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Superfund Lab


In this lab we will be studying the EPA and a few superfunds.  We will be looking at a superfund that is in the Verde Valley along with three others around the United States. This lab is designed to teach what a superfund site is and understand a few superfund sites better.


 Explain the EPA and superfund sites

1. What does the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) do?

The EPA stands for Environmental Protection Agency.  It was established in 1970.   The EPA website list the purpose of the EPA with these seven bullet point:

  • All Americans are protected from significant risks to human health and the environment where they live, learn and work.
  • National efforts to reduce environmental risk are based on the best available scientific information.
  • Federal laws protecting human health and the environment are enforced fairly and effectively.
  • Environmental protection is an integral consideration in U.S. policies concerning natural resources, human health, economic growth, energy, transportation, agriculture, industry, and international trade, and these factors are similarly considered in establishing environmental policy.
  • All parts of society: communities, individuals, business, state and local governments, and tribal governments, have access to accurate information sufficient to effectively participate in managing human health and environmental risks.
  • Environmental protection contributes to making our communities and ecosystems diverse, sustainable and economically productive.
  • The United States plays a leadership role in working with other nations to protect the global environment.

2. Why was the EPA established?

The EPA was established in 1970 in order to combine the efforts of 15 government agencies.  These agencies included research agencies, standard setting agencies, enforcement agencies, and monitoring agencies which all dealt with the environmental issues.

3. What is a superfund site?

A superfund site is a land or water site that is in the process of or already labeled by the EPA as being contaminated in the United States.   Most sites that are listed as superfund sites are listed on the National Priority List.  The superfund name came to be because of the program set up by the government that was designed to”(1) provide an immediate response to emergency situations that pose imminent hazard, and (2) clean up or remediate abandoned or inactive sites.” (Principles of Environmental Biology, Cunningham pg.335) This program was funded primarily by taxes collected from producers of toxic and hazardous waste.  The EPA estimates that there are an estimated 36,000 sites that are contaminated in the United States.

Look at Three Superfund Sites

Location 1-Del Monte Corp. (Oahu Plantation)

a. Location, description

The Del Monte Corp. site is located in Honolulu County , on the Island of Oahu, in Hawaii.  The Del Monte Corp. grew pineapples on 3,000 acres starting in 1940.  A spill of over 495 gallons of fumigants happened in 1977.  This spill occurred 60 feet away from Kunia Well which provides water for over 700 people.

b. When were they established?

The EPA got involved with this site in 1993 but before that local government had tested the water in 1980 found it was contaminated and shut the well down.

c. Contaminants

The contaminants involved in the Del Monte site are fumigants EDB, DBCP, DCP, the solvents TCP and benzene, and the pesticide lindane.  These contaminants are found in groundwater and soil.

d. Who is responsible for the cleanup?

Del Monte Corporation has taken responsibility for the clean-up.  Del Monte has quit producing pineapples in the region but continues to be responsible for the accident and all clean-up cost that need to be done.

e. Cleanup results to date

Shutting down Kunia Well and removing over 18,000 tons of soil reduced immediate risks.  Since 1998 Del Monte has been operating a phytoremediation treatment system for the Kunia village.  The treatment facilities have successfully extracted contaminants from drinking water.  As of 2008 the shallow groundwater and basal groundwater had decreased contaminants from hundred of parts per billion to 10 parts per billion.

f. Was phytostabilization used? If so, name two plants species involved.

At this site phytostabilization was not used.

Location 2 – Dixie Oil Processors

a. Location, description

The Dixie Oil Processors Superfund site is located in Harris County, Texas.  It is located about 20 miles southeast of Houston, TX.  The site consists of two land segments one 19.0 acres and the other 7.6 acres.  There is a flood control ditch that runs along the border of both land pieces called Mud Gully.  The land is surrounding the area is undeveloped on all sides except one which backs to a residential subdivision.

b. When were they established?

The EPA established this site in 1988.  The site had been used as a copper recovery and hydrocarbon washing facility from 1969-1978.  After that the site was used for various washing and refining until 1986.  All production stopped in 1986.   In 1984 before the EPA distinguished the site the company removed 6,000 cubic feet of soil that was contaminated and disposed of it off site.

c. Contaminants

The contaminants for the Dixie Oil site were a combination of ethylbenzene, hexachlorobenzene and copper which are in approx. 107,000 cubic yards of soil.

d. Who is responsible for the cleanup?

The clean-up for the Dixie Oil Processors site was completed by the company.

e. Cleanup results to date

As of 3-14-2012 the clean-up for this site has been found to be effective.  This piece of land has been approved non-residential use.

f. Was phytostabilization used? If so, name two plants species involved.

In the case of Dixie Oil Processors phytostabilization was not used.

Location 3 – Williams Air Force Base

a. Location, description

Williams Air Force Base Superfund site is located in Mesa, Arizona.  This site 4,043-acres of land that was set aside as a flight training school in 1941.  Today 3,856 or those acres are used by the Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport and the Arizona State University. This site consists of thirteen contaminated areas – two fire training areas, two storm draining areas, a landfill, a radiological burial area, a pesticide burial area, hazardous storage area, a fuel storage area, and four underground storage tanks. This site also involves the contamination of a aquifer that is considered to be a drinking water source.

b. When were they established?

The EPA listed this site on the National Priorities List 07/14/1989.

c. Contaminants

The contaminants on the base include organic solvents, petroleum spills, metal plating waste, hydraulic fluids, pesticides, and radiological waste.

d. Who is responsible for the cleanup?

The United States Air Force is responsible for clean-up they are currently participating in a program called Installation Restoration Program which was established in1978 by the Department of Defense to identify, investigate and control hazardous contaminants at military facilities.

e. Cleanup results to date

The program that the Williams Air Force base is using to clean-up the contaminant is a 6 unit clean-up plan. At this point they have cleaned the southwest drainage system, removed pesticide drums, radiological material, and underground storage tanks to reduce the risk of exposure to the contaminants. Studies are still being conducted and clean-up is still being implemented.

f. Was phytostabilization used? If so, name two plants species involved.

Phytostabilization has not been used as this site as of yet but I think could be used in the future.


Look at the superfund site in the Verde Valley

The superfund site in the Verde Valley is located adjacent to Dewey-Humboldt it is called the Iron King Mine Humboldt Smelter Superfund Site (IKMHSSS). This site is contaminated with mine tailing that pose a risk to the surrounding environment because of wind and water move the tailing contaminants into the environment.   The EPA established this site in March of 2008.  Since 2009 the EPA and the University of Arizona Superfund Research Program have been working together to determine if this superfund site could use phytostabilization to reduce wind and water erosion.  Phytostabilization is when plants are chosen that absorb metals in the root this will contain the contaminants from entering the food chain.

Below are some questions about the IKMHSSS site.

1. How were the specific plant species chosen for phytostabilization of IKMHSSS?

The specific plant species were chosen based on two characteristics.  First, they had to be a native plant to the area so that it would blend into the surrounding.  Second, the plants were tested to see which plants could survive being grown in the mine tailings. They used these two characteristics to find plant species that would provide a variety of plant canopies and root depths.

2. Why would composting increase the pH of the soil?

Composting would increase the pH level of the soil because as compost was mixed with the tailing it added substances that are rich in key nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus.

3. Interpret the tables in the O’Sullivan Field Study Paper.

a. Refer to figure 1 and observe the shaded bars. Give the grams dry weight for each species with 10% compost applied. Which species grew more with less compost?

Answer – Buffalo grass 4 g, Mesquite 1 g, Quailbush 2g, Catclaw acacia 1g, Mountain mahogany 1g, Arizona fescue about .5 g. The species that grew the best with less compost was the Mesquite and Catclaw acacia they grew better at 15% compost then at 20% compost.

b. Refer to figure 3. What was the bacterial count for the planted control at time zero (at the


Answer – At time zero the bacterial count for the planted control was

c. Also figure 3. What was the average bacterial count for the planted treatment area on Day 60

with 15% compost?

