Unit 3 Compilation

16 Apr

Chapter 4 Human Populations$File/PopulationStatistics.jpg 4/12/12

Past and Current Population Growth

The current rate of births versus deaths is approximately 5:1 as we are steadily adding to the world’s population by about 1.13% per year.  The US census bureau estimates that at mid-2010 the world population was about 7 billion people.  Human beings are one of the largest species on the planet and we also have the largest impact on the environment.  Many people worry about overpopulation because of how fast we are expanding our species.  Some worry that we are depleting the ecological life-support system this world has given us and we depend on for life.  Others believe that we may be growing and along with growth we will be able to use technology and knowledge to overcome any environmental problem that more people may create.  Since we do not know if the world population will continue to grow at the current rate and also what impact population growth has on the environment, there is always a posing question in the scientific community:  what do we do or do we do anything at all?

Human Population Grew Slowly Until Recently

Population grew slowly until recently.  If we look into the past we will find that until agriculture was founded there was only a few million people on the earth.  After domestication of animals and discovery of agriculture were found in about 8000 B.C.,  people begun to have a more stable food source and the population began to grow.   By 5000 B.C. the population was estimated at 50, 000 people.  The world still continued to grow but ever so slowly at A.D. there was estimated to be about 300 million people.  Earth’s population hasn’t slowed down since.  With the invention of sailing and commerce among nations created better social conditions in about 1600 A.D. and then population really stepped up.  In 1804 there were a billion people on the planet.  That number has rapidly increased doubling and tripling in shorter and shorter amounts of time.  Over the last 2200 years we have went from 1 billion to 7 billion people.  The world has what is called an environmental carrying capacity, which is an estimated number of human beings that the earth can sustain.  If the growth continues as it has in the past we are looking at surpassing this carrying capacity and that could have catastrophic results.

Perspectives on Population Growth

There are many different views on population.  One side argues that the destruction of the environment, and poverty are the caused by overpopulation.  The other side suggests that these issues are not caused by overpopulation but are caused by deeper social and political problems.

Does environment or culture control human population growth?

Since the industrial revolution and the rapid growth in population many have argued over what causes population growth and what are the consequences.  Thomas Malthus, Karl Marx, have really made their views known and made an impact on how we think about population.  Thomas Malthus and his way of thinking stated that when population increased at a compound rate and food supply remained stable or increased slowly then the results would be disastrous and would lead to starvation, crime, and misery.  This theory only looked at a decrease in population because of famine, disease or other social restraint.

Karl Marx had an opposing view saying that population grew when people felt oppressed and exploited and that this would not change until capitalism changed.  Neither of these theories took into account technology and it’s affect on the world.

Technology increases carrying human capacity

Many say that Malthus was wrong in his predictions because he didn’t understand the technological and scientific advances that would enter the world.  The world’s food supply has increased because of the advances and we are currently producing food faster than the population is rising.  We have still seen famines in the last 200 years but these have not happened due to lack of supplies or population size but rather because of political and economic battles.

Furthermore, because of the advances in technology, it is possible to support more people than could be supported in the past.  It is unknown, however, if more breakthroughs will continue to increase the amount we are able to support or not.  We also have to look at the burden we are putting on the earth as we use natural resources in the technology we are using to sustain more people.

In the text book it talks about the I=PAT formula.  “Our environmental impact (I) is the product of our population size (P) times affluence (A) and the technology (T) used to produce the goods and services we consume.”(Principles of Environment Science, Cummingham, pg 80).  An ecological footprint is one way to look at out impact on the environment.  It estimates our footprint by determining how much of earths land it would take to support each of us.  Some footprints are bigger because they consume more resources.

Population growth could bring benefits

There is an optimistic way to look at population growth.  More people in the world create a large workforce.  More people in the world also increase the number of people working to find the advances in technology and science needed to face the problems with our environment.  Julian Simon stated it in two words when he said people are the “ultimate resource.”

Many Factors Determine Population Growth


Demography is information such as birth and death rates, total population size and geographic location put all together in order to study population. 4/9/12

How many of us are there?

The estimate of 7 billion people in the world today is just that an estimate.  Actually pinpointing the number of people is impossible for a variety of reasons.   One obvious reason is that people continue to be born and also to die.  Many countries do not have census information or the information the do have is not accurate.  People who are homeless, or illegal aliens are often not counted in census but would still be a number in the world’s population.

