations. (Epidemiology is the study of the incidence, distribution, and control of illness in a human population.) It has been estimated that over several decades the 1986 accident at the Chernobyl nuclear reactor may lead to a 0.03 per cent increase in radiation-induced cancer deaths in the former Soviet Union and a 0.01 per cent increase in the world as a whole, increases that will not be detectable against the natural variations in the incidence of cancer from year to year (ALLABY, 1995). Where there is doubt, prudence may suggest we set thresholds very low, and in practice this is what happens. With certain pesticide residues in food, for example, the EU operates a standard of ‘surrogate zero’ by setting limits lower than the minimum quantity that can be detected. 8 / Basics of Environmental ScienceWhere the statistical evaluation of risk is unavoidably imprecise yet remedial action seems intuitively desirable, decisions cannot be based solely on scientific evidence and are bound to be more or less controversial. Since decisions of any kind are necessarily political, and will be argued this way and that, people will take sides and issues will tend to become polarized. At this point, environmental science gives way to environmental campaigning, or environmentalism, and political campaigns are managed by those activists best able to publicize their opinion. In their efforts to attract public attention and support, spokespersons are likely to be drawn into oversimplifying complex, technical issues which, indeed, they may not fully understand, and to exaggerate hazards for the sake of dramatic effect. Environmental science has a long history and concern with the condition of the environment has been expressed at intervals over many centuries, but the modern environmental movement emerged during the 1960s, first in the United States and Britain. The publication of Silent Spring in 1962 in the United States and 1963 in Britain provided a powerful stimulus to popular environmental concern and may have marked the origin of the modern movement. This was the book in which Rachel Carson mounted a strong attack on the way agricultural insecticides were being used in North America. The dire consequences of which she warned were essentially ecological: she maintained that the indiscriminate poisoning of insects by non-selective compounds was capable of disrupting food chains, the sequences of animals feeding on one another as, for example, insects ? blackbirds ? sparrowhawks. The ‘silent spring’ of her title referred to the absence of birds, killed by poisons accumulated through feeding on poisoned insects, but the ‘fable’ with which the book begins also describes the deaths of farm livestock and humans. The catastrophe was ecological and so the word ‘ecology’ acquired a political connotation. A magazine devoted to environmental campaigning, founded in 1970, was (and still is) called The Ecologist. Ecology is a scientific discipline devoted to the study of relationships among members of living communities and between those communities and their abiotic environment. Intrinsically it has little to do with campaigning for the preservation of environmental quality, although individual ecologists often contribute their professional expertise to such campaigns and, of course, their services are sought whenever the environmental consequences of a proposed change in land use are assessed. To some non-scientists, however, ‘ecology’ suggests a kind of stability, a so-called ‘balance of nature’ that may have existed in the past but that we have perturbed. This essentially metaphysical concept is often manifested as an advocacy for ways of life that are held to be more harmonious or, in the sense in which the word is now being used, ‘ecological’. The idea is clearly romantic and supported by a somewhat selective view of history, but it has proved powerfully attractive. In her very detailed study of it Meredith Veldman, a historian at Louisiana State University, locates the development of environmentalism in Britain firmly in a long tradition of romantic protest that also includes the fiction of J.R.R.Tolkien and the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (VELDMANN, 1994). ‘Ecology’, then, is at one and the same time a scientific discipline and a political, at times almost religious, philosophy which inspires a popular movement and ‘green’ political parties in many countries. As a philosophy, it no longer demands piecemeal reform to achieve environmental amelioration, but calls for the radical restructuring of society and its economic base. The two meanings attached to the word are now quite distinct and it is important not to confuse them. When people say a particular activity or way of life is ‘ecologically sound’ they are making a political statement, not a scientific one, even though they may be correct in supposing the behaviour they approve to have less adverse effect on human health or the welfare of other species than its alternatives. ‘Ecologically sound’ implies a moral judgement that has no place in scientific argument; to