Answer – On Day 60 with 15% compost the average bacterial count for the planted treatment was

Conclusion –

There is an estimated 36,000 contaminated site in the United States.  These sites are going to take on going monitoring to insure they get cleaned-up.  The EPA is available to help facilitate the clean-up process and to insure the publics safety.  These sites are not cleaned up overnight and the process takes a combination effort of the responsible parties and the EPA.  The superfund was established to help with these cost until a responsible party is found but the fund is being depleted quickly and may soon run out.

As I looked at the three very different superfund sites I found that each were in a different stage of completion.  Each of these sites are in different stages of the clean-up process.  The Del Monte Corp. site is finished with the clean-up process but the use of the water plant will be a continual process.  The Dixie Oil Processors site has finished clean-up and the land is ready for non-residential development. The Williams Air Force Base is the site that still has extreme amounts of clean-up to complete and will not likely be finished in the foreseeable future.  Even sites like Del Monte which are listed as cleaned up still need monitoring which takes money.

This lab has been a very eye opening experience to make each of us realize how many superfund sites are out there and that they are located around populated areas.  The  IKMHSSS is right in our back yard and I had no clue it existed.  The EPA is suppose to make the public aware but we also have to do our research.  This lab has shown to me that I should know these four things – (1) what sites are close to where we live, (2) what contaminants does the site contain, (3) what risk do these contaminants pose, (4) what can I do to get involved?

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Posted by on May 7, 2012 in Uncategorized


Unit 4 Compilation

Chapter 8 Environmental Health and Toxicology×2.jpg 4/28/12

Environmental Health

Being healthy is defined as having a sense of well-being in three aspects physical, mental, and social.  When we talk about health it is often said that you are unhealthy if you have a disease or infirmity but that is not the case.  If we use the definition above we all have ways to improve our health.  There are a few definitions that we need to know in order to talk about Environmental Health which looks at the factors such as natural, social, cultural, and technological aspects that cause disease.

Disease – A change in the body’s condition in response to a destabilizing factor

Morbidity – Illness or death

Mortality – Death rate in a population.

The World Health Organization or WHO estimate that 24% of world diseases and 23% of premature mortality is due because of some environmental factor.  These factors include toxins, infectious agents, Radiation, pollution, and trauma.

Our bodies are like our own ecosystem only 10% is human the other 90 % is bacteria, fungi, protozoans, arthropods, and other species.  Often times we think we need to get rid of these things but what we need to do is understand how to live in balance with these things.

Global disease burden is changing

In the past when global health was looked at they often focused on what caused the most deaths that is changing.  In more recent times the WHO has been looking at the DALYs which stands for the disability-adjusted life expectancy.  This measures premature death along with loss of a healthy life that resulted from disease.  The ranking of the top diseases has seen and will continue to see a huge transformation as communicable diseases such as malaria and smallpox are prevented and chronic diseases such as heart disease and cancer rise.  If we are looking at more then just life but also the quality of life there is another major disease on the rise and that is mental health problems.  Tobacco is also going to increase the number of deaths as more people especially in developing countries get addicted to tobacco.  This brings on emphysema, asthma, and lung cancer.

Emerging Diseases Around the World 4/28/12

Emergent and infectious diseases still kill millions of people

Over 11 million children a year die from infectious diseases that could be avoided with better nutrition, clean water, sanitation, and inexpensive vaccinations.  Emergent disease are those that are not known or have not been seen for over 20 years.  There have been over 40 of these outbreaks in the past 20 years.  Each country in the world is tied to each other as global markets link trade it also links the ability for new diseases to travel from one continent to another.  The best know case of an emergent disease is HIV/AIDs.  This disease was not known about until 1980 and now has become the 5th greatest cause for contagious deaths.

Conservation medicine combines ecology and health care

Humans are not the only species that are facing diseases.  Animals are also facing diseases that wipe out great numbers.  These sudden and widespread diseases are called ecological diseases.  Some examples of  this is Ebola found to have wiped out possibly 5,000 gorillas.  Botulism that has been found in birds that have died by the hundreds in one area.  CWD which has been the killer or deer and elk.  Mad Cow disease which started as a disease in cows and was transferred to people killing over 100 before it was contained.  All of these disease are caused by an imbalance in normal biological conditions.

Climate change can also bring about more of these disease.  As human encroachment occurs species widen their territories bringing with them a disruption in the delicate ecological balance.

Resistance to antibiotics and pesticides is increasing

Antibiotics and pesticides are beginning to not wok because sometimes to much of a good thing is bad.  What I mean is that people are using medicines and pesticides for prevention instead of a cure and so the organisms that they are fighting breed evolved species that are resistant to the antibiotics and pesticides. 4/28/12

Should we pay for health care?

The vast majority of disease burden is in developing countries.  The WHO estimated that 90% of disease burdens are in countries that spend only about 10% of all money spent on health care.  It is amazing when we think that people in developed countries are worried about diseases such as hair loss and obesity while people in the developing countries are dying of treatable diseases because they don’t have access to preventative medicines.  The U.S. only contributes about 12% of the money that helps developing countries.  It is said that helping rid the world of curable disease would increase the overall health of the world.  This is because more people would be able to contribute to the world. The bottom line for selfish developed nations helping the less developed might earn you more friends and also make it so diseases won’t cross over borders into developed countries. 4/28/2012


Toxicology is the damaging effects on an organism or system because of external forces.  Toxic means poisonous.  The book states “Toxicology includes environmental chemicals, drugs, and diet as well as physical factors, such as iodizing radiation, UV light, and electromagnetic forces.” (Principles of Environmental Science, Cunningham, pg.188) Toxic substances kill or damage living organisms by interfering with metabolic functions by reacting with cellular components.  Toxins are dangerous at small doses.  Scientist in this field also study the reactions transformations and effects these toxins have in the environment.  This is usually called Environmental toxicology.  Things that are said to be hazardous are not necessarily toxic.  Hazardous also includes things that are flammable, explosive, acidic, caustic, irritants, or sensitizers.  These things are not toxic and can usually be neutralized or diluted rendering them not hazardous.

Endrocrine hormone disrupters are of special concern

It is a concern that endocrine hormone disrupters cause a variety of problems in humans.  Hormones are released into the body and it said that some exposure to toxins limits the amount of hormones released causing abnormal growth and development.

Movement, Distribution, and Fate of Toxins

Each toxin has to be look at differently to determine the effects on organisms.  The method of exposure, how long the exposure, characteristics of the organism being exposed, all determine the danger or toxicity that occurs.

Solubility and mobility determine when and where chemicals move

One of the biggest factors in understanding how, where, and when a toxic material will flow through the environment is solubility.  Chemicals can be looked at in two groups 1. They dissolve faster in water. 2. They dissolve faster in oil.  Chemicals that dissolve faster in water spread through the environment more and faster because water is ubiquitous.  They also have freer access to our body because our cells soak up water.  Chemicals that are oil-soluble often need a host to carry them through the environment and into your body.  After they enter the body they are hard to get rid of because they are often seen as other natural chemicals your body produces and protected.

Exposure and susceptibility determine how we respond

There are many different ways in which a toxin can enter into the body.   Airborne toxins are the biggest way toxins enter our bodies.  The other leading way are through touching the toxin and ingesting the toxin.  How much you are exposed to and when you are exposed also have a huge affect on the toxicity.  Children are more susceptible because their immune systems are not as strong, and they are still growing.  Toxics can damage or limit the growth of the brain and nervous system.

Bioaccumulation and biomagnification  increases chemical concentrations

Bioaccumulation is the bodies cells ability to store and absorb a variety of molecules.  This is a beneficial process when the body stores nutrients and essential minerals but can be dangerous if the body choices to store toxins that you have come in contact with.  Chemicals that are in small amounts in the environment may not seem dangerous but when they are held by a single cell they can have disastrous consequences.

Toxic chemicals can also be magnified as they travel through food webs.  This is often shown in biomagnification.  This is when a large number of organisms that have toxicity and eaten by a predator at a higher trophic level and the toxicity level increases in the predator and this continues to occur up the food chain.

