Intro to Environmental Studies

A state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being.
A deleterious change in the body’s condition in response to an environmental factor.
What are the 5 categories of Environmental Health Risks
Toxins, Infectious Agents, Trauma, Pollution, Radiation
Disability-adjusted life years (DALY’s)

Combine premature deaths and loss of healthy life resulting from illness or disability.

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Lost in productivity, education, etc.

Hit’s the young more than the old.

Chronic Diseases

Persistent and lasting medical condition.

Cancers, heart disease, arthritis.

Leading cause of disability and premature death.

Acute Diseases

Rapid onset of disease with a relatively short course, also epidemic diseases.

Flu, colds, diarrhea.

Epidemic diseases still #1 killer in poorest areas.

Diseases can spread through speed and frequency of modern travel.

What is the greatest health threat?
Pathogenic organisms, accidents, and violence
Communicable diseases are responsible for how many diseases-related deaths?
1/3rd, majority poor countries
How much did the flu epidemic of 1918 kill?
30 million people, 5% of world population
Emergent disease
A new diseases or a diseases we haven’t seen for over 20 years
Heaviest burden of illness borne by who?
Poorest people who cannot afford a health environment and health care.
10/90 Gap
90% of diseases burden occurs in developing countries here less than 10% of all health care dollars are spent.
Seal diseases in west Europe.
Chronic Wasting Disease
Diseases in deer and elk in North America. Like Mad Cow Diseases
What proportion of all antibiotics manufactured in the US are routinely fed to farm animals to stimulate weight gain.
What is the downfall of the overuse of antibiotics?

Heavy Natural Selection, diseases mutate.

Many people do not finish the full-course of the diseases. 

Toxic Chemical


Can be general or very specific. Often harmful even in dilute concentrations.

Hazardous Chemical


Flammable, explosive, irritant, and acidic.

Substances that activate the immune system.
Recognized as foreign by white blood cells and stimulate the production of specific antibodies
Sick Building Syndrome
accumulation of allergens and many toxins from carpets, insulation, plastics, foams, molds, etc.
Regulate normal development and functioning of organs and tissues
Metabolic poisons that specifically attack nerve cells
Agents that damage or alter genetic material
Specifically cause abnormalities during embryonic growth and development.
like alcohol causing Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
How many fat people are there in the US?
Chemicals that dissolve more readily in water or oil.
Water soluble compounds move rapidly through the environment, and have ready access to most human cells
Why do airborne toxins generally cause more ill health than any other exposure?
b/c the lining of the lungs easily absorb toxins
Selective absorption and storage
Toxin burden of a large number of organisms at a lower trophic level is accumulated and concentrated by a predator at a higher level
Some chemical compounds are persistent and do not break down at all, while most chemical compounds degrade rapidly
What are some examples of Persistent Organic Pollutants? (POP’s)
foam in upholstery, plastics, Goretex, Teflon, foodpackaging
Dose Response Curves – LD50
Dose at which 50% of the test population is sensitive.
What is worse than malaria?
What is the problem with understanding risks?
Personal experiences can be misleading.
We have an exaggerated view of our abilities to control our fate.
News media sensationalizes rare events.
Irrational fears lead to overestimation of certain dangers.
Why is it difficult to establish public policy?
it is difficult to separate the effects of multiple hazards and evaluate their risks accurately, especially when exposures are near the threshold of measurements and response.
How has population and food production grown in the past 40 years?
population growth has averaged 1.7% per year while food production increased an average 2.2%
What is the greatest threat to food security?
Food security
Ability to obtain sufficient food on a daily basis
Retards economic growth
Recognizing role of women in food production is an important step forward
large-scale food shortages, massive starvation, social disruption and economic chaos
why do mass migrations occur?
b/c productive capacity has been sacrificed.

environmental conditions are immediate trigger, but politics and economics are often underlying problems & war