a scientist the phrase is meaningless. Introduction / 9This is not to denigrate those who use the word ‘ecology’ in one sense or the other, simply to point out that the meanings are distinct and our attitudes to the environment are shaped by historical, social, and economic forces. They are not derived wholly from a scientific description of the environment or understanding of how it works. The nuclear power industry, for example, is opposed on ecological grounds, but there is no evidence that it has ever caused the slightest injury to non- humans, apart from vegetation around the Chernobyl complex following the accident there, and its adverse effects on human health are extremely small, especially when compared with those resulting from other methods of power generation; indeed, it is extremely unlikely that the correct routine 2 operation of a nuclear power plant has any harmful effect at all, on humans or non-humans. The anti-nuclear wing of the environmental movement is highly influential and has done much to erode public confidence in the industry, but whether this is environmentally beneficial is open to debate, to say the least. In contrast, on those occasions when scientists and campaigners collaborate, say in devising (scientifically) the best way to manage an area in order to maximize its value as natural habitat then campaigning (politically) to have the area protected from inappropriate development, they can achieve their useful and practicable goal. While it is certainly true that some ecological (i.e. environmentalist) campaigns owe little to ecology (the science), others, though not necessarily the most populist, are scientifically well informed. It is also true that if we confine our interest to the acquisition of an abstract understanding of the way the world is, that understanding will be of limited practical value. If damage to the environment is to be avoided or past damage remedied, scientific understanding must be applied and this is possible only through political processes. This book will introduce you to the environmental sciences, of which ecology is one and, therefore, the word ‘ecology’ will henceforth be used only in its scientific sense. When issues of concern to environmentalists are discussed, as obviously they must be, they will be evaluated scientifically rather than politically. If your knowledge of environmental matters until now has been derived principally from campaigning literature, you may find the scientific accounts describe a world that is far more complex than you may have supposed and about which rather less is known than the campaigners sometimes imply. You should not be disheartened, for that is the way it is, and much remains to be discovered—perhaps one day, by you. 4 History of environmental science By the time their civilization reached its peak in the Fifth Dynasty (after about 2480 BC) the ancient Egyptians seem to have become happy people. According to accounts described by the late Joseph Campbell (CAMPBELL, 1962), a leading authority on the ways people have seen themselves and the world around them, they had a joyful, outward-looking view of the world around them. True, they were somewhat preoccupied with the after-life, but that was seen pretty much as a continuation of their present lives and was celebrated in some of the most beautiful art and magnificent architecture the world has ever seen. Their pharaoh was described as ‘good’ rather than ‘great’ and the land he ruled was paradise, mythologically and to some extent literally. Life was very predictable and secure. Each year, the appearance of Sirius, the star of Isis, on the horizon at dawn heralded the flooding of the Nile. The reliable flood brought water and silt to enrich the cultivated land and guarantee the bountiful harvest that would follow. No doubt the work was hard, as it always is, but there was ample time for festivals and celebrations. The Egyptians did not develop what we would recognize as science. Their view of the world was mythological and magical. Nevertheless, they did have a view of the world and a practical knowledge of those aspects of it that mattered to them. They knew much about agriculture, plants and animals, 10 / Basics of Environmental Sciencewater and how to use it effectively, they knew how to make bricks and were expert in the use of stone. People have always constructed mental frameworks to describe and explain the world around them. Not all were as positive as that of the Egyptians, but humans have an inherent need to understand, to make sense of their surroundings and locate themselves in them. If we are to understand the world about us we must discover an order underlying phenomena or, failing that, impose one. Only then can we categorize things and so bring coherence to what would otherwise be chaotic. Most early attempts at classification were based on a mythological world-view. The anthropologist Mary Douglas has suggested, for example, that the biblical distinction between ‘clean’ and ‘unclean’ animals arose because Hebrew priests believed that sheep and goats, both