Persistence makes some materials a greater threat

Many toxic substances loose their toxicity when exposed to the sun but this doesn’t happen to all toxins.  Some toxins can last for centuries as the continually cycle through the ecosystem.  An example of a toxin that does nor disintegrate and is cycled through the environment is Mercury.  The graph below shows it’s flow through the environment.

Chemical interactions can increase toxicity

Some chemical work make other chemicals react.  This is called antagonistic reactions.  Other chemicals are additive which mean that when you are exposed to two different chemicals one make the other one have a higher toxicity.  The greatest concern about chemical interactions is actually Synergism.  This is when one chemical exacerbates another.

Case Study Fighting the Fiery Serpent: Guinea Worm Eradication Program

The Guinea Worm eradication Program was started in 1986 in the hope of eradicating this disease by 2000.  That has not happened but tremendous progress has been made.  The Guinea Worm is a parasite that enters the body through drinking stagnant water.  The larvae hatches and the worm grow in the body to reach up to 3 ft long.  It then emerges from the body causing excruciating pain and fever but not before it often releases more larva starting the process again.   The cycle can take months to complete. The Guinea Worm disease cannot be cured after infected so the only way to stop the spread is education.  This education came in the form of letting people know how they acquire Guinea Worms, making purified water more accessible, and teaching how to purify water.  This disease in 1986 infect some 3.5 million people.  That number is down 96%.  This project proved that community education can make a huge difference in developing countries. 4/28/12

Chapter 12 Energy 4/28/12

Energy Resources and Uses

For over a million years humans have learned to use a variety of sources to produce external energy.  Fire was the first external energy force used by humans.  Next came Muscle power from domesticated animals came about 10,000 years ago. Wind and Waterpower came soon after.  When the steam engine was created and wood was beginning to be seen as a diminishing resource coal became the big source for energy.  In the twentieth century oil has become the new energy force.  Fossil Fuels, which consist of petroleum, natural gas, and coal, make up 88% of the world’s energy needs.  We are using so much fossil fuel that it is causing horrible effects on the environment and also economic problems.  The world as a whole does seem to be headed into reducing the use of fossil fuels by looking into renewable energy.

How do we measure energy?

As we look at energy it is a little difficult to understand how we measure energy.  First Work is the force over a distance this is measured in joules.  Energy is the ability to do work and Power is the rate the work is done or the rate of the energy flow.  Things like light bulbs are measured in watts.  A watt is one joule per second. 4/28/12

Fossil fuels supply most of our energy

Most of the energy in the US is supplied by fossil fuels.  Broken down it looks like this Oil 37%, Natural Gas 24% and Coal 23%.  The top 20 countries or only one-fifth of the world population consume over half of the worlds energy supply.  So it is these countries that need to learn to reduce their dependence on fossil fuels.  The other two types of power we need to look at are renewable resources and nuclear power.  Renewable resources include solar, wind, geothermal, and hydroelectricity.  These make up only 7% of the US energy supply.  Nuclear power provides 9% all of that electricity.

How do we use energy?

Our energy consumption can be broken down into 4 major categories Industrial, Commercial, Residential, and Transportation.

Industrial makes up 31% of the energy consumption this includes mining, milling, smelting, trying to gain the natural resources. It also includes the manufacturing of products.

Commercial and Residential consume about 41%.  The uses for this group include heating, air conditioning, water heating, and electricity.

Transportation uses 28% and 98% of that are petroleum refined into gas and diesel.  Creating transportation energy also takes energy and wastes energy.  The process to refine petroleum into gas and diesel looses about half of the energy that is found in raw petroleum.

Fossil Fuels

Fossil Fuels are classified as carbon-based compounds.  These compounds are made from decomposed organisms that have been in bedded in rock for hundreds of millions of years.

Coal resources are vast

Coal deposits are 10x greater throughout the world then petroleum and gas deposits.  The problem that we have with coal is that it is environmentally unfriendly to extract.  Coal mining is dirty and causes major health risks to miners and also the environment.  Underground mines often cause lose of life for those who work there, this to cave-ins, explosions, and lung disease brought on by the coal dust.  Other forms of extraction have been used that are better for humans but not the environment.  One form is mountain to p removal, which just scrapes away earth until coal is found.  This way damages the surrounding ecosystem and leaves piles of unwanted rock and soil.

Coal is also not environmental friendly to the atmosphere.  Coal burning releases CO2 this causes global climate change.  Coal also has impurities in it that are released when it is burned such as lead, mercury, arsenic, chromium, sulfur and nitrogen oxides.  These impurities cause numerous problems such as acid rain.  Coal also produces coal ash that has to be stored somewhere that contains high levels of impurities that are harmful if released into water supplies. 4/28/12

New plants could be cleaner

There is a new plant design called IGCC, which reduces the problems with burning coal.  This design does not burn the coal but turns it into gas separates out the impurities and then burns the what is needed to make electricity. The cost of these facilities are more expensive to build but that cost is recuperated over time.  China is the best at trying to switch to these plants they currently have 18 running while the US only has 1.  If the rest of the world especially those with huge coal deposits would switch to these plants global warming would be greatly reduced.

Have we passed peak oil?

Peak oil is the time in which the amount of oil able to be extracted from the earth starts declining.  This was said to have happened in the United States in around 1970.  Worldwide this is said to have happened or be happening in the last few years.  Only about half of the worlds oil supply is thought to be able to be recovered.  The rest is to hard or to deep to extract.  Of that amount we are only going to last another 41 years on the remainder if our dependence on oil doesn’t decrease.

Domestic oil supplies are limited

If the US stopped all imports of oil we would only be able to go 4.2 years before we ran out entirely.  Any potential for new oil projects are in open waters, Alaska, and other remote places that provide wildlife sanctuaries, fisheries, and are difficult to drill into.  Oil that is extracted in open waters runs a very high risk.  When there is an explosion or a break in a pipe oil is released into the ocean.  This kills aquatic ecosystems and threatens untold number of birds.  This oil then washes up on shore and out into the ocean doing more damage.

Oil shales and tar sands contain huge amounts of petroleum

Oil Shales and Tar sands contain petroleum as well but are harder and more costly to extract.  However, since the price of raw crude has climbed it has become more looked at.  Canada has huge amounts of Tar sands and is currently the largest importer of US oil.  This comes at a high price because Canada’s extraction from the Tar sands toxic sludge, releases green house gases, and contaminates huge amounts of ground water each year.

Natural gas is growing in importance

Natural gas produces less CO2 emission then coal and so is more environmentally friendly.  Russia has ¼ of all natural gas.  World consumption is growing for natural gas at a rate of 2.2% each year.  Taping into natural gas lines does destroy land and raises concern about water pollution.  We also import gas and that has risks.  Shipping natural gas is extremely risky because if one of the specialized vessels blow it could do the damage of a medium atomic bomb.

Energy Conservation

The simplest solution to energy conservation is just to use less.  This can be accomplished by a modification in behavior and also technology.  If each of us look at our energy footprint and make choices that would shrink our footprint as a world the energy consumption would decrease.  This can be done by buying products that take less energy.  Advancements in the automotive field have made cars available that are part electric and also get up to 72 mpg this compared to a vehicle that gets 10-15 like a full size truck would greatly reduce your footprint.  Other advances in home building and maintenance can greatly reduce our footprint.

Green building can cut energy costs by half

Green building has become very popular in both commercial and residential properties.  This includes building to improve energy wastes such as using extra insulation so heat or AC don’t escape the property.  It includes using recycled materials so that there is less production cost.  It also involves looking into and using technologies that use less energy or are on times that shut of when they are not needed.  This building also uses the idea that if we maximize the power of the sun in industrial design. 4/28/12

Cogeneration makes electricity from waste heat

Cogeneration is the production of electricity and heat at the same time.  This is the fastest growing new energy source.  This is done at a plant that makes electricity but captures heat in the form of steam or hot water to then be used.

