Environmental Science


Hi. It’s Mr. Andersen and this is AP Environmental