Environmental science is an interdisciplinary field that involves both the physical sciences (physics, chemistry, biology, geology, geography, resource technology and engineering) and the social sciences (resource management and conservation, demography, economics, politics and ethics). It encompasses the surrounding conditions that affect man and other organisms. Natural and human resources are interdependent and the use or misuse of one affects the other.
The discipline is a relatively new one, really only coming into existence in the 1960s. The publication of Rachael Carson`s landmark ecological book Silent Spring (in 1960) along with major environmental issues becoming very public, such as a major oil spill off the coast of Santa Barbara, California (in 1969), and the Cuyahoga River of Cleveland, Ohio, "catching fire" (also in 1969), helped increase the visibility of the environmental movement and create this new field of study.
Atmospheric sciences focus on the Earth's atmosphere, with an emphasis upon its interrelation to other systems. Atmospheric sciences can include studies of meteorology, greenhouse gas phenomena, atmospheric dispersion modeling of airborne contaminants, sound propagation phenomena related to noise pollution, and even light pollution.
Taking the example of the global warming phenomena, physicists create computer models of atmospheric circulation and infra-red radiation transmission, chemists examine the inventory of atmospheric chemicals and their reactions, biologists analyze the plant and animal contributions to carbon dioxide fluxes, and specialists such as meteorologists and oceanographers add additional breadth in understanding the atmospheric dynamics.
Ecology. An interdisciplinary analysis of an ecological system which is being impacted by one or more stressors might include several related environmental science fields. For example, one might examine an estuarine setting where a proposed industrial development could impact certain species by water and air pollution. For this study, biologists would describe the flora and fauna, chemists would analyze the transport of water pollutants to the marsh, physicists would calculate air pollution emissions and geologists would assist in understanding the marsh soils and bay muds.
Environmental chemistry is the study of chemical alterations in the environment. Principal areas of study include soil contamination and water pollution. The topics of analysis include chemical degradation in the environment, multi-phase transport of chemicals (for example, evaporation of a solvent containing lake to yield solvent as an air pollutant), and chemical effects upon biota.
As an example study, consider the case of a leaking solvent tank which has entered the habitat soil of an endangered species of amphibian. As a method to resolve or understand the extent of soil contamination and subsurface transport of solvent, a computer model would be implemented. Chemists would then characterize the molecular bonding of the solvent to the specific soil type, and biologists would study the impacts upon soil arthropods, plants, and ultimately pond-dwelling organisms that are the food of the endangered amphibian.
Geosciences include environmental geology, environmental soil science, volcanic phenomena and evolution of the Earth's crust. In some classification systems this can also include hydrology, including oceanography.
As an example study of soils erosion, calculations would be made of surface runoff by soil scientists. Fluvial geomorphologists would assist in examining sediment transport in overland flow. Physicists would contribute by assessing the changes in light transmission in the receiving waters. Biologists would analyze subsequent impacts to aquatic flora and fauna from increases in water turbidity.
The natural environment, commonly referred to simply as the environment, encompasses all living and non-living things occurring naturally on Earth or some region thereof.
The concept of the natural environment can be distinguished by components:
* Complete ecological units that function as natural systems without massive human intervention, including all vegetation, animals, microorganisms, soil, rocks, atmosphere and natural phenomena that occur within their boundaries.
* Universal natural resources and physical phenomena that lack clear-cut boundaries, such as air, water, and climate, as well as energy, radiation, electric charge, and magnetism, not originating from human activity.
The natural environment is contrasted with the built environment, which comprises the areas and components that are strongly influenced by humans. A geographical area is regarded as a natural environment (with an indefinite article), if the human impact on it is kept under a certain limited level
Environmental protection should not only be of concern to the government, but also of every individual. The success of a policy depends on public awareness.
A survey on Chinese people's awareness of environmental protection published yesterday suggests that much still needs to be done. The survey jointly conducted by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and the China Environmental Awareness Program showed that 89.6 percent of the respondents paid attention to the conservation of water, electricity and gas in their daily life, but only 22.1 percent intentionally avoided using plastic bags when shopping.
The fact that only 27.8 percent of the respondents knew about biodiversity sends a message that the general public's knowledge about environmental protection is still at an initial stage.
Many may have practiced thrift in the use of electricity, water and gas in their daily life but for most it is just a knee jerk reaction to rising prices rather than out of concern for the deteriorating environment.
This suggests that the pricing mechanism is still an effective leverage to push more and more residents to pay attention to the environment. But it should not be the only way, and residents should be told why such prices are raised, and what impact their saving of water, electricity and gas will have on the environment and ecological balance.
That fact that 67.3 of the respondents were not satisfied with what most enterprises have done to protect the environment and prevent pollutants from being directly discharged into the air or water seems to coincide with the difficulties environmental watchdogs have met in their job to get enterprises to abide by environmental protection rules.
There is a mutual impact between what the government and enterprises have done in environmental protection and the degree of self-discipline on the part of individuals in making their own contributions.
A better job by both the government and enterprises will help raise the environmental awareness of individuals, who will most likely be willing to do their bit. Contribution from more individuals will certainly have an accumulative impact on our environment from a long-term point of view. If the situation is otherwise, even the enthusiasm of those individuals who are keen on doing their bit will be dampened.
Publicity and education are important to raise such awareness of the general public. But we believe that action on the part of the governments is even more important. The fact that more than 60 percent of the respondents were not satisfied with what their local governments have done in environmental protection points to their policies that are tilted in favor of economic growth rather than balanced development.