Case Study – Exploiting Oil in ANWR

There is a small strip of land in the Artic National Wildlife Reserve that has been the source of debate for nearly 25 years.  This debate has been about oil.  This area of land is projected to have the last largest deposits of extractable petroleum and natural gas.  This area is home to a large herd or caribou and also 200 other species of wildlife.  Environmentalists believe that drilling cannot be done without damage to the wildlife, and their habitat.  Oil companies disagree saying that they could go in and extract the oil and natural gas with leaving little environmental footprints and not hurting the wildlife.  This debate has been going for years and in 2005 Congress passed a bill to allow exploration in this area.  Whether or not the oil companies can do what they said has yet to be seen.

Chapter 15 Environmental Policy and Sustainability 4/28/12

Environmental Policy and Law

Environmental Policy is the rules and regulations set to protect the environment and public health.  A lot of people do not realize the number of laws that protect water, air, land, and biodiversity.  Usually these laws and regulation are made by the government systems where things are debated, and compromised.

What drives policy making?

Often policies are made or adjusted to fit in with the views of those who hold power.  This includes economic interest groups, labor unions, industry associations, or wealthy and powerful individuals.  Many policies are also created because of public citizenship policies brought about because someone or something was trying to change the quality of life for another which made those involved demand protection or change.  This could be said to be the biggest reason for most policies.

Policy creation follows a cycle

There is a policy cycle that is used when it is being created.  The steps of this cycle are as followed.

Identify problem- This is started by one individual or group and then given a voice when it is taken to government officials.

Set agenda-This is looking at the problem and coming up with the ideas of how to change the given outcome.

Develop proposals- A proposal is created , define terms, set agendas and set the policy up is done in this stage.

Build support – This is usually crucial for a policy to become a law or a rule.  This involves getting the public aware as well as policy makers in order to show the need and support for the policy.

Enact law or rule – This step includes the actual vote that passes or block new policies.

Implement policy – This step includes carrying out the rule or law hopefully government provides services and enforcement to make sure people follow the new law or rule.

Evaluate results – Every law expires over time and needs to be reevaluated to determine it’s effectiveness

Suggest change- If changes need to be made the cycle starts over again with identifying the problem. 4/28/12

Major Environmental Laws

NEPA established public oversight

The biggest part of U.S. environmental policy was signed into law by President Nixon in 1970 and is the National Environmental Policy Act or NEPA.  This agency does three very important things.

  1. The NEPA establishes a board called Council on Environmental Quality which oversees general environmental conditions.
  2. It directs federal agencies to look at and take into account environmental consequences into account as the look at policies.
  3. It requires a environmental impact statement to be published for the public to see on any federal project that is likely to have effects on environmental quality.

An EIIS is mandated to projects that would have a significant impact on the environment this is often a decision of debate on whether or not a project should do an EIS.  The EIS is time consuming costly and has to have these elements. The purpose and need for the project, alternatives to the proposed action, positive and negative environmental impacts.  The EIS should also look at the short term and long term. 4/28.12

The Clean Air Act regulates air emissions

The Clean Air Act in 1970 was the first after the establishment of NEPA.  This legistration regulates air emissions.  It sets rules and that identify, monitor and reduce air pollutions.  The majority of the work done by the CAA is in monitoring just seven pollutants.  These include sulfur oxides, lead, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, particulates or dust, volatile organic compounds, and metals.  Most of these have declines except the nitrogen oxides which is emitted from vehicles.

The Clean Water Act protects surface water

The Clean Water Act was established in 1972 and is in charge of protecting surface water.  The goal of the policy was to make water “fishable and swimmable” which means it should be safe enough for humans and aquatic ecosystems.  They started this by finding source pollutants that were running into water and regulating what was allowed to be dumped.  By 1980 point source pollutants were for the most part under control.  The CWA then started looking non-point sources of water pollutants.

The Endangered Species Act protects wildlife

In 1973 The Endangered Species Act was adopted into law.  The ESA provides guidelines for listing animals and plants that are endangered, threatened or vulnerable.  These animals that are on this list are then protected along with their habitat by rules from the ESA.  The ESA is often in the middle of controversy because developers want land that might have endangered species in it.  In 2010 their were 1,969 species on the ESA list 753 are plants.

The Superfund Act lists hazardous sights

The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act was put into law in 1980.  This policy is also known as the Superfund Act because it’s funding was suppose to come from industrial producers of hazardous waste.  This is not longer the case the policy is funded now by tax dollars.  The CERCLA has identified over 47,000 sites that require clean-up it is their objective to clean up the sites and try to hold responsible the polluters.

How Are Policies Made?

The laws such as the CAA, CWA, NEPA, ESA, and the Superfund are the major laws in the U.S. regarding the environment.  These all started at the local level and worked there way up to being a national law.  Environmental policies exist at the local, national, and international level.  In the U.S. National laws can be established or changed in all three branches of the government.

The legislative branch establishes statutes

The legislative branch of the government is the making of the laws.  This incorporates legislators at a local level who represent the public in the house and in congress.  Policies are written and voted on to become a law.  Often policies are vague in order to get them passed and then it is up to the judicial branch to determine if a law has been broken.

The Judicial Branch resolves legal disputes

The judicial branch of government is often tied up in cases that involve the environment.  After a law has been made there is often times when someone breaks the law or complains that the law is not constitutional.  These cases then become the problem of the judicial branch where judges have to decide to what extent if any the law was broken, what the consequence should be if found guilty and if the law is constitutional.

The Executive Branch directs administrative law

This is the head of the government.  The president is in this branch and has many ways to change environmental policies without a vote in congress.  In this Branch you have the president and other agencies such as the EPA, Department of Interior, and Department of Agriculture.  These agencies do not have to go through the legislative branch and often has the ability to change rules.  The department of the Interior also runs the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service which is in charge or endangered species protection.

International Policies

Since one nation cannot make laws or policies for another international cooperation is necessary.  Over the past 25 years over 170 different treaties and conventions have been made to protect our environment world wide.

Major International Agreements

Their have been over 170 treaties and conventions but the most important are listed below.

Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species – This 1973 policy set up enforcement that limited endangered species to be traded across international boundaries.

Montreal Protocol – This 1987 treaty made nations phase out production of some chemicals that break down the ozone layer.  This was effective because even those nations that did not sign the treaty could not sell these chemicals to the nations that did sign the treaty.

The Basel Convention-This 1992 International Policy restricts hazardous waste from being transported across boundaries.

UN Framework Convention on Climate Change- This 1994 convention set up sharing data between nations on climate change, setting up plans to deal with climate change and also encouraged the reduction of greenhouse gases.

Kyoto Protocol – This treaty set targets for the nations on reducing their greenhouse gas emissions by 2012.  The U.S. and China the two largest producers of GHG did not sign this treaty.

Enforcement often depends on national pride

Most countries enforce the treaties because they do not want to look bad in the eyes of the international world.  Often times at the conventions or summits nonbinding policies emerge.  These happen when the vast majority feel one way but no strict decision is made or signed so it is just a verbal we will try to do this. 4/28/12

What Can Individuals Do?

There are many aspects in improving the environment from the scientific exploration, education, writing and illustrating policy and action.  All of these aspects take a variety of people it takes more then just the scientist.  It is our responsibility to get involved if we want change.

Environmental education supports society

It is often said what I don’t know won’t hurt me but that is not true when we are talking about the environment.  Education is the key to changing the environment.  It has been said that we all need to have a Environmental literacy.  This means a working knowledge of our environment and the systems within it.

Citizen science lets everyone participate

Many students that are in college do internships, and undergraduate studies in the environmental field.  There is a way for everyone to get involved in environmental studies even if you are out of school new programs called citizen science are becoming popular.  These programs group scientist with everyday people to study and analyze real life environmental problems.

How much is enough?