The population could be split it into two groups.  The first are poor, young and growing rapidly and the second is rich, old, and shrinking in population size.  The first group of poor makes up about 80 % of the worlds population and as we move into the future will account for 90% of all future growth.  Those in rich countries are living longer but also choosing to have fewer children.  Other problems in countries affect their population growth disease, fertility, life expectancy all raise or lower the population growth.  Russia for example is losing 1million people per year because of pollution, healthcare, infant mortality, and bad economic situations.  Other countries are suffering because of AIDS and other diseases that kill at an alarming rate.  By 2050 it is estimated that Africa will decrease in population size by 200 million because of AIDS.

Fertility varies among cultures and at different times

Fertility is the production of offspring so for humans it is the number of children born.  When we look at fertility as a statistic the best information is seen in the crude birth rate.   This is measured by the number of births per thousand women.  It doesn’t however take into account varies population characteristics that might affect fertility rates.  We can also look at total fertility rate which is the average number of children born to each woman in an area.  Europe is recorded to have some of the highest number of total fertility rate but this was within upper-class women who gave their kids to wetnurses after delivery.  The highest recorded working-class total fertility rate was 12 children per women.  Most societies health, hygiene and cultural properties decrease the total fertility rate to 6-7 children per women.  This number does not include modern birth control. 4/8/12

Zero population growth (ZPG) is another term we need to be aware of as we look at population growth and fertility.  It is when the number of births plus the number of immigrants equals the number of deaths and immigration in a country.  Simpler terms would be input = output.  It would take several generations of replacement-level fertility to achieve ZPG.  Fertility rates have declined over the past 50 years all over the world except for Africa.  The world right now has a total fertility rate of 2.6 lower then any time since WWII.

Many countries have worked at lowering their growth rates.  China showed the world how fertility could have a huge impact on population growth when they introduced a policy only allowing one child per family.  This policy met its goal by decreasing population but at the cost of people’s human rights.

Mortality offsets births

As we look at demographics we also need to take into account the number and the rate that people die in an area.  This is seen when we look at the crude death rate it equal the number of deaths per 1000 people in a given year.  These numbers vary considerable depending on the economic and social conditions of the area.  Countries that lack good sanitation might have a higher crude death rate while rapid growing countries may have a low rate.

Life expectancy is rising worldwide

Life expectancy has also grown over the years this is due to overall better sanitation, clean water, nutrition and education.  With people living longer and in developing countries population growth decreasing we are also looking at a problem where in the future we will have more people over the age of 65 that need cared for then we do under the age of 15.

Fertility Is Influenced by Culture

Many economic and social pressures affect the number of children couples have.  These pressures may be positive or negative but they do help couples decide on how many are in their family. 4/8/12

People want children for many reasons

There are many reasons why people have children.  Some children are born because they are needed and some are born because of desire.  In some developing countries children are needed to help make the family run and also ensure income in the future for the parents.  In countries where infant mortality rates are high some parents might have many children in order to ensure a few will survive.

Education and income affect the desire for children

When we look at richer more developed countries compared to less-developed we see that often times social pressure for career and money limit the number of children born into the family.  This is also the case because in more developed countries it is seen as a great expense to have and care for children and give them the lifestyle they are accustom to.   Whatever the reason for having children, the impact of family size corresponds to the population growth as a whole.

A Demographic Transition Can Lead to Stable Population Size

Demographic Transition is the trend that is shown when there is a significant increase or decrease between birth and death rates.  These trends usually follow a change in living conditions and economic development.

Economic and social conditions change mortality and births

Demographic Transition has four stages.  The first stage has the living conditions that would be seen in pre-modern society.  Things such as sanitation, low economic conditions, food shortages keep the CDR at around 30.  In this stage the birth rate is also high and the population stays constant.  Stage II brings economic development.  This provides jobs, sanitation and an overall better life.  In this stage death rates fall rapidly and birth tend to go up at first but then fall because most children in a family survive.  Stage III is when population growth is high this happens because death rate has slowed but birth rates remain high.  Stage IV is when the cycle has completed and birth and death rates are low but the overall population is larger then the last cycle.  The hardest part of the stages for countries is the final stage because there are fewer younger people that have to care for a large older generation. 4/8/12

Many countries are in a demographic transition

Many demographers believe that many countries are in the demographic transition now.  It is believed that the world will stabilize this century.  There have been many countries that have programs to control population growth and there are many factors help stabilize that growth.  Prosperity and social reform reduce the desire for large families.  Technology is being brought to those countries whom are developing.  Benefit of learning from others less developed countries can learn from the mistakes of more-developed countries.  Finally, modern communication brings about the knowledge of social change.  These things help stabilize populations.

