MSU ISS 310 (Honors)






All living things and non-living things around us.






Humans and their systems of culture, politics, and economic exchange that govern interrelationships.



Defining Environmental Problems



Scientific evidence, public awareness, perceptions, values.







Movement dedicated to protecting the natural world and humans that depend on the natural world.

(began in 60s/70s)






Do not believe in limits and think that we will always have enough resources.






Have unlimited confidence in human ability to use technology to overcome any problems.






Believe there are limits to growth and we are running out of resources and must change.






Give warnings of impeding harm or doom that is often dismissed or ignored.






To satisfy the needs of people and the ecosystem today and in the future.



Exponentional Growth



Increasingly accelerated and compounded growth


(Population Growth)



Carrying Capacity



Theoretical limit of population that a system can sustain.



Thomas Malthus



Principle of Population (1789)

predicted inability to sustain carrying capacity, believed in more restraint and ending aid to the poor






At this rate we will overshoot carrying capacity. Population makes environmental problems worse, but other factors are at play.






Impact = Population x Affluence (how we use resources) x Technology



Boserup Theory



More people will result in more technological advances/innovation (Cornucopians and Prometheans). “Necessity is the mother of invention.”



Induced Intensification



Agricultural demands for foods leads to technological innovation resulting in the production of more food on the same land.



Green Revolution



Technological innovations that drastically increased the world agricultural yield with chemicals, fertilizers, and pesticides.

(Health cost, water contaminants, fossil fuel to produce, hurts animals)



Environmental Kuznets Curve



Environmental impacts rise during development and fall after an economy matures.



Demographic Transition Model



As nations develop, death rates go down first, then birth rates. (May not fit developing countries)



Ecological Footprint



Total amount of productive land and water to produce material and consume waste.

(carbon, food, housing, goods/services)






System that allows buyers and sellers to trade or exchange goods, services, and information



Free Market



Prices and wages are determined by unrestricted competition between businesses without government regulation.



“The Bet:” Neomalthusians vs. prometheans


Ehlrich–population will cause scarcity

Simon–technology will save us

Rare metal prices all went down

(Simon was right)



Market Response Model


A scarcity emerges, then the resources increases in price, leading to:

less consumption, increased supply (more found), or find substitions



Jevon’s Paradox


Counterintuitive observation rooted in economic theory:;

technology increases efficiency, which leads to increased consumption






Spillover of cost/benefit (as where industrial activity at a plant leads to pollution off site) that must be paid for by someone else.



Coase Theorem



Externalities most efficiently controlled through contracts and bargaining between parties.



Market Failure


Production and exchange of goods and services is not efficient. Mismatch between theory and real world.

(Monopoly and Monospony)



Green Taxes



tax harmful activity






rebates, cost-share, discounts

(reward good behavior)



Permit Trading



Create market and permits for harmful activity to reduce impacts.





Cap–total limit

Permits issued and can be traded

Firms needing to emit more may buy shares

Creates hot spots.



Green Washing



Exaggerated or false marketing of a good, product, or services as environmentally friendly.



Green Certification



Third party monitors production and confirms that products meet set environmental standards.



Contingent Valuation



Uses surveys to determine how much people are willing to pay to protect a resources.



Cost Benefit Analysis


Estimated costs for a proposed action are tolerated and compared to sum of benefits of the action.

(not all values can be compared)



Ecosystem Services



Resources and processes provided by ecosystems that benefit society.






A formal set of plans and principles to address problems and guide decisions.



Public Policy



Policies made by the government.



Environmental Policy



Has to do with humans and the environment and should include science, ethics, and economics.



Government’s goal


Protect people and what they care about

Correct market failure

Protect Resources

Address Free Riders



Free Riders


Some individuals consume more than their share of a common resources or pay less than their fair share of the cost of a common resources.






Process or power of managing, leading, and administering

(corporations, groups of Corps., NGOs)






Since 1980s, small government, shrinking government, freedom from government.



Prisoner’s Dilemma


Individuals making decisions in pursuit of their own interest tend to create collective outcomes that are non-optimal for everyone.



Hardin’s herdsman example


In a pasture, the herdsman will each continue to add more sheep to their herds, as it is highly beneficial to each individual. This will lead to the overuse and destruction of the pasture.



Tragedy of the Commons



Don’t know what others will do, so users prioritize short term gain, despite ruin to all.






Rules and norms that govern collective action in order to benefit all users.






Knowledge, beliefs, values and ways of life shared by a society.






What exists and how things work.






What is important, what we believe in.



Dominion Theory


Genesis, dominion: humans are the pinnacle of creation, as such humans are granted ehtical free rein to use nature in any way deemed beneficial.