Developing countries over the years have increased the things that they have not necessarily for a better lifestyle just a different one.  Many people are into shopping to fulfill themselves others buy things to impress.  We as a society need to look at ourselves and assess why we are buying, and using the things we are.  It is said that the world is at rat race and each of us is a rat.  It is our choice how fast and what damage we do to the maze.  If each of us would look at our environmental footprint and try to reduce it just a little collectively it would have a major effect on the environment as a whole.

Case Study – Should We Revise the 1872 Mining Law?

In 1872 a law was put into place that was called the General Mining Act.  This law allows anyone to mine for minerals on public land and then keep what they find for themselves.  This law also allows people to stake claims on land parcels and buy the land for just $2.50 an acre.  After they stake this claim they can treat the land like any private land could be treated.  Environmentalists think that this law needs to be changed because some are exploiting the law and gaining profit that should not be theirs.  They also believe that a law should be put into place that charges mining companies and individuals that mine on public lands to pay royalty fees to the government. Many new bills have been put before Congress but as of now nothing can be compromised to appease both miners and environmental groups.

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Posted by on May 7, 2012 in Uncategorized


Unit 3 Compilation

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


Wildlife Corridor 260 – Lab Project

Wildlife Corridor 260 Lab Project


In this online lab I will be creating and analyzing a wildlife corridor.  This online lab I will select a location and promote the building of a wildlife corridor.  I will look at four main aspects of the wildlife corridor.  First, it will look at the areas needed for the corridor and what human development has or will occur to cause the need.  Second, it will discuss the animals the corridor will serve and what it why it will help them.  Third, it will discuss how the corridor will be built.  Fourth, I will look at what needs to be done by us to insure the corridor works and lasts.


What is a Wildlife Corridor?

“Corridors are like a sidewalk for animals; they help them to get from one point to another,” says the wildlife conservation professor Richard Yahner of Penn State University. 3/13/12

A wildlife corridor is an area that connects two adjacent land pieces to each other that are separated because of some type of human development.   Wildlife corridors provide many benefits to wildlife.  They provide better opportunities for animals to find basic necessities such as food, water and shelter.  Animals that need large roaming areas are able to access new habitats.  Wildlife can move safely through areas without coming into contact with humans.  Animals from different habitats can mate creating a healthy genetic biodiversity.

My Proposal for Wildlife Corridor 260

Picture taken from Goggle Earth 4/12/2012

Why a Corridor Here?

I have chosen two different habitats outside of Cottonwood, Arizona to establish a corridor.  I feel this area could benefit from the formation of a wildlife corridor in order to link the habitat and insure local wildlife is not extirpatedThe corridor I am proposing would connect the east side of Hwy 260 to the west side of HWY 260.  Leaving Cottonwood heading toward Camp Verde the corridor would be located right after Steve Coury Automotive. The corridor would extend down the highway about 1 mile topography in this area is relatively flat.  The west side habitat is comprised of naturally growing vegetation such as creosote bushes, cacti, sagebrush, wildflowers, and many other regional plants.  This habitat has dense vegetation.  The habitat on the east side however has an area of dense vegetation leading up to a ecotonal area with a wider variety of vegetation and then the Verde River where animals can attain water.  This area has a much more abundant supply of vegetation consisting of rich grasses, cottonwood trees, and many other lush fauna.  Both of these habitats are located outside of the town so the demographic is quite small and so the animals are almost entirely free of human disturbances except for the big highway that runs right through the middle creating a habitat fragmentation.  This highway is the main connection from the Interstate 17 highway into Cottonwood.  Cottonwood residents, tourists and semi-trucks that bring products in and out of Cottonwood travel hwy 260.  .  If my corridor was approved it would provide a safe landscape linkage for the animals.

What Animals Would This Corridor Help?

The HWY 260 Corridor would service a diverse species both umbrella and non-umbrella species.  My target species that I would like to see use the corridor would be the Pecari tajacu or more commonly known as the javelina, the Lepus californicus or also known as the black-tailed jackrabbit and the Sylvilagus audubonii or desert cottontail.   

Javelina 4/10/12

Jackrabbit 4/10/12

Cottontail 4/10/12

Why Would this Corridor Strengthen These Species?

The highway is an impediment of movement at least safely for the animals in these habitats, the vehicles that travel this road drive over 65 mph and often encounter animal that are trying to cross the highway in order to obtain an abundance of water on the other side.  Both of these species are primarily nocturnal but the javelina has very poor eyesight even so it is common to see them trying to cross the road where there is light pollution.  This is one of many reasons why the corridor is essential to these species.  Another reason is the ability to obtain food and water.  Water is a temporal need essential for the survival of the javelina and even though the jackrabbit gets moister from cacti they travel several miles a day trying to find adequate food then returning to their core habitat.  Water is a major abiotic component in this habitat and resides only on one side of the highway a corridor is needed to allow the animals safe passage to this commodity.  This corridor would also allow the species to have genetic interchange with their species thus mitigating the risks associated with inbreeding.

Why is the So Necessary for the Animals to Cross the Road? 4/12/12

The freedom to roam, obtain food and reproduce will all be greatly increased with the completion of this wildlife corridor.  It would also greatly increase the biodiversity in the area.  Desert cottontail rabbits are preyed on by a large variety of animals like coyotes, snakes, and owls to name a few.  If untimely deaths caused by automobiles were stopped then the rabbit would flourish reproduction would grow and attract other predatory species into the area.  These species would need food and water and would follow the rabbits across the corridor.  Those animals birthrate would then go up and a positive chain reaction would occur each new species would attract new predators and the land around the corridor would grow rich in wildlife.  There will be one overhead corridor and one underground corridor spaces ½ mile apart in order to provide options for both predator and prey.  The corridor would be built now large enough to handle animals of all sizes even though my target animals are relatively small.  The corridors would also look like the surrounding landscape in order to encourage species to use the passageways.


This represents what Wildlife Corridor 260 would look like.

Wildlife Corridor 260 would consist of two passages over the highway one an overhead and one an underground passage.  At this time there is human structures and I would make sure that the corridor extended back from the highway to the river on the east side and at least a mile on the west.  I would also insure that building that might occur on the edges of the habitats would have conservation easements in order to limit edge effects.  Both passageways would be covered in natural landscape in order to encourage animals to use the passages.    I would also build a tall fence that would line the highway in order to lead the animals to safe passage through the corridors.

Example of what an underpass corridor might look like.

Example of what a overpass corridor might look like.

What Can The People around the Corridor Do To Help?

“It is vitally important that we identify and maintain habitat connectivity and migration corridors for fish and wildlife in response to the effects of climate change and other landscape level impacts on these critical resources.” said Gary Taylor, legislative director of the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies. 4/13/12

In order for the corridor to work correctly it must be maintained and managed properly.  This also includes letting people in the area know why a corridor was built and explaining the need for their help to control the area around the corridor and report trespassers.

This campaign poster would be distributed to landowners around the corridor.


This lab project took a look at an area that boxed in wildlife and made me think about the animals involved and how a wildlife corridor could help them.   Animals such as the javelina and the rabbit are not often thought of as major species but have a place in our environment in order to make it function.  These animals especially rabbits bring biodiversity into our area through predator prey interaction.  With out the corridor the area would not be as diverse.

The lab project showed me the work and time that goes into creating a wildlife corridor.  I think that my corridor is small encompassing a spacial radius only a few square miles.  I am amazed to think of the time put into planning and executing corridors such as the one I read about in National Geographic located in Turkey which covers 783,562 km2. ( ) Small or large wildlife corridors are a necessity in many areas.

This Lab Project taught me a very valuable lesson.   We need the highway in order to make our lives run safely and efficiently.  I think if these species could talk they would tell us that the building of that highway endangered their lives and made it much more difficult to obtain the resources needed to flourish in this hot desert landscape.  The corridor would make their lives safe and efficient again.  I think that as we build we need to really take into account other species that share the earth with us and build in a way that we can all live happily together.