What are the drawbacks from food camps?
stress from crowding, lack of sanitation, close contact to epidemic diseases, “killing zones”
nutritional imbalance cause by a lack of specific dietary components
iron deficiency
the most common dietary imbalance in the world that leads to anemia
“displaced child” – occurs mainly in children whose diet lacks high-quality protein.
reddish – orange hair, bloated stomach
“to waste away” – caused by a diet low in protein and calories.
very thin, shriveled.
the most common dietary problem in wealthy countries
What can over dependence on a small number of crops lead to?
food security issues and high dependence on pesticides.
highly inequitable distribution
more developed countries make up 20% of world population, but consume 80% of meat and dairy production.
60% of production occurs in lesser developed countries.
how much total maize, soy and coarse grain production are used as livestock feed?
livestock are inefficient in converting grain calories to meat, so…
eating lower on the food chain could result in 10x more food
how are CAFO’s bad for the environment?
Water pollution from animal waste, rarely are waste fully contained, and air pollution
since 1989, 13 of 17 major fisheries have decline or become commercially unsustainable due to what?
overfishing, ecosystem damage, environmental change
proving an increasing share of the world’s seafood.
but the problems include pollution, ecosystem damage, disease, and escape of genetically engineered species
Grass vs corn
harder to digest but cows are specialized for this vs easier to digest but cause bacterial growth in the rumen, requires antibiotics
Bovine spongiform encephalopathy
the official name of mad cow disease
Norm Borlaug
Green Revolution started by this dude.
this bro also won the nobel peace prize
Conventional plant breeding
corn yields jumped from 25 bushels per acre to 130 per acre in the last century
what do green revolution plants require?
Extra fertilizers and protection from pests
Genetic Engineering
removes DNA from one organism and splices it into the chromosomes of another, creates GMOs
how many of U.S. soybeans, corn, and cotton are now genetically modified strains?
2/3s dawg
Europe vs US in GM foods
followed precautionary principle in approach to GM foods. Goverments have listened to popular opposition among their citizens vs GM foods were introduced and accepted with relatively little public debate
supply of grain on hand
number of days of grain available to satisfy global demand should all current production cease. 50 days today
per capita food production
amount of food produced per person.
no gain in this measure over the past 20 years
optimist vs pessimist in food supply debate
declining yields have been due to short-term economic conditions & poor harvests due to weather conditions vs declining yields indicate the onset of a basic limit to agriculture productive capacity. Future changes in climate and limitations to irrigation/fertilizers use will drastically limit supply
Farm subsidies
encourage surpluses and allow farmers in developed countries to sell products overseas at prices below production costs
why do we subsidize?
farming is dependent on climate and weather, these are unpredictable.
we want to encourage good practices.
the current growth rate of grain yields, no matter how it is calculated would not suffice to feed the population of the developing world at rising per capita incomes
the capacity to do work
how many people lack any access to electricity?
1.6 billion
First law of thermodynamics
conservation of energy “energy cannot be created or destroyed”
second law of thermodynamics
energy always goes from more useful forms to less useful forms
rate of energy conversion, the rate at which energy is used or generated
32%, largest share of energy in US
residential and commerical energy
both 20% each, 39% total energy
transportation energy, 29%
transportation energy, 29%
trasportation fuel
high energy to weight ratio
The Nasty Dilemma
we want others to live well, but if they do, the energy and resource needs will be staggering
about 20% of energy in industrialized world is consumed as electricity
how do you generate electricity?
convert mechanical energy to electrical energy through electromagnetic induction.
found by Michael Faraday in 1831.
fossilized plant material preserved by burial in sediments and compacted and condensed by geological forces into carbon-rich fuel.
the cheapest way to produced baseload electricity.
the key to climate change, if we burn it all, change will be large.
how much electricity is produced from coal?
coal reserves
world deposits are ten times greater than conventional oil and gas resources combined.
can last 400 more years
what are the types of coal mining?
subsurface mining from underground or strip mining from the surface.
mountaintop removal
this type of coal mining causes massive erosion, runoff, and habitat destruction
Air Pollution from coal
coal burning release radioactivity and toxic metals into the atmosphere.
it is responsible for 25% of all atmospheric mercury pollution in the US.
Coal contains up to 10% sulfur by weight, unless removed by washing.
Oil Reserves
4 trillion worldwide.
we have already burned at least half of all recoverable oil.
when should oil hit its peak and then be fully depleted?
2010-2020, 2050-2120
oil and transportation
70% of petroleum goes to transportation