Two ways to complete the demographic transition

Kerala and Andra Pradesh used two different ways to try to complete the transition and limit population growth.  Kerala redistributed resources to everyone making the population problem everyone’s problem.  Andra Pradesh took a different stand and promoted the use of birth control but also used punishment for exceeding limits.  Both places reduce population growth but –  like China’s one child policy –  at what cost?

Improving women’s lives helps reduce birth rates

In 1994 at an International Conference on Population and Development 180 countries took the stance that the key to population control lies in the empowerment of women’s rights and their education.  There is a direct correlation between lower birth rates and higher child mortality rates.  The conference participants agreed that the best was to raise child mortality rates is to take care of the mothers.  This includes independent income, healthcare, women’s rights and education.  They hope these things will hopefully reduce birth rates. 4/15/12

Family Planning Gives Us Choices

Family planning is not necessary limiting the number of children a family has.  Family planning is parents who make choices about their family size and also when to have children through rational, conscious decisions.  Family planning is also the ability to learn about ways in which to control fertility.

Humans have always regulated their fertility

The world has grown by leaps and bounds lately and how to control the growth is studied.  If we look back into our history we will find that civilizations have always controlled their fertility.  In some cultures, women breast-fed their children until the age of 4 or 5.  During this time they would abstain from any sexual activity.  Other cultures used abortion, infanticide, and medicines to control fertility.  From the studies done we do know that people through the ages have not been surprised by fertility and have learned to control it.

Today there are more options

Family planning includes birth control methods.  There are six different types of birth control methods and each one stops fertility in a different way.  The first method is the avoidance of sex during ovulation.  The second method is mechanical barriers that stop contact between sperm and the egg examples of this method is condoms, spermisides and diaphragms.  The third method is surgical alteration that inhibits the release of sperm or eggs for women this is tubal ligation and for men vasectomy.  The forth method is hormone-like chemicals that prevent eggs or sperm to mature or be released examples are progesterone pills for women.  The fifth method is devices such as the IUD which is inserted and stops the implantation of the egg.  The sixth method is abortion.

More types of birth control are being studied.  Most of the new research being done are in the area of hormonal chemicals which could come in the near future.  There is also studies are being done to create vaccines which would be given to women that would make their immune system react to sperm or men to have a decrease in their sperm count.  The major thing we know is that families now have more choices then every before. 4/6/12

What Kind of Future Are We Creating Now?

Since there is a lag time in replacement birth rate it could be said that we are establishing now the landscape of 100 years from now when it comes to population.  Most demographers believe that the landscape of the future is somewhere between 8-10 billion people when the population stabilizes sometime in the next 100 years.

The United Nations have researched and published 4 different scenarios of population growth.  The low end of the scenarios has the world population at 7 billion while the high scenario has the population at 12 billion by 2050.

What scenario we will follow will depend on a number of factors.  The major factor, however, is change and there are conflicts in some of these changes.   The US refuses to help aid the United Nations Family Planning Fund because some of the countries are using the aid to control population growth using the method of abortion.  The UNFPA is the largest provider of funding to help countries with family planning programs and since 1969 the with the help of UNFPA developing countries have decreased their total fertility rate by half from 6 to 3.

A positive change that has started to occur is the number of women in the world who are using contraceptive.  This stat has increased over recent years.  Even though the number has increased, family planning is an unmet need for many women in developing countries.  Research has found that men in these countries say their first want is for better jobs. Women, however, say they want family planning assistance. As we look at different countries you can see a huge difference between total fertility rate depending on whether or not Family planning services are available.

Family planning programs often require social changes in order to become affective. Changes include improvement of social and economical status and an increase in education for women.  It also requires an improved status for children so they are a want and not a need.  Furthermore, people have the ability to make life and fertility choices on their own and thus social and political stability is important.  Programs also need to encompass knowledge and the availability of birth control.   These factors make a family planning program successful.