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Posted by on April 16, 2012 in Uncategorized


Unit 2 Compilation

Chapter 6 Environmental Conservation

Words to Know

Forests – Any area where 10% or more of the land is covered by trees

Old growth forests – Forests that have been undisturbed long enough for a tree to live a natural life cycle

Monoculture forestry – Planting and harvesting a large area with a single tree species

Clear-cutting – clearing an entire area of all trees regardless of size

Shelterwood harvesting – Removing only mature trees

Strip-cutting – trees in a strip of the forest are removed

Selective cutting – A small percentage of mature trees are harvested

Ecosystem management – A system of resource management which considers economic, ecological, and social aspects

Pastoralists – Peoples living depends on herding animals

Overgrazing – Allowing livestock to graze so much on one area that it causes damage to the soil and vegetation.

Rotational grazing – Rotating livestock between areas in order to make sure all areas are grazed equally.

World conservation strategy – A program set up by IUCN to protect natural resources.

Man and Biosphere (MAB) program – The way a preserve is set up and divided up into protective areas with different purposes.

Corridors – Strips of natural habitat that connects two or more habitats.  Used for the migration of species between habitats

Core habitat – The middle or inside of a habitat

Edge Effect – The edge of any habitat 3/7/2012


*Forest throughout the world provide many of lives essential such as lumber, climate control, wildlife habitats, water purifying air and water and many more.

*There are 5 different types of forests: boreal forests, tropical moist forests, temperate forests, subtropical forests and tropical dry forests.

*Forests are any land that has more than 10% covered by trees.

*Forests contain huge amount of carbon and the burning and clearing of forests release this carbon into the atmosphere.

*Deforestation is the removal of trees from the forest.  This can be anything from selective harvesting to extreme clear-cutting.

*Deforestation is done for a variety of reasons ranging from clearing lands for farming to harvesting lumber for products or roads.

*As forests are cleared the effects on the environments from weather to the biodiversity is disrupted.

*Organizations and programs such as REDD and ecosystem management have been adopted and put in place to protect and control the deforestation of the world’s forests. 3/7/2012


*Grassland makes up about 25% of the worlds land.

*Grasslands are the second most used biomes by humans.

*Majority of the grasslands are used for grazing animals.

*The biggest threat to grasslands is the overgrazing on the lands.  This is caused when pastoralists do not limit the amount of time livestock is allowed to graze resulting in significant irrevocable damage to the soil and vegetation.

*New methods are being tried in order to ensure that overgrazing doesn’t happen.  These methods include rotational grazing which is when livestock are allowed to grazed in one area so long and then moved this insures all areas are grazed the same amount. Also some ranchers are raising wild species that have benefits that domestic cattle do not have.

Parks and Preserves

*Fourteen percent of land is reserved in some type of preserve, park or wildlife management area.

*These areas vary considerably from one to another.  The spectrum ranges from high human interaction to no human interaction.

*These areas vary from heavy biodiversity to places like Iceland which has little wildlife and no vegetation.

*The one area being said to need more protection is marine areas.

*Each of us on the planet need to take responsibility for our actions in helping to preserve our natural resources.

*We need to be aware of the balance between meeting our own needs and providing for the future.

Case Study- Saving the Great Bear Rainforest

The Great Bear Rainforest is located in British Columbia.  It 2006 an agreement was reached to protect this area.  This agreement included government, logging companies, and environmental groups.  The Great Bear Rainforest is home to a wide range of wildlife which includes a rare white or cream black bear called “spirit bears.”  Over 60% of the world’s temperate rainforests have been destroyed and this area makes up 25% of what is left.  Before the area to be protected was established researches looked at many aspects.   Aspects such as water, wildlife habitats, tree age, and native tradition and important sites before drawing boundaries that included areas where selective logging will take place.

A Closer Look- Save a Tree Save a Climate

Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degeneration or REDD is a group that is trying to reduce the 17% of human caused CO2 that is released into the atmosphere from deforestation.  There are effects to deforestation such as the environments inability to store carbon.  Water supplies are disrupted in areas where deforestation has occurred.  Biodiversity is destroyed as an area is deforested.  Climate can dramatically change in areas where deforestation has taken place.  REDD knows that it is a balancing act between protecting forests from deforestation and also providing countries with the resources they need to be successful.

Exploring Science – Finding Common Ground on the Range

There has long been a debate between ranchers and environmentalists on the best ways in which to protect and preserve the land while still earning a living.  Recently a new relationship was formed that could become an example for other ranchers and government agencies.  This new program was formed between ranchers, conservationists, and government agencies in an area called the “boot heel” (an area that incorporates the bottom of New Mexico and parts of Arizona).  These groups have come together and setup a program that ensures the long term survival of both the ecosystems of the ranches and the sustainable income those ranches provide.

Chapter 10.1, 10.2, 10.6 Water: Resources and Pollution

Words to Know

Hydrologic cycle – endless cycle water travels through the environment

Residence time – time water typically stays in a compartment

Zone of aeration – layer of soil comprised of air and water where plants extract moisture

Zone of saturation – lower layers of soil that are filled with water

Aquifers – areas underground that serve as reservoirs for groundwater

Recharge zones – places where water drains into aquifers

Discharge – amount of water that passed a point in a river over a specific amount of time

Pathogens – disease causing organisms

Coliform bacteria – bacteria found in human and animals, finding these bacteria in water suggest the water is not safe

Biological Oxygen Demand – A way to measure water quality, amount of dissolved oxygen found in aquatic microorganisms

Oxygen sag – the measure of oxygen decline as it goes downstream

Oligotrophic – Bodies of water that have clear water and low biological productivity

Eutrophic – Bodies of water that are rich in organisms and organic matter

Cultural eutrophication – accelerated eutrophication caused by human activity

Water Resources

*Water is essential to life.

*Sixty percent of our bodies are made up of water we cannot survive more than a few days without water.

*Water endlessly cycles through our environment.  This is through the process called the hydrologic cycle shown below.

*Renewable freshwater supply is made up of 10% of evaporated water from the oceans and evaporation from rivers, plants, soil and lakes.

*Plants are a major component in the hydrologic cycle by absorbing ground water and releasing it back into the atmosphere through transpiration. 3/7/2012

Major Water Compartments

*These compartments are the holders of water.

*Glaciers, ice and snow, make up nearly 90 percent of freshwater.

*Drought and climate change can change the amount of water runoff we receive from snowfall.

*Groundwater is stored in aquifers below the surface

* Aquifers are the largest compartment of freshwater.

*Groundwater renews itself through recharge zones.

*Rivers contain a small amount of freshwater compared to other sources and they are in constant need of replenishing.

*Lakes on the other hand have 100 times more water then rivers but the majority of that water is found in just a few lakes.

*Wetlands are the last compartments and are extremely important as they help hold water long enough    to be absorbed into aquifers.

Water Pollution

*Water Pollution is any effect biological, chemical, or physical that changes the water quality making it unsuitable for the desired uses.

* Point sources are when you can trace the pollution back to a source.

Example – Drainage from a factories, power plants, and sewage treatment plants.

*Non-point sources are when the pollution cannot be traced to a specific source and are therefore harder to monitor and regulate.

Example – Atmospheric deposition which can drop pollution hundreds of miles away from the source. 3/7/2012

Case Study – When will Lake Mead Go Dry?

This case study looks at the Colorado River and the effect of climate change, increased population, and drought.  Eighty-five percent of the water storage for the Colorado River is held in Lake Mead and Lake Powell.  Over the last decade it has been discovered that if changes are not made soon those lakes might become unusable.  The major problems stem from the Colorado Compact which was a water allocation set up in 1922.  The water rights were given to 7 states that share the Colorado River.  At the time the compact was written no state withdrew their full allocation.  Now with states wanting their allocated water, water being diverted for other water projects and climate change the lakes are in trouble.   With Lake Mead already below fifty percent capacity and Lake Powell only at fifty-eight percent decisions need to be made at how to save one or both of the lakes.