ruminant animals with cloven hoofs, fitted into what they supposed to be the divine scheme, but pigs did not, because they have cloven hoofs but are not ruminants (BOWLER, 1992, pp. 11–12). Science, in those days called ‘philosophy’ (‘love of wisdom’), began with Thales (c. 640–546 BC) , who lived in the Greek trading town of Miletus on the Aegean coast of what is now Turkey. He and his followers became known as the Ionian or Milesian school and the radical idea they introduced was that phenomena could be discussed rationally. That is to say, they suggested the mythical accounts of creation could be tested and rational explanations proposed for the order underlying the constant change we see everywhere. It is this critical attitude, allowing all ideas to be challenged by rational argument based on evidence and weaker theories to be replaced by stronger ones, which distinguishes science from non-science and pseudoscience. It originated only once; other civilizations developed considerable technological skills, but it was only among the Greeks living on the shores of Asia Minor that the modern concept of a ‘scientific approach’ emerged. All our science is descended from that beginning, and it began with environmental science. The Greek development reached its peak with the Academy, founded by Plato (429–347 BC), a student of Socrates, and the Lyceum, founded by Plato’s disciple Aristotle (384–322 BC). Aristotle wrote extensively on natural history. His studies of more than 500 species of animals included accurate descriptions, clearly based on personal observation, that were not confirmed until many centuries later. He recorded, for example, the reproduction of dogfish and the mating of squid and octopus. He also wrote about the weather in a book called Meteorologica (‘discourse on atmospheric phenomena’), from which we derive our word ‘meteorology’. Roman thinkers continued the Greek tradition, Pliny the Elder (c. AD 23–79) being the best-known Roman naturalist. His Natural History, covering what are now recognized as botany, zoology, agriculture, geography, geology, and a range of other topics, was based on fact, although he mingled records of his own observations with myths and fantastic travellers’ tales. Muslim scholars translated the Greek and Latin texts into Arabic, but it was not until the thirteenth century that they became generally available in Europe, as Latin translations from the Arabic. Throughout this long history the central purpose of the enterprise has survived. There have been digressions, confusions, theories that led into blind alleys, but always the principal aim has been to replace mythical explanations with rational ones. Since myth is very often enshrined in religious texts, it may seem that the scientific agenda is essentially atheistic. Indeed, it has been so at times and in respect of some religions, and to this day scientists are often accused of atheism, but most modern thinkers regard the conflict as much more apparent than real. The writings of the Arabian physician Avicenna (979–1037) and philosopher Averroës (1126–98) kept classical ideas current in the Muslim world, where they were accommodated quite comfortably by Islam, and St Thomas Aquinas (c. 1224–74) used the natural order revealed by Aristotle as a proof of the existence of God, thus permitting science and religion to coexist in Christendom. Introduction / 11This is not to say that the dividing line between mythical and rational explanations was always clearly drawn, nor to deny that interpretations which undermined traditional beliefs sometimes generated fierce arguments. Scientists were often engaged in attempts to reconcile the two views and, then as now, scientific ideas could be attacked on essentially political grounds. In the years following the French Revolution, for example, conservatives in Britain used scriptural authority to justify the preservation of the social order. This led scientists supporting them to adapt the Neptunian theory of Abraham Gottlob Werner (1749–1817) so that it appeared to substantiate the story of Noah’s flood. Werner proposed that the Earth was once covered entirely by an ocean, from which some rocks had crystallized and beneath which others had been deposited as sediment, the rocks being exposed through the gradual and continuing retreat of the waters. This obsession with the biblical flood continues in some English-speaking countries to the present day, from time to time with ‘discoveries’ of the remains of the Ark, although scientists elsewhere in Europe had ceased to take it seriously by the eighteenth century (BOWLER, 1992, pp. 129–130). Much of the history of the environmental sciences revolves about the reconstruction of the history of the planet since it first formed. To a considerable extent, this reconstruction was based on interpretations of fossils, which were by no means always seen as the obvious remains of once- 3 living organisms. Even when it became possible to use the fossils entrapped within them to arrange rock strata in a chronological sequence controversy continued over the