Our world population has been increasing at a rapid rate and until recently we did not take the time and look at the problem that could eventually come to fruition if it continued.  Since the problem has been brought to the forefront there has been debate.  How do we control the population growth?  What methods go against human rights?  How many people can our Earth care for?  Do we focus on social reform and population decrease will follow?  I could go on and on but the bottom line is our world is only so big and if we outgrow it or destroy it we have nowhere else to go. 4/9/12

Case Study

Case Study Family Planning In Thailand

This case study takes a look at a program that has dramatically decreased the population growth in Thailand.  Between the years 1973 and 1995 the fertility rate in Thailand went from 5.8 to 2.2.  This fall is accredited the Community-Based Family Planning Service and Mechai Viravaidya its founder and director.

When the CBFPS was started people in Thailand thought talking about family planning, and birth control methods was impolite to do outside your home.  Viravaidya changed that with a nationwide campaign that included jingles, posters and incentives for talking about birth control options.    The CBFPS also did more than just family planning they also used education to decrease population growth.  They taught people how to protect against diseases and also how to gain better financial success through personal loans.  This case study was a great example of what can happen when the right tools are given so people can make better more informed decisions.

Chapter 9 Air: Climate and Pollution

What Is the Atmosphere?

Earth’s Atmosphere is made up of gas molecules that expand about 300 miles above the earth’s surface.  The gases in the atmosphere are mostly nitrogen and oxygen with a small amount of other gases mixed in.  The atmosphere also contains tiny particles called aerosols.  These aerosols and water vapor play a huge role in rain production and energy.

Climate is the long-term temperatures and precipitation trends. 4/4/12

The atmosphere is broken into 4 different zones.   Each zone has different temperatures and this is due to the individual zones absorption of solar energy.  In between each zone is also an atmosphere boundary.  This boundary allows for little movement between the zones.  As we leave earth’s surface, the first zone we encounter is the troposphere. Weather, as we know and understand it, occurs in this zone.  In the troposphere, the air moves in vertical and horizontal patterns called convection currents.  The air in this zone is very dense.  Also, the heat and moisture are distributed in this zone from one part of the globe to the next.  The earth’s gravitational pull makes it so air molecules stay close to earth’s surface.  This means that 75% of the total mass of the atmosphere is in the troposphere.  The second zone is called the stratosphere.  It is much like the first zone but has almost no water vapor and has about 1000 times bigger reaching up to about 31 miles above earths surface.  The stratosphere zone is important to earth because it absorbs UV rays that would destroy life on earth.  The third zone is the mesosphere.  It is also known as the middle layer, as it reaches from the stratosphere to 55 mi above earth.  Last we have the thermosphere.  This layer is made up of electrically charged gases that are heated by solar and cosmic radiation.  The lower part of this zone has pulses of radiation that cause the particles to glow creating what we know as the northern and southern lights. 4/6/12

The atmosphere captures energy selectively

The sun supplies the earth with energy.  The energy is more abundant near the equator. Not all the solar energy from the sun that reaches the outer layer of the atmosphere gets to the earth’s surface.  About one-fourth of this energy is reflected by clouds and atmospheric gases.  Another one-fourth is absorbed by carbon dioxide, water vapors, methane, and few other gases.  This leaves one half of the solar energy that hit the outside of the atmosphere to actually hit the earth’s surface.  Most of this energy is in the form of light that can pass through atmospheric gases.

Some incoming energy is reflected by bright surfaces such as snow and ice.  These surfaces are said to have high albedo.  Surfaces that have low albedo are often darker in color and absorb more solar energy.  Water surfaces also have a low albedo.

The energy that is absorbed creates heat, evaporates water, and provides energy for photosynthesis to occur.

The “greenhouse effect” is when energy is captured by gases in the atmosphere.  These gases turn the energy into heat energy but trap a piece of it to themselves.  Now these gases are heated and can affect the temperature of the atmosphere.  As we add CO2 CH4 and N2O to the atmosphere it slows the rate at which the gases that are holding energy release it but it doesn’t slow how much energy is being captured.  This could lead to problems in future temperature trends.