Exploring Science – Studying the Gulf Dead Zone

A “dead zone” is an area that is void of all aquatic life.  There are said to be over 200 known dead zones around the world.  This study focused on one located in the Gulf of Mexico.  It was said to be cause because of excessive nitrogen and other nutrients being dumped into the gulf from rain and runoff from the Mississippi River.  There are many factors in nutrient runoff but if it is not looked at and study more dead zones could arise. 3/7/2012

Chapter 7.1-7.4 Food and Agriculture

Words to Know

Food security – Ability to receive healthy, adequate food on a daily bases.

Famines – Large scale food shortage

Malnourishment – Nutritional imbalance caused by lack of nutrients

Obese – A person who is more the 20% over their ideal weight

Confined animal feeding operation – Places that house and fed enormous amounts of a specific animal in order to achieve rapid growth

Surface soil – The first level of soil containing the nutrients for plant growth

Subsoil – The layer of soil under the topsoil usually rich in minerals and low in organic matter

Global Trends in Food and Nutrition

*World food problems have more to do with food distributions rather than the supply of food.

*Ninety-five percent of people that do not have food security are in developing countries.

*Males often receive more nutrients the women and children who need it more.

*Famine is usually caused by political disturbances or social disruptions.

* Natural disasters may lead toward famine but most farmers would be able to survive if it wasn’t for corrupt government or greedy elites.

How Much Food Do We Need

*Over half of the world is said to have vitamin, minerals, or protein deficiencies.

* Deficiencies can cause illnesses and death.

* A healthy diet is made up of nutrients that are essential for an active lifestyle.

*Overeating is a problem that is on the rise.

* There are more people overweight then underweight.

*Sixty-four percent of adult Americans are overweight.

*The food pyramid is a visual representation of what a healthy diet looks like.

*More Food doesn’t end world hunger because the food supply doesn’t get to where it is needed nor has other consequences on the economy where it is sent. 3/7/2012

What do we eat?

*There are thousands of edible animal and plants in the world.

*Majority of people’s diets contain only a few of these plants and animals.

* Wheat and rice are considered the stable food source for developing countries.

* In recent years, because of all the uses of corn, it has become the major commodity crop in the U.S.

* Meat consumption in a country is a sign of wealth.

*CAFO is the process that houses animals in large buildings feed them grains and pushes for fast growth.

*Seafood is an important part of the world’s diet but needs to be managed because of over-harvesting.

* Antibiotic resistant diseases may occur because livestock are given so many antibiotics and bacteria in manure are being put into the water supply.

* Even though we are producing food at a faster rate the effects on the environment are also felt.

* It is a battle between cheaper food prices and environmental effects that are constantly being looked at.

Living Soil is a Precious Resource

*Soil has six ingredients: sand and gravel, silts and clays, dead organic matter, soil fauna and flora, water and air.

*All soil in the world has these components but the amount of each make up the type of soil and how rich or productive it is.

*Fauna in the soil is the main ingredient for rich productive soil.

*Soil Horizon is made up of 6 parts traveling downward into the ground.

*Food grows mostly because of the A horizon. 3/7/2012

Case Study – Farming the Cerrado

This Case Study discussed soy bean production in Brazil.   Cerrado is a grassland and tropical forest situated in the middle of Brazil and, until recently, was thought to be unsuitable for farming.  Recently, it was discovered that soy beans can thrive in the Cerrado.  This has led to both positive and negative consequences for Brazil.  The positive consequences are the financial benefits of being the world’s top soy producer and the world’s largest beef exporter.  Another positive is the amount of high quality food this region provides to help feed the world.  The negative aspects of the cultivation of the Cerrado are felt most by those who live in the area.  The expansion of the soy bean and beef production limits the biodiversity in the region.  Small family farms are being taken over leading to conflicts between poor farmers and big landowners.  Many of these farmers and the workers end up without a way to support their families and either migrate to overpopulated cities or live in squatter camps.

Chapter 11 Environmental Geology and Earth Resources

Words to Know

Core – The center of the earth comprised of a hot mass of metal

Mantle – The area between the outer core of the earth and the crust

Tectonic plates – huge sections of the earths crust that move around slowly

Magma – molten rock that comes from deep within the earth’s core, called lava when it is released through volcanoes

Mid-ocean ridges – mountains under the ocean that have cracks where magma come through cool and form new crust

Subducted – when the ocean floor pushes down into the mantle

Mineral – A naturally occurring inorganic solid

Rock – a solid mass of one or more minerals

Rock cycle – The endless cycle that creates, morphs, and destroys rocks

Igneous rock – rocks formed by hot molten magma or lava

Metamorphic rock – rocks formed from contouring, melting, and re-crystalizing of other rocks

Sedimentary rock – rocks formed when grains of other rocks are pushed together by time and pressure

Sedimentation – The breakdown of rocks caused from weather forces

Smelting –Heating ore to separate metals from other compounds

Earthquake – movement of the earth’s crust suddenly

Tsunami – waves that are caused by earthquakes or underwater landslides

Volcanoes – tunnels that go down through the earth that release magma, gases, and ash

Floods – when water flows into normally dry land

Floodplains – area that is carved out by river to fill up when occasionally

Landslides – sudden collapse of a hillside

Earth Processes Shape Our Resources

*The earth is made up of layers.

*The layers of the earth are core, outer core, mantle and crust

*Breaks in the earth crust that form huge areas that move slowly are tectonic plates.

*There are huge mountain ranges under the ocean formed by cracks where magma is released and then cooled forming a land mass. 3/7/2012

Minerals and Rocks

* A mineral is solid so ice is a mineral and water is not.

*There are three different types of rock classification igneous rocks, metamorphic rocks, and sedimentary rocks.

Igneous rock example – basalt, gabbro, and granite

Metamorphic rock example – diamonds, jades, marble, and quartz

Sedimentary rocks example – rock salt and limestone

*Sedimentation is the breakdown caused by weather to rocks.

Economic Geology and Mineralogy

*Metals are extremely valuable and also very useful in our world.

*Metals are strong, relatively light and can be shaped for a variety of uses.

*Nonmetal resources include gravel, clay, glass, and salt.

* The earth also provides fossil fuels oil, gas, and coal which currently provide almost all of our fuel.

Environmental Effects of Resource Extraction

*Mining and drilling to extract the natural resources cause environmental and social consequences.

*Even after mining or drilling often times the area is not cleaned up to reduce the damage.

* Sediment –runoff, chemical pollution and sulfur dioxide released into the atmosphere are some of the causes from mining that are in air and water pollution.

* There are over 100 air pollutions caused from mining and drilling.

* There is a risk when extracting some metals because of the other substances needed that can then contaminate water supplies.

Conserving Geologic Resources

*Recycling saves energy because it is easier to recycle the material then extract it.

*New materials such as plastic or fiber-optics are replacing some of the demand for the natural resources.

Geologic Hazards

*Geological hazards include earthquakes, volcanoes, floods, landslides.

*These geological hazards are part of the normal earth process however they can have devastating effects of the human race.

* As we understand the geological hazards we can prepare ourselves to have fewest casualties. 3/7/2012

Case Study – Earthquake

This case study looked at two earthquakes one in Haiti and one in Chile.  These two earth quakes turned out differently because of the areas that the occurred in.  The one that hit Haiti killed 220,000 people because it occurred in a populated city.  The city’s building codes were not strictly enforced so there was more building destruction.  On the other hand the one in Chile was 500 times stronger than the one in Haiti but only 700 people died.  This is because building codes are stricter and the center of the quake was in a remote area.  Geologic hazards can wreck havoc on the world and those countries that are prepared are better equipped to handle the disasters.

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Posted by on March 12, 2012 in Uncategorized


Natural Resources Lab Project

Natural Resources Lab Project


In this lab we will take a look at the effects on the landscape when natural resources are utilized.  We will be comparing three different areas where three different natural resources were or are being used.  The first is located in Wyoming and deals with wells drilled to extract natural gas.  The second area we will look at is located in West Virginia on the Appalachian Mountain Range.  This site scrapes off the tops of mountains in order to reach coal.  The third area we are going to look at is in Clarkdale, AZ where over 100 years ago a smelter was built which melted ore and extracted copper leaving behind a slag pile of melted waste.  All of these areas show us dramatic effects on the landscape due to the removal of natural resources.