assignment of dates to those strata, the mechanisms by which the rocks had assumed their present forms and distribution, and over the total age of the Earth itself. It was in his effort to solve this puzzle that in 1650 James Ussher (1581–1656), an Irish scholar and archbishop of Armagh, constructed what may have been the first theoretical model. Basing his chronology on the Old Testament, he concluded the Earth had been created in 4004 BC If the development of environmental science seems to have been dominated by the study of rocks and fossils, it is perhaps because elucidating the history of the planet was a necessary first step toward an understanding of its present condition and, in any case, the classification and distribution of plants and animals played a major role in it. The theory of evolution by natural selection was derived from Earth history, and Charles Darwin (1809–82) began his career as a geologist. A unifying theme was supplied by Alexander von Humboldt (1769–1859). Mining engineer, geologist, geophysicist, meteorologist, and geographer, Humboldt spent the years from 1799 to 1804 exploring in tropical South America with his friend, the botanist Aimé Bonpland (1773–1858). His subsequent accounts greatly advanced knowledge of plant geography and his five-volume Kosmos, completed after his death, sought to demonstrate how physical, biological, and human activities combined to regulate the environment (BOWLER, 1992, pp. 204–211). This helped establish biogeography as a scientific discipline and applied a range of disciplines to the study of environments. Humboldt is also credited with having shifted science generally from its rather abstract preoc-cupations in the eighteenth century to its much greater reliance on observation and experiment characteristic of the nineteenth and twentieth. Biogeography also fed back into the earth sciences. Plotting the distribution of present and extinct plants and animals played a major part in the development of the theory of continental drift by the German climatologist Alfred Wegener (1880–1930), who sought to explain the apparent fit between the coasts of widely separated continents, such as the west coast of Africa and east coast of South America, by postulating that the continents were once joined and have since drifted apart. He published this in 1915 as Die Entstehung der Kontinente und Ozeane (it did not appear in English until 1924, as The Origin of Continents and Oceans), which led in turn to the theory of sea-floor spreading, proposing that continental drift is driven by the expansion and contraction of the crust beneath the ocean floor, and then, in the 1960s and 1970s, to the unifying concept of plate tectonics. 12 / Basics of Environmental ScienceEcology grew partly out of theories of evolution that were being discussed during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Darwinism is an ecological theory, after all, but this line of development branched, the other strand leading into German Romanticism. This was a very influential intellectual movement based on the idea that individual freedom and self-expression would bring people into close touch with a sublime reality surrounding us all and of which we long to become part. The discipline of ecology also originated in a quite different concept, that of the ‘economy of nature’. This led to an idyllic view of nature as the harmonious product of all the countless interactions among living organisms and well able to supply human needs. Indeed, the view had strong links to natural theology, according to which God had so endowed all plants and animals with needs and the means to satisfy them as to guarantee that harmony among them would be preserved. This is the origin of the idea of a ‘balance of nature’ and, sentimental though it sounds, it taught that the interactions among organisms relate them in complex ways, and by early in the eighteenth century, long before the word ‘ecology’ was coined (by Ernst Haeckel (1834–1919) in 1866), it had generated some ideas with a startlingly modern ring. The writer Richard Bradley (1688–1732), for example, noted that insect species tend to specialize in the plants on which they feed and he advised farmers not to kill birds in their fields, because the birds feed on insects that would otherwise damage crops. Environmental science ranges so widely that much of the history of science is relevant to its own development. Even such apparently unrelated discoveries as the gas laws relate very directly to meteorology, climatology and, through them, to weather forecasting and considerations of possible climate change. Today, many disciplines contribute to environmental science and its practi-tioners are equipped with instruments and techniques that enable them to begin compiling an overall, coherent picture of the way the world functions. The picture remains far from complete, however, and we must be patient while we wait to discover whether some of what are popularly perceived as environmental problems are really so and, if they are, how best to address them. 5 Changing