Evaporated water stores and redistributes heat

A lot of solar energy is used up by water evaporation.  As water vapor, energy is stored and this is called latent energy.  When the water vapor condenses, the latent energy is then released.  This is what powers thunderstorms, tornadoes, and hurricanes.  It rains when two conditions are met.  First a moisture source that supplies evaporated water into the atmosphere and second a lifting mechanism such as airflow that pushes the evaporated water up high enough to cool the air.  Air currents play the major role in weather because warm and cool air currents can collide and thus push air upward and cause rain and snow. 4/14/12

Ocean currents also redistribute heat

Ocean currents influence the weather on land.  Wind on the oceans surface moves the top layer of water thus making underwater replace the top water.  This creates a deep water current.  Factors such as water density also drive these currents.  The surface and deep water currents are called thermohaline.  Since density of the water plays such a huge role in ocean currents if an ocean regions climate changes rapidly it could cause the currents to stop running.

Climate Changes Over Time

When we look at our lifetime the climate does not seem to change much.  If you look at climate patterns through history we could see that climate change can happen and the world as we know it could be replaced with a colder or warmer world. 4/6/12

Ice cores tell us about climate history

In places where snow falls happen often and the temperature remains so cold the snow does not mel,t we can look for clues about past weather trends.  We can extract ice can tell us the atmospheres conditions over the past 250,000 years.  In studies that have been done on ice extraction we have learned that certain gases such as CO2 are one-third higher in the atmosphere.  We also have learned that temperatures now are almost the highest they have ever been.

What causes natural climatic swings?

Ice core records have also shown repeated climate changes throughout history.  Some of the reasons for these climate changes can be found if we look at a few cycles.  First the sun’s cycle, every 11-years the sun is more intense.  Next the Milankovitch cycles, these include the shifts in the earth’s orbit and tilt.  The Milankovitch cycles encompass three cycles 1) 100,000 year cycle in which the earth elliptical orbit stretches and shortens. 2)40,000 year cycle in which the tilt of the earths axis changes. 3) 26,000 year cycle where the earth wobbles out of balance.  Volcanic Eruptions can also cause climate change but usually not for long periods of time.  These climate changes often correct themselves in a few years.

How Do We Know the Climate Is Changing Faster than Usual?

Many scientists believe that climate change should be the most important and focused environmental issue of today.  The thought that humans could influence the climate patterns is not a new way of thinking.  In 1859 John Tyndall described the greenhouse effect.  In 1895 Svante Arrhenius predicted CO2 released from coal burning would cause global warming.

Scientific consensus is clear

Scientist that study climate have begun to share data because it is such an overwhelming topic.  This helps in studies because you can compare trends all over the world.  The International Panel on Climate Change is ranked the most knowledgeable on the state of the climate.  In 2007 they came out with a finding report that stated that they were 90 % certain that current climate change is cause by human activity.  Reports that have followed have raised the number to 99% sure.

Chapter 13 Solid and Hazardous 4/6/12

What Waste Do We Produce?

Each one of us produced unwanted by-products in everything that we do because of this waste something that involves everyone.  According to the EPA the U.S. produces 11 billion tons of solid waste each year.  Half of that number is most likely agricultural waste that is immediately recycled back into the environment.  One-third of the waste we produce is in the form of waste from mining and mineral processing this waste is often stored at or near the mining site.  The rest of the waste gets put into two remaining categories industrial waste and municipal waste.  Industrial waste is usually recycled, or stored in private landfills.  This category also contains hazardous and toxic waste.  Municipal waste is the last category and is the garbage that comes from our everyday lives.  This waste is hard to recycle because it is a combination of many different materials.  Americans produce more waste then other countries.  We would save land, money and energy if we would raise the amount of municipal waste we sort and recycle.


The waste stream is everything we throw away

Waste stream is the term to describe the varied waste we all produce.  Many of the things we throw away could be reused if they were not mixed in with other things.   Most of our waste disposal companies find it two expensive to sort the trash or impossible because it is contaminated by hazardous materials.

Global Waste Disposal Methods 4/6/12

Waste Disposal Methods

There are many ways in which we dispose of our waste.  These methods range from cheap to expensive and from environmentally friendly to hazardous.

Open dumps release hazardous substances into air and water

Open dumps are one of the worst options for waste disposal.  This is when people just dump their trash into open areas.  These areas are not concealed from the elements and so wind and rain spread the contents of the dump to surrounding areas.  A lot of this trash washes up in sewers and in the oceans.  This method also allows toxic and hazardous waste to possible get into ground water.