For the first two sites I used a web-based computer program called Google Earth to study the areas.  This program allowed me to get a view of the area and its surroundings from an overhead view. Below are the first images I received from Goggle Earth for both Wyoming and for West Virginia.

As I looked at these photos I also zoomed out to the next photos in order to answer some questions about these areas and the chapter which I have been studying.

1. State the differences between the disturbed and natural areas in the Powder River Basin.

Answer – When I looked at this map I found little undisturbed areas.  Those with fewer drill pads seemed less disturbed having only a few roads compared to the multiple roads and numerous drill sites.  The places with fewer drill pads also seemed to me to have more water around them even though this is still a small amount.

2.  According to what you know from Chapter 10, what specific effects can this brine have on the fish (not simply “death” please)?

Answer – As brine is added to the water the waters acid level changes and though the fish may be able to survive with a little brine there will reach a point when the water is to acidic for anything to live in creating a dead zone.

3. What is the origin of the methane associated with coal beds?

Answer – Both methane and coal are made from the remnants of organic matter.

4. According to what you know from Chapter 10, what specific effects can soil and rock have on wildlife (not simply “death” please)?

Answer – If soil and rocks pushed down the mountain it could bury plants that the wildlife need to survive.  It might also make it harder for any vegetation to grow depending on what water sources were buried.

After I was finished looking at the first two areas I shifted my focus to an area closer to home.  I went to Clarkdale, Arizona which was home to the United Verde Copper Smelter.  I was fortunate enough to be able to go into the Clarkdale Museum and gather information.  Below is all that is left of the smelter which is the massive slag pile.  The 1st smelter was built in 1915 by William K. Clark owner of the United Verde Copper Company that was located in Jerome AZ.  This smelter was used from 1915 until the 1953 when the mine in Jerome was shut down.  Along with the smelter Clark built a railroad from Jerome to Clarkdale and also the town of Clarkdale that was to house the over 7, 000 mine employees.  The area where the train, town and smelter were to be built had once belonged to native Indians who had built irrigation ditches and used the land to farm.  After the native Indians were relocated the land was used by farmers and ranchers and there was said to be a large orchards down by the river that runs through the far northeast valley.    The smelter was used to melt down ore and extract the copper.  The methods used were so outdated compared to today’s techniques that the slag pile that remains is said to be the richest mineral waste pile in the U.S.  But even though it is rich still in minerals it has forever changed the landscape that once was and the landscape that will come.  The orchard that was destroyed before the smelter was put into place was located almost exactly where the slag pile resides today.  There are no living organisms on the slag pile. Pictures below are of the old smelters and also what the slag pile looks like now.

I drew a map of the major aspects of the area.  There was basic vegetation surrounding the slag pile but nothing overgrown and especially not an orchard that once stood on the land.  Also the other thing included in the map is the SMG Cement Plant which operates in Clarkdale and is also utilizing natural resources.

I also looked at other areas around Clarkdale to get an idea as to what the area might look like if the United Verde Copper Company had not built the smelter and left the slag pile.  I found a similar area close to Clarkdale which seemed to have little disturbances.  This area was rich with natural plants such as mesquite trees, sage brush and multiple kinds of grasses.  These can be seen in the photos below.  There was only one road that ran across this area limiting the amount of people who access this area.


This lab provides a great deal of education to those who complete it.  I found that areas that I would never research such as Virginia and Wyoming have problems with the effects of natural resource utilization just like we do here in the Verde Valley.  I was amazed to think about the size of the destruction area in each of these projects.  We will never be able to know what the land would have looked like if the smelter had not been built in Clarkdale but I did learn a very interesting fact.  The slag pile in Clarkdale has been sold to Searchlight Mineral Group and is going to be removed over the next 20 years.  Even though the land will ever be undisturbed this is a good step in the right direction to remove some of the damage.

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Posted by on March 12, 2012 in Uncategorized


Predator vs. Prey Simulation Lab

Predator vs. Prey Simulation Lab


In this lab project the objective is to simulate the relationship over generations of prey vs. predator.  We are trying to understand as the population grows in one of the species what the effect is on the other species which co inhabit that environment.  In this experiment it takes a lynx capturing three rabbits in order to survive and reproduce.  The goal is to chart how many lynx and rabbits survive each generation.


It is my hypothesis that the predator vs. prey environment works in a cycle.  As the prey gains population the predator does as well.   Since it takes more prey to sustain a predator, eventually the predator becomes over populated and there is not enough prey to sustain all predators.  This then forces the predators’ population to go down and the process starts over again.


  1. I started with collecting materials.
  • Ruler
  • Tape
  • Instructions
  • Scissors
  • Rabbit/Lynx worksheet
  • 3” piece of cardboard
  1. I then marked off an area 12”x12” this will represent the ecosystem size that we will inhabit the rabbits and the lynx.
  2. I cut out 300 rabbits from the worksheet to ensure I had enough to complete the project.  I also cut 1 lynx and put it onto the 3” cardboard.  This represents the size difference and predator qualities the lynx has over the rabbits.
  3. At this point I am now ready to start the simulation.  I place three rabbits sporadically into the area and toss the lynx.  After the lynx is thrown I calculate how many rabbits and lynx survive.  If the lynx captures three rabbits it survived and reproduces one lynx per three rabbits captured.  If a rabbit is not captured it survives and reproduces doubling in population to the next generation.
  4. Using these guidelines I repeated step 4-20 generations.


As I started out the first few generations it was hard for the lynx to survive and capture three rabbits but as the population of rabbits grew than the lynx had an easier time catching the rabbits and surviving.

This is the start of Generation 5,  it has 16 rabbits and two lynx trying to capture the rabbits.  The lynx this generation were successful and survived to reproduce.

In the seventh generation when there were six lynx going after only twelve rabbits I found that the first few got there rabbits fairly easy but the last few struggled and two didn’t survive because the remaining rabbits were to far apart to capture.  By generation nine a cycle was completed were the lynx grew to a number that depleted the supply of rabbits and so they died out and the process started over with just one lynx and three rabbits.

By Generation 16 the cycle had repeated itself to almost the same point as in Generation 5. Two lynx going after 28 rabbits.

This same trend continued on and by generation 20 we were at the end of yet another cycle.


I feel like this experiment documented very well a simulation of a predator vs. prey situation.  It allows the participant to see the ups and downs in both the predator and the prey’s population and understand how one influences the other.


1. Keep in mind that, as in any simulation (even sophisticated computer models), certain assumptions are made and many variables overlooked. What sort of variables could subject a natural population to pressure or disturbance? Name five.


  •  Weather- Weather is a variable that could change the outlook dramatically.  Through the generations droughts or even the opposite heavy rains could play a role to increase or decrease the amount of water and food for both species.
  •  Food Web- Other predators in the same ecosystem could change the outcome of this experiment if two predators are after the same prey they are fighting for the same resource and the amount of lynx that survived could be altered.
  • Producers- If there was a lack of green plants the rabbits would have food in order to reproduce and therefore the lynx would not have enough rabbits to prey on.
  • Disease-Disease could wipe out a whole generation or more of one of the species leading the other to eradication as well.
  • Human Interactions-If humans hunt the rabbit of the lynx it would cause a shift in food chain.

2. What might be the outcome if the lynx was exterminated?

Answer – The rabbit population might become out of control and may also starve because there might not be enough food to feed them.  Also another predator might come in and replace the lynx as the rabbit’s nemesis.

3. What patterns did you observe?  Describe any evident lag times.

Answer- I observed that 10 out of 20 generations could only support one lynx.  It takes more time for the population of a lynx to increase then it does for the rabbit population.  This is shown when you look at the data as a whole you see a pattern of lag times.  Those times are as the cycle starts and stars over so in the first few generations and then right after the mid point.

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Posted by on February 13, 2012 in Uncategorized