attitudes to the natural world When Julius Caesar (100–44 BC) became emperor of Rome, in 47 BC, traffic congestion was one of the pressing domestic problems he faced. He solved it by banning wheeled traffic from the centre of Rome during daytime, with the predictable result that Romans were kept awake at night by the incessant rumbling of iron-shod wheels over cobblestones. Nevertheless, Claudius (10 BC-AD 54, reigned from 41) later extended the law to all the important towns of Italy, Marcus Aurelius (AD 121–80, reigned from 161) made it apply to every town in the empire, and Hadrian (AD 76–138, reigned from 117) tightened it by restricting the number of vehicles allowed to enter Rome even at night (MUMFORD, 1961). The problem then, as now, was that a high population density generates a high volume of traffic and no one considered the possibility of designing towns with lower population and housing densities, as an alternative to building more and bigger roads. If environmental science has a long history, so do the environmental problems that concern us today. We tend to imagine that urban air pollution is a recent phenomenon, dating mainly from the period of rapid industrialization in Europe and North America that began in the late eighteenth century. Yet in 1306 a London manufacturer was tried and executed for disobeying a law forbidding the burning of coal in the city, and the first legislation aimed at reducing air pollution by curbing smoke emissions was enacted by Edward I in 1273. The early efforts were not particularly successful and they dealt only with smoke from the high-sulphur coal Londoners were importing by ship from north-east England and which was, therefore, known as ‘sea coal’. A wide variety of industries contributed to the smells and dust and poured their effluents into the nearest river. The first attempts to reduce Introduction / 13pollution of the Thames date from the reign of Richard II (1367–1400, reigned from 1377). It was because of the smoke, however, that Elizabeth I refused to enter the city in 1578, and by 1700 the pollution was causing serious damage by killing vegetation, corrod-ing buildings, and ruining clothes and soft furnishings in every town of any size (THOMAS, 1983). Indeed, the pall of smoke hanging over them was often the first indication approaching travellers had of towns. Filthy it may have been, but ‘sea coal’ was convenient. It was a substitute for charcoal rather than wood, because of the high temperature at which it burned, and it was probably easier to obtain. If its use were to be curtailed, either manufacturing would suffer, with a consequent reduction in employment and prosperity, or charcoal would be used instead, in which case pollution might have been little reduced overall. Environmental protection always involves compromise between conflicting needs. Much of the primary forest that once covered most of lowland Britain, which Oliver Rackham, possibly the leading authority on the history of British woodland, has called the ‘wildwood’, had been cleared by the time of the Norman invasion, in 1066, mainly to provide land on which to grow crops. It did not disappear, as some have suggested, to provide fuel for eighteenth- century iron foundries, or to supply timber to build ships. Paradoxically, the iron foundries probably increased the area of woodland, by relying for fuel on managed coppice from sources close at hand, and reports of a shortage of timber for shipbuilding had less to do with a lack of suitable trees than with the low prices the British Admiralty was prepared to pay (ALLABY, 1986, p. 110). As early as the seventh century there were laws restricting the felling of trees and in royal forests a fence was erected around the stump of a felled tree to allow regeneration (ALLABY, 1986, p. 198). By the thirteenth century there were laws forbidding the felling of trees, clearing of woodland, and even the taking of dead wood, although they were seldom enforced, except as a means to raise revenue by fining an offender the value of the trees felled (RACKHAM, 1976). For most of history, however, the conflict between farms and forests was resolved in favour of farms, although in England there is a possibility of confusion over the use of the word ‘forest’. Today, the word describes an extensive tract of land covered with trees growing closely together, sometimes intermingled with smaller areas of pasture. Under Norman law, however, it had a different meaning, derived from the Latin foris, meaning ‘outdoors’, and applied to land beyond the boundaries of the enclosed farmland or parklands and set aside for hunting. Much of this ‘forest’ belonged to the sovereign. Special laws applied to it and were administered by officers appointed for the purpose. It might or might not be tree-covered. Forests were regarded as dark, forbidding places, the abode of dangerous wild animals and brig- 4 ands. When Elizabethan writers used the word ‘wilderness’ they meant unmanaged forest, and in North America the earliest European settlers contrasted the vast forests they saw unfavourably