Ocean dumping is mostly uncontrolled

Ocean dumping throughout history was used by many U.S. cities.  It is estimated that each year over 55 million lbs of waste is dumped into the ocean.  Most of this waste is biodegradable and damages and kills ocean species.  One of the biggest problems related to ocean dumping is the plastic debris.  This debris ends up in animals and sea creatures and often on beaches.  It is said that 80% of ocean debris comes from the plastics that were not disposed of properly on land.  The other 20% comes from cruise ships.

Landfills receive most of our waste

In the U.S. 52% of our waste goes into landfills and 33% is recycled.  The nation has come a long because in 1960 94% went to landfill.  The modern day sanitary landfill is designed to contain waste.  These landfills are required to compact the trash and cover it daily.  The problem with this is that the dirt takes up valuable landfill space.  Since 1994 landfills are also required to protect against hazardous waste getting into groundwater so impermeable clay or plastic liners have to line the landfill.  Landfills produce methane.  Globally it is thought that landfills produce about 700 million metric tons of methane this represents about 12 % of all greenhouse gases.  Landfills of the past were cheap but today because of the regulations put on them they are expensive so there are fewer for local waste disposal companies to use. 4/6/12

We often export waste to countries ill-equipped to handle it

Industrial nations agreed to stop sending hazardous waste to less-developed countries but it hasn’t stopped.  Most retired ships are dismantled in less-developed countries.  These ships often have hazardous materials in them.  People of these countries are not equipted to handle the hazardous materials and so sickness and environmental impact on the surrounding happens.  E-waste is another big thing that is discarded in less-developed countries that posses huge health and environmental hazards.  These devices have metals in them, which are valuable but also dangerous to remove.  People in these countries often take the health risk for the monetary reward.  The Basel Action Network is an international network of activists that monitor e-waste shipments and working conditions for those who are dismantling e-waste.

Incineration produces energy from trash

The latest method of waste disposal has been the incinerators.  These burning plants are designed to use energy recovery to reduce waste.  By this I mean that the take the trash burn it and the steam produced is then used for another function such as heating buildings.  A drawback of this method is there is no way to separate the trash and valuable recyclable things are burned.  Incinerators are not cheap to build.  Incinerators also produce health risk in the form of ash and airborne emissions.  In order to reduce these airborne emissions things like batteries would need to be sorted out before burning.

Shrinking the Waste Stream

When you compare recycling to landfills and incinerators it saves money.  Recycling is the term used for taking old materials and reprocessing them into new materials.

Recycling continues to face challenges

Recycling continues to face challenges.  Many products it is cheaper to buy new then to gather the materials to make it out of recycled material.  Another challenge is that plastic can easily be contaminated which makes it unusable.  Plastic water bottles have become so popular but they also create a challenge because only about 20% are recycled.

Recycling saves money, energy, and space

If you look at the cost between buying recycled products compared to getting rid of those products recycling saves money.  Many cities in the US and countries around the world are promoting or demanding people recycle because it cuts the cost the government has to pay in order to get rid of our waste.  Japan has the best program in the world and as whole nation they recycle half of all household waste.

Recycling lowers the demand for natural raw materials.  The production of paper products is a major factor in the destruction of raw materials.  As paper products are recycled less trees are cut down in order to meet the demands for paper around the world.  This number could still be lower if more people recycled.  This is the same with plastic products, and aluminum.

Recycling also reduces air pollution and energy consumption.  It takes less energy to change products from one use to another then it does to create the product from raw materials.

Composting recycles organic waste

Composting is when yard waste, vegetable scraps and other organic materials are turned into useful mulch.  This process happens when these materials are decomposed or breaking down through aerobic or oxygen rich conditions.  Many cities have banned yard clipping from municipal garbage.  Also some cities and counties have large scale composting facilities.  Composting is something that can be done easily in your own back yard.  All that has to be done to make mulch is pile the matter up and watch natural occurring microorganisms break down the organic matter and turn it into mulch.  Just keeping the pile moist and turning it over every week or so.  This is a great way to recycle organic matter.

Reuse is even better than recycling

The even better option then recycling to cut down on waste is to simply reuse the material again in its same form.  This is often seen in things like automobile parts as junkyards sell old parts to be re-used.  This method is nice because there is not the energy cost to melt down and reshape the material like there is in recycling.  Many less developed countries see reusing as a tradition.  People in these ravaged countries who are poor salvage reusable materials in order to make a living.