crude oil
a mixture of hundreds.
put through a refining process to segregate different components.
use boiling points to isolate lighter weight oils from heavier oils.
US and oil.
Saudi Arabia produces the most oil, the US consumes the most oil. We import the most oil from Canada.
who has the largest global oil shale?
Largest oil shale reserves in Western US. 1.8 trillion barrels of shale oil.
Tar sands & oil shale environmental costs
harge volumes of waste, releases greenhouse gases, contaminates/uses billions of gallons of water each year, effects on ecosystems.
Natural Gas
World’s 3rd largest commercial fuel, 23% of global energy consumption.
Produces half as much CO2 as equivalent amount of coal.
Difficult to ship long distances, and to store in large quantities. CH4
Natural Gas distribution
34% Industrial, 34% residential and commercial, 30% electricity generation
natural gas reserves
5,500 trillion ft squared.
60 year supply at present use rates.
believe more reserves will be accessible, but it will eventually become too expensive
Nuclear Power
21% of baseload electricity
Uranium supply
200 years at current rates
Control Rods
composed of neutron-absorbing material are inserted into spaces between fuel assemblies to control reaction rate
Pressurized water reactors
seventy percent of nuclear power plants are this kind
Nuclear Meltdown
occurs when the reactor containment is breached.
usually happens when coolant circulation fails, typically human error is involved.
Breeder reactors
create fissionable plutonium and thorium isotopes from stable forms of uranium.
so fission “breeds” more fissionable material.
Pros and Cons of Nuclear Power
CO2, NOx, SOx free, large domestic reserves, well suited to existing electrical distribution system vs risk of catastrophic failure, mining impacts, weapons proliferation, waste disposal
Utilization Efficiencies
reducing air filtration is usually the cheapest, quickest and most effective way of saving household energy.
Half the fuel required in today’s house.
Must have air circulation so efficiency has limits
most potential energy in fuel is lost as waste heat
distributional surcharges
small fee levied on all utility customers
renewable portfolio
suppliers mus get minimum percentage of power from renewable sources
green pricing
allows utilities to profit from conservation programs and charge premium prices from renewable energy
solar energy
arrives on top of atmosphere 10,000x more than all commercial energy used annually
solar energy
abundant enough to easily supply global needs
passive solar heat
using absorptive structures with no moving parts to gather and hold heat
active solar heat
pump-heat absorbing medium (like water/oil) through a collector, rather than passively collecting heat in a stationary object
parabolic mirrors
curved reflective surfaces that collect light and focus it onto a concentrated point
photovoltaic cells
capture solar energy and convert it directly to electrical current.
use sun’s energy to “push” electrons from donor atoms to receptor atoms
lead-acid batteries
heavy and have low energy density
metal-gas batteries
inexpensive and have high energy densities, but short lives
alkali metal batteries
high storage capacity but more expensive
lithium batters
very long lives, lightweight, and store large amounts of energy, but are very expensive
fuel cells
use on-going electrochemical reactions to produce electric current.
provide direct-current electricity as long as supplied with fuel like hydrogen and oxygen.
40-45% efficiency.
can be stacked together until desired power level is achieved
energy from the sun, via photosynthesis in plants
efficiency of photosynthesis
low, about 5% maximum
if we harvest all crops for energy, the amount of energy available is about equal to the total annual energy used in the US.
the maount of energy in the global biomass is about 8 times more than the amount of energy currently used globally.
good vs bad of biomass
can be carbon neutral
we grow just enough food to feed people, any biomass energy use means food issues: price and availability
main component of natural gas. produced by anaerobic decomposition.
relatively clean, efficient fuel.
in landfills and CAFOs
gasohol (E85)
mixture of gasoline and ethanol, more oxygen so less CO
cellulosic ethanol
does not compete with food.
is the goal.
not commercially viable yet.
chains of sugar: the structural material, majority of mass
binding material in plant matter
usually in seeds or fruits
making alcohol
made from plant sugars using fermentation.
competes directly with food, we also want the sugars.
it is a waste product.
as the sun drives water evaporation, and rain/snow falls on the high ground then falls by gravity.
industrialized countries have already tapped most of their potential.
good vs bad of hydropower
very clean, very efficient.
dependable water for crops.
flood control.
ecosystem modification.
evaporative losses.
nutrient flow altered
wind farms
large concentrations of wind generators producing commercial electricity
geothermal energy
high pressure, high temperature steam fields exist below the earth’s surface.
about 1000 times less energy flow to the earths surface than from the sun to the earths surface
tidal power
form of hydropower, but used gravitational energy, the pull of the moon and water
what is our energy future?
if we stay focused on fossil fuels, we can burn them all by 2100