with the cultivated fields they hoped to establish. Until modern times, famine was a real possibility and the neater the fields, the fewer the weeds in them, and the healthier the crops, the more reassuring the countryside appeared. Mountains, upland moors, and wetlands were wastelands that could not be cultivated and they were no less alarming. In 1808, Arthur Young (1741–1820), an agricultural writer appointed secre- tary to the Board of Agriculture established by Prime Minister, William Pitt, in 1793, submitted a report on the enclosure of ‘waste’ land, arguing strongly in favour of their improvement by cultivation (YOUNG, 1808). What we would understand today as the conservation of forest habitats and wildlife began quite early in the tropics, where it was a curious by-product of colonial expansion. This led government 14 / Basics of Environmental Scienceagencies and private companies to employ scientists or, in the case of the British East India Company, surgeons, many of whom had time to spare and wide scientific interests. One of the earliest conservation experiments was begun in Mauritius in the middle of the eighteenth century by French reformers seeking to prevent further deforestation as part of their efforts to build a just society. Interestingly, they had perceived a relationship between deforestation and local climate change. In the British territories, scientists also noted this relationship. Forest reserves were established in Tobago in 1764 and St Vincent in 1791, and a law passed in French Mauritius in 1769 was designed to protect or restore forests, especially on hill slopes and near to open water. Plans for the planting and management of Indian forests began in 1847 (GROVE, 1992), the foresters being known as ‘conservators’, a title still used in Britain by the Forestry Commission. At about the same time, Americans were also becoming aware of the need for conservation. George Perkins Marsh (1801–82), US ambassador to Italy from 1862 until his death, wrote Man and Nature while in Italy. Published in 1864, this book led to the establishment of forest reserves in the United States and other countries, but it also challenged the then accepted relationship between humans and 5 the natural environment. In 1892, Warren Olney, John Muir, and William Keith founded the Sierra Club (www.sierraclub.org/index_right.htm), and the National Audubon Society (www.audubon.org/ 6 ), named after John James Audubon (1785–1851), the renowned wildlife painter and conservationist, was founded shortly afterwards. While ‘wilderness’ has always implied hostility (and nowadays the word is often applied to certain urban areas), to these early conservationists it also had another, quite different meaning. To them, and those who thought like them, the word suggested purity, freedom from human interference, and the place where humans may find spiritual renewal, although this idea was often combined, as it is still, with that of economic resources held in reserve until a use can be found for them. It is tempting to associate the spiritual view exclusively with European Romanticism, but it also occurs in non- European cultures and, even in Europe, there were a few writers who saw wilderness in this way prior to the eighteenth century. Today, the love of wilderness and desire to protect it probably represents the majority view, at least in most industrialized societies. Similarly, most people recognize pollution as harmful and will support measures to reduce it, provided they are not too expensive or disruptive. As we have seen, however, these are far from being new ideas or new attitudes. They have emerged at various times in the past, then concern has waned. It may seem that public attitudes reflect some cyclical change, and this may be not far from the truth. When the possibility of famine was real, the most beautiful landscape was one that was well and intensively farmed. When factory jobs were scarce and insecure, but for large numbers of people the only jobs available, smoking chimneys symbolized prosperity. No one could afford to care that the fumes were harmful, even that they were harmful to human health, for hunger and cold were still more harmful and more immediately so. When the first European colonists reached North America, they could make no living from the forest. They had to clear it to provide cultivable land, and they had to do so quickly. It was only the wealthy who had the leisure to contemplate wilderness and could afford to point out the dangers of pollution, with the risk that were their warnings heeded, factories might close. Modern concerns continue to follow the cycle. The present wave of environmental concern began in Britain and the United States in the 1960s, at a time of rising prosperity. It continued into the 1970s and then, as economies began to falter and unemployment began to creep upwards, interest faded. It re-emerged in the 1980s, as economies seemed to revive, then waned again as recession began to bite hard. The fluctuations in public concern are recorded in the numbers of books on environmental