Reducing waste is often the cheapest option

We often look at trying to promote recycling but really the best option is to slow down the production of throw – away products.  This would save the most money, energy and materials.  There are three R’s:  Reduce, Reuse and Recycle.  Companies are getting with the picture.  Many beverage companies have made cans and bottles that do not have as much plastic or aluminum in them.  Excessive packaging is big problem much of today’s packaging is for marketing only and isn’t necessary to protect the product.  Canada has a plan to hopefully reduce packaging in order to control waste.  We also need to look at materials that are more photodegradable (breaks down with ultraviolet radiation) and biodegradable.  Overall we all need to do our part in order to help the problem.

Toxic Waste Leakage 4/6/12

Hazardous and Toxic Waste

The waste stream that we as humans produce contain toxic and hazardous materials.  These materials can be dangerous for both humans and the environment.  We produce and use a large variety of chemical, toxic, acidic, flammable, and explosive products.  These products are used in industrial, agricultural and domestic purposes.  The U.S. is said to produce over 900 million tons of classified hazardous material waste each year.

It is said that over 40 million metric tons is released into the environment each year.

Hazardous waste includes many dangerous substances

Hazardous waste is classified in the text book by having one of these charateristics.  1)fatal to humans or animals in low doses.  2)toxic, carcinogenic, mutagenic, or teratogenic to humans or other life forms 3) ignitable with a flashpoint less then 60degrees C 4) Corrosive 5) explosive or highly reactive.  Most hazardous and toxic materials that are byproducts of industry are recycled, converted to safe forms, detoxified, destroyed or stored in areas that will not cause problems for the public.  The amount that does leak into our waste stream or the environment causes a variety of health and environmental problems.

Federal legislation regulates hazardous waste

Two important laws regulate the management and disposal of toxic waste.  The first one is the The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act or RCRA.  This program tests all aspects of toxic and hazardous substances as it moves through the line of processing, shipping, being used and then being disposed of.  The second law The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act or CERCLA.  This program deals with the containment and proper clean-up of toxic waste sites.  Both of these programs are aimed to help maintain and prevent hazardous materials getting into our environment.

A division of the US government called the Environmental Protection Agency tends to be the voices of these programs.  The EPA has the ability to sue responsible parties for damages if the CERCLA finds negligence.  The EPA also keeps the nation informed.  It publishes reports open to the public about what toxics have been released and where.

Superfund sites are listed for federal cleanup

Superfund is a pool of money set up by the government to pay for immediate clean-up of hazardous waste that pose an immediate threat to people and the environment and it is also used for the clean-up of unused abondond waste sites.  This pool was funded by taxes charges to companies that produced toxic waste.  Over the years the pool has begun to dwindle leaving regular American citizens to help pay the $370 million – 1.7 Trillion bill.  This bill would clean-up the over 36,000 seriously contaminated sites.

Brownfields present both liability and opportunity

Brownfields are what is left after a site is cleaned up.  These areas are often a problem and a source of disagreement.  Developers are weary of the cleaned up land and a little unsure who is liable for the condition of the land.  The EPA has been working to clear up any misconception about brownfields and there is funds set-up to encourage rebuilding of these areas.

Hazardous waste must be processed or stored permanently

Because of the effects that toxic and hazardous waste can have on human life and the environment it is crucial that we do as much as we can to limit the exposure to it.  There are a few very promosing ways in which we can achieve this.  First, we can produce less waste.  Some companies have found ways in which to change their production to reduce the waste output.  The second way is to make toxic materials less toxic.  There have been developments in technology so toxic materials can be made harmless these methods include incineration, and chemical processing.  The final way to limit exposure to hazardous waste is to make sure it is stored properly.  In the past old dumpsites were used to discard hazardous waste these sites often leaked allowing hazardous material to get into the environment.  New technologies are creating modern landfills that have the capability to keep the waste contained. 4/9/12


Many societies reuse and recycle because they cannot afford to by new.  The developed countries around the world are not quite as good.  Things are bought and discarded quite rapidly so we have an abundance of waste to contend with.  There are different methods to store and destroy our waste but there is a better way.  The best most effective thing we can do is to remember the three R’s reduce reuse and recycle.  As this slogan is becoming more popular the amount of waste is going down.  There is a variety of different ways that we can reduce waste in the US and beyond it’s borders.

Chapter 14 Economics and Urbanization

Mexico City 4/5/2012

Cities Are Places of Crisis and Opportunity

Over half of the world population lives in cities and that number is expected to rise to three-quarters in the next 25 years.  If you llook back through history you will see this is a dramatic change.  The majority of humans have been hunting, gathering, fishing societies spread out in order to use the natural resources the land and water had to offer.  Now we see urban agglomerations being built.  These are mega cities that can house over 10 million people.  These cities offer ethnic diversity and also innovation.  Cities are growing at a pace that is hard especially in less-developed countries for the government to have items like roads, sewage, water, sanitation, and other essential things for the population that are moving in.  On the other side of the coin we also see cities like New York who are paving the way for green city living.  They have programs that encourage public transportation and recycling.  Cities can be a hub for business and a great asset to the world but they can also be dumping grounds for poverty, unwanted members of society and pollution.

Large cities are expanding rapidly

There are over 13 cities that have over 1 million living in them.  This number is expected to rise.  China has had more people move out of rural farmland and into big cities then any other nation in history.  China has already set a plan in place to build 400 now cities in the next 20 years.  They are working at making these new cities more ecologically sustainable then their current cities.

Immigration is driven by push and pull factors

Cities pull people in for a variety of reasons.  Many people head to the cities to find work that may not be available in rural areas.  People flock to the cities in order to specialize in occupations such as arts and crafts that are not available anywhere else.  People head to the city to escape the rules or pressures of a small town or village.  Cities tend to have better government policies especially around where government officials live.  Each person has there own reason for moving to the cities but together they make a whole lot of people that add to the diversity.

Congestion, pollution, and water shortage plague many cities

Even though cities provide an epicenter for jobs, and commerse many cities suffer and have major drawbacks.  This is particularly true in less-developed countries.  The cities do not have the resources to provide for it’s citizens basic needs like fresh water and sanatation.  Their streets are so overcrowded that the traffic and pollution are horrific.  Beijing has doubled the amount of cars on the road in the last 4 years which also means it has also doubled the pollution into the air.  Many of these cities also lack housing to support the number of people living in the city.  In developing countries it is common to have what is known as shantytowns.  These are basically tiny shacks set up on the streets that serve as housing for an enormous amount of people.

Urban Planning

Urban planning is when governments plan a city before it is built trying to make it environmentally sound, socially just, and sustainable.  This has become a huge task for developers but in today’s world where cities are growing it has also become necessary.

Transportation is crucial in city development

Transportation in cities is a must.  In the olden days cities were usually set-up around some major transportation hub live a river, or a railroad.  Today however cities need to be designed to take into account all the places where people travel and also allow for future growth of the city transportation.  People in the United States that reside in cities often do not live close by where they work.  Congestion is a problem in most major US cities.  Often freeways connect rural surroundings to the urban business districts of the city.  These freeways are spread out using a lot of valuable land space.  Freeways also encourage everyone to drive more whereas if we lived closer to the things we do a car would not be needed. 4/13/12

We can make our cities more livable

As urban planners are beginning to design the cities of the future they are looking at designs that incorporate smart growth.  Smart growth allows for land to be used in a variety of land use that is cost effective and useful.  Smart growth designs include a variety of affordable housing that opens up the door for opportunities.  Smart growth looks at was in which different areas can use the same services so that things are not unnecessarily duplicated in the design.  Smart growth takes into account environmental quality and strives to build a city that will have a smaller impact on the world. 4/10/12

Can development be sustainable?

Sustainable development is said by some to be the ability to meet your own needs with out compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.  In the world we live in with technology and also the need for natural resources I do not feel we can have sustainable development.  Not unless we all started to reduce population and live modestly.

Our definitions of resources shape how we use them

There is an huge difference between natural resources in a neoclassical economics view and that of a ecological economics view.  In the neoclassical view natural resources are seen as a finite or exist only in certain amounts. This idea treats natural resources as a commodity that will eventually run out and the community will collapse.  In the ecological economics natural resources are viewed differently.  They are looked at as a cycle being able to be recycled and uses efficiently for the long term survival of the community.  How we use our natural resources depends on how we classify them. 4/6/12

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Posted by on April 16, 2012 in Uncategorized


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