Take responsibility for the property or fate of others; stewardship of the land and natural resources.






Branch of philosophy involving study of good and bad, right and wrong.



Ethical Standards



Criteria that help distinguish right from wrong.



Environmental Ethics



Applies ethical standards to relationships between humans and non-humans.






Concerned with principles of right and wrong behavior and goodness or badness of human character.






Human-centered view of the world and the environment.






Humans and nature are separate. Nature is here for humans’ use–to be conquered. Non-humans do not have rights.



Factory Farms


Intensive animal raising, Max production: industrial efficiency, Water/Air pollution, Animal welfare not a concern, Non-nursing non-pregnant sow=wasted capital.

(Economics most important)






Ethical standpoint: value of nature determined by value to humans.






Protecting natural pristine state of nature.

(John Muir)





Using natural resources responsibly. Managing a resources to sustain its productivity over time, through scientific management.

(Gifford Pinchot)






A natural parcel of land, more or less unaffected by humans 

(social construction?)






Any theory that holds that a whole ecosystem is more than the sum of its parts.



The Land Ethic

(not an “orange” term)


A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.






Values living things or the living world in general apart from human use.






Assigning different values or rights based on species.






Ecological concerns should, over and above human priorities, be central to decisions about right and wrong.



Animal Liberation


Social movement aims to free all animals from use by humans for any purpose.

(Peter Singer)



Deep Ecology



Philosophy of environmental ethics that argues for deeper, more ecologically- informed view, biocentric equality.



Intrinsic Value



Value of a natural object in and for itself, as an end rather than a means

(independent of humans)





Belief that male-dominated society is the root cause of social and environmental problems.

(female view tends to be more holistic)



Environmental Justice



Focuses on fair, equitable treatment of all people with respect to environmental policy and practice.






Locally Unwanted Land Use






Not In My BackYard



Naturalistic Fallacy



Using ecological findings to figure out what is good therefore right: an ethical “ought” from a natural “is.”






Uncritical reliance on natural sciences as basis for social decision-making and ethical judgements.



Social Ecology



Environmental problems rooted in social structures and relationships.





Consideres real world consequences and effects to be constituent components of truth and reality. 

(Environmentalists have created too many unnecessary fields…)






Object, condition, or process that threatens individuals or society in terms of production or reproduction.






The known or estimated probability that a hazard-related decision will have a negative consequence.



Environmental Health



Assess environmental factors that influence human health and quality of life.



4 major types of Hazards

(not orange word)











Degree to which the outcomes of a decision or situation are unknown.



Risk Perception


The tendency of people to evaluate the hazardousness of a situation or decision in not always rational terms, depending on individual biases, culture, or human tendencies.



Most/Least Feared Events

(not orange term)


Most: involuntary, uncontrollable, catastrophic

Least: Immediate effects, voluntary/individual choices






Emotions or unconscious responses to the world that influence decision-making.



Cultural Theory



Group ideology and social norms impact individual risk perceptions.





Systematic activity to better understand the world. Scientific method involves hypothesis testing, measuring evidence, and emiricism (knowledge through evidence)



Conflict of Interest



When scientists are involved in multiple interests and one can corrupt the other

(i.e. scince + $$$)






Cancer causing






Mutate DNA






Impact embryo, cause birth defects






assault the nervous system



Endocrine Disrupters



Affect hormones and development and/or reproduction



Perflourtinated Compounds (PFCs)



Used to make stain or stick resistant materials. Very persistant. cause cancer in animals, stay in the body up to 4 years.






Flame retardants found in house dust, indoor air. Cause thyroid abnormalities and birth defects.






Mostly banned in the US, but highly persistant

(i.e. DDT)






Commonly used today in apples, bell peppers, grapes, nectarines, peaches, strawberries, pears.

Affect the nervous system.





Used to make plastic soft (rubber duckies)

Cause reproductive, asthma, liver/kidney problems.

EU banned use in cosmetics and toys.





Cooling fuel, electrical equipment.

Cause cancer, banned in 1977.

Very persistant, contaminated water and fish.



Heavy Metals

Mercury: used in lightbulbs, thermometers, fillings 

Arsenic: pesticides, paints

Lead: paint, pipes, hair dye, cosmetics

Inhibit brain development, kidney damage, cancer



Precautionary Principle



A policy in which precaution should be taken even when full information is lacking.



Political Economy


A social science dealing with political policies and economic processes, their interrelations, and influence on society. (Political/economic forces that cause social problems)






Theory or system of social organization where means of production and distribution are shared by the community as a whole.






The act of altering nature and bringing it into the process of making the human world.





Object of economic value, valued generically rather than as a specific object made for exchange.