topics published year by year. In the early 1970s vast numbers appeared, but far fewer books were Introduction / 15being published by the middle 1970s. More ‘green’ titles were issued in the early 1980s, but by the end of the decade large numbers of copies were being returned to publishers unsold and by the early 1990s most publishers would not accept books with titles suggesting anything remotely ‘ecological’, ‘environmental’, or ‘green’. This should surprise no one. When times are hard people worry most about their jobs, their homes, and whether they will be able to feed their families. It is only when they have economic security that they feel able to relax sufficiently to turn their attention to other matters. The preservation of species or of a tranquil, attractive countryside in which to walk means little to the homeless teenager begging for food or the single mother whose child needs shoes. It should surprise no one, but there is an important lesson to be learned from it. All governments now accept the need for environmental reform, but a perceptual gulf exists between rich and poor which parallels that between rich and poor within nations. In poor countries facing high levels of infant mortality and chronic shortages of supplies necessary for the provision of health care, housing, and education, the most pressing needs relate to the provision of employment and industrialization based, so far as possible, on the exploitation of indigenous resources. Environmental hazards seem less urgent, and efforts by the rich to persuade the poor to move them higher up the international agenda can be seen as attempts to increase development costs and so perpetuate economic inequality. It is well to remember that environmental issues that seem self-evidently urgent to Europeans and North Americans may not seem so to everyone. End of chapter summary Like the life and earth sciences, the environmental sciences comprise elements taken from many other disciplines. The all-round environmental scientist must be part biologist, part ecologist, part toxicologist, part pedologist (soil scientist), part geomorphologist, part limnologist (student of freshwater systems), and part meterologist, as well as being familiar with ideas taken from many other disciplines. In helping to resolve the disputes that frequently arise over conservation and land use, the environmental scientist must also possess tact and political skill. It is important that the environmental scientist remain a scientist. Environmentalism consists in campaigning and proselytising in pursuit of essentially idealogical objectives. It is not necessarily based on scientific assessment, nor should it be, because its appeal is primarily moral. This means there is a clear difference between environmental science and environmentalism and the two should not be confused. End of chapter points for discussion • To what extent is our attitude to the natural world linked to our level of economic prosperity? • To what extent are environmentalist campaigns informed by science? • What does Gaia hypothesis assert? See also Formation of the Earth (section 6) Weathering (section 8) Coasts, estuaries, sea levels (section 10) Greenhouse effect (section 13) Evolution and structure of the atmosphere (section 14) Dating methods (section 19) 16 / Basics of Environmental ScienceClimate change (section 20) Fresh water (section 22) Biogeography (section 32) Nutrient cycles (section 33) Ecology (sections 35 – 44) Limits of tolerance (section 44) Evolution (section 45) Transnational pollution (section 62) Further reading The Ages of Gaia. James Lovelock. 1988. Oxford University Press, Oxford. Provides a general, non-technical introduction to and description of the Gaia theory, written by the scientist who first proposed it. Fantasy, the Bomb, and the Greening of Britain. Meredith Veldman. 1994. Cambridge University Press, New York. The rise of the environmental movement in Britain, seen in the context of a long history of romantic protest; written by a historian. The Fontana History of the Environmental Sciences. Peter J.Bowler. 1992. Fontana Press (HarperCollins), London. Probably the most authoritative account of the subject; written in non-technical language. Gaia: The Growth of an Idea. Lawrence E.Joseph. 1990. Arkana (Penguin Books), London. Also provides an account of Gaia theory, simply written by a journalist, but includes objections to the idea and difficulties it raises. Man and the Natural World. Keith Thomas. 1983. Penguin Books, London. A comprehensive account of changing attitudes in Britain between 1500 and 1800. Thinking Green: An Anthology of Essential Ecological Writing. Michael Allaby (ed.). 1989. Barrie and Jenkins, London. A selection of excerpts from some of the most influential writing on environmental topics. Notes 1 See, for example, The Clyde Estuary and Firth; an assessment of present knowledge, compiled by members of the Clyde Study Group (1974), NERC Publications Series C No. 11. 2 For a useful discussion of this topic, see KUPCHELLA AND HYLAND, pp. 160–162. 