(differs from use value–made to use, not to exchange)



Surplus Value



Value produced by underpaying labor or over extracting from the environment, which is accumulated by capitalists. 



Primitive Accumulation



Direct appropriation by capitalists of natural resources or goods from communities that historically tend to hold them collectively.






Collecting wealth, the central driving imperative of capitalist economy. 



Treadmill of Production


The economy as an accelterating treadmill, constantly racing to keep itself in place, consuming ever more labor and materials to survive.






A condition where wealth becomes concentrated in very few hands, causing economic slowdown and potential crisis.



1st Contradiction of Capitalism


Capitalism will undermine economic conditions for its own perpetuation, through overproduction of commodities, reduction of wages for would be consumers.



2nd Contradiction of Capitalism


Tendency for capitalism to undermine conditions for its own perpetuation, through degredation of natural resources or harm/mistreatment of workers.






extracting resources for production






depositing pollution or waste



Competition drives…
(not an orange term) 



Withdrawls without renewal

Additions without treatment



Spatial Fix


Tendency of capitalism to temporarily solve its inevitable periodic crises by establishing new markets, new resources, and new sites of production in other places.



Production of Nature



The idea that the environment, if ever it was separate, is now a product of human industry or activity.





Transformation of an object or resources from something valued in and of itself, to something valued for exchange. 

(exchange value over use value)



False commodities

(not an orange term)



Nature and labor

–risky to undermine the bases of production



Social Construction


Any category, condition, or thing that exists or is understood to have certain characteristics because people socially agree that it does.



Constructivist Perspective



Emphasizing the significance of concepts, ideologies, and social practice to our understanding and making of the world.



Types of Constructivism/Realists

(not an orange term)

Extreme Const.: everything is socially constructed

Moderate Const.: aware of how we create knowledge

Extreme Realist: what we know=what is

Critical Realist: there is reality, but be aware of its construction







Holds that all beliefs, truths, and facts are at root products of the paticular set of social relations from which they arise. 






Humans and non-humans produce and change one another through their interaction and interrelation.





A parcel of land, more or less unaffected by human forces.

Before Civil War: savage

After Civil War: frontier, sublime






The natural world, everything that exists that is not a product of human activity.

(Quotations because of unclear uses.)





A set of imaginary categories distinguishing types of people based on skin color or body morphology.

(no genetic basis, tool for discrimination)








At root, written and spoken communication are power-embedded constructions that partially make the world we live in.






A story with a beginning and end

(i.e. tragedy of commons)






A single idea, usually captured in a word or phrase

(i.e. carrying capacity)






Normative, value-laden world views that spell out how the world is and how it ought to be.



Signifying Practices



Modes and methods of representation for communicating ideologies



Discourses are made up of…

(not an orange term)





Signifying Practices



Greenhouse Effect


Characteristic of earth’s atmosphere based on presence of important gases including water vapor and carbon dioxide to trap and retain heat, leading to temperatures that sustain life.



Command and Control


Forms of regulation enacted by government laws and agencies to enforce rules, including things like regulated limits on pollution, fuel efficiency standards

(contrasts market approach)



Carbon Offsets



Certificate representing reduction of 1 metric ton of carbon dioxide emissions, the principle cause of global warming.






Stages of growth: primary, secondary, climax community






Disrupting event or shock






Clearing and loss of forests

(soil, biodiversity, carbon sequestration losses)



Forest Transition Theory



More development will bring economic change and less deforestation.





Total variability and variety of life forms in a region, ecosystem, or around the world; measure of health of an environmental system.






Species ceases to exist






Disappearance of a population from an area.






Ability to bounce back after a disturbance.



Rivet Hypothesis


Metaphor of an airplane held together with rivets. For most, it wouldn’t matter if 1 came out. But if you take out more, the chance of falling apart increases.






Connections that humans subconsciously seek with the rest of life.



Species-Centered Conservation

(not an orange term)



Endangered Species Act

Single Species Approaches like the California Condors



Conservation Biology



Field dedicated to exploring and maintaining biodiversity.






Restoration of ecological function and processes to ecosystems–often involves reintroducing species.






Grow 1 or 2 things.

(Caused by new technology and commodity programs)






1 crop grown over vast areas






Growing more food on the same area of land.






From many to few: fewer, larger farms.



Metabolic Rift



Separations of cattle and cropping, resulting in nutrient pollution and reliance on fertilizer.



The Dead Zone


In the gulf of Mexico, huge dump of fertilizers leaks into the water, excess nutrients cause algae blooms, then their death creates the dead zone (every spring)



Nitrous Oxide (N2O)



Greenhouse gas, most comes from fertilizers.



Food Deserts



Lack of grocery stores, only conveniance stores or fast food. Low income areas.