3 See Rudwick, Martin J.S. 1976. The Meaning of Fossils: Episodes in the history of palaeontology. Univ. of Chicago Press, Chicago. 4 This theme is explored in Allaby, Michael, 1999, Ecosystems: Temperate Forests. Fitzroy Dearborn, London, pp. 146–149. 5 For an excerpt from this book see Allaby, Michael (ed.). 1989. Thinking Green: An anthology of essential ecological writing. Barrie and Jenkins, London, pp. 61–68. 6 For a brief biography of Audubon, see www.audubon.org/nas/jja.html. There is also an excellent essay about his relationship with Darwin in Weissmann, Gerald, 1998, Darwin’s Audubon. Plenum Press, New York, pp. 9–24. References Allaby, Michael. 1986. The Woodland Trust Book of British Woodlands. David and Charles, Newton Abbot. 1995. Facing the Future. Bloomsbury, London, p. 197. Bowler, Peter J. 1992. The Fontana History of the Environmental Sciences. FontanaPress (HarperCollins), London. Campbell, Joseph. 1962. The Masks of God: Oriental Mythology. Arkana (Penguin Books), London, pp. 95–98. de Baar, Hein J.W., de Jong, Jeroen T.M., Bakker, Dorothee C.E., Loscher, Bettina M., Veth, Cornelius, Bathmann, Uli, and Smetacek, Victor. 1995. ‘Importance of iron for plankton blooms and carbon dioxide drawdown in the Southern Ocean’. Nature, 373, 412–415. Introduction / 17Grove, Richard H. 1992. ‘Origins of Western environmentalism’. Scientific American, July 1992. pp. 22–27. Joseph, Lawrence E. 1990. Gaia: The growth of an idea. Arkana (Penguin Books), London. Ch. IV. Kupchella, Charles E. and Hyland, Margaret C. 1986. Environmental Science. Allyn and Bacon, Needham Heights, Mass. 2nd edition, pp. 316–317. Lovelock, James. 1979. Gaia: A new look at life on Earth. OUP, Oxford. 1988. The Ages of Gaia. OUP, Oxford. Marshall, N.B. 1979. Developments in Deep-Sea Biology. Blandford, Poole, Dorset, p.32–33. Mumford, Lewis. 1961. The City in History. Pelican Books, London, p. 254. Rackham, Oliver. 1976. Trees and Woodland in the British Landscape. J.M.Dent, London, p. 154. (A second, 1990, edition is now available.) Thomas, Keith. 1983. Man and the Natural World. Penguin Books, London, pp. 244–247. Tolba, Mostafa K. and El-Kholy, Osama A. 1992. The World Environment 1972–1992. Chapman and Hall, London, on behalf of UNEP. pp. 160–162. Veldman, Meredith. 1994. Fantasy, the Bomb, and the Greening of Britain. Cambridge University Press, New York. Westbroek, Peter. 1992. Life as a Geological Force. W.W.Norton, New York. Wilson, Edward O. 1992. The Diversity of Life. Penguin Books, London, p. 264. Young, Arthur. 1808. General Report on Enclosures. Republished, 1971, by Augustus M.Kelley, New York. 18 / Basics of Environmental Science2 Earth Sciences When you have read this chapter you will have been introduced to: • the formation and structure of the Earth • rocks, minerals, and geologic structures • weathering • how landforms evolve • coasts, estuaries, and changing sea levels • solar energy • albedo and heat capacity • the greenhouse effect • evolution, composition, and structure of the atmosphere • general circulation of the atmosphere • ocean currents and gyres • weather and climate • ice ages and interglacials • climate change • climatic regions and plants 6 Formation and structure of the Earth Among the nine planets in the solar system, Earth is the only one which is known to support life. All the materials we use are taken from the Earth and it supplies us with everything we eat and drink. It receives energy from the Sun, which drives its climates and biological systems, but materially it is self-contained, apart from the dust particles and occasional meteorites that reach it from space (ADAMS, 1977, pp. 35–36). These may amount to 10000 tonnes a year, but most are vaporized by the heat of friction as they enter the upper atmosphere and we see them as ‘shooting stars’. At the most fundamental level, the Earth is our environment. The oldest rocks, found on the Moon, are about 4.6 billion years old and this is generally accepted to be the approximate age of the Earth and the solar system generally. There are several rival theories 1 describing the process by which the solar system may have formed. The most widely accepted theory, first proposed in 1644 by René Descartes (1596–1650), proposes that the system formed from the condensation of a cloud of gas and dust, called the ‘primitive solar nebula’ (PSN). It is now thought this cloud may have been perturbed by material from a supernova explosion. Fusion processes within stars convert hydrogen to helium and in larger stars go on to form all the heavier elements up to iron. Elements heavier than iron can be produced only under the extreme conditions of the supernova explosion of a very massive star, and the presence of such elements (including zinc, gold, mercury, and uranium) on Earth indicates a supernova source. As the cloud condensed, its mass was greatest near the centre. This concentration of matter comprised the Sun, the planets forming from the remaining material in a disc surrounding the star, and the whole system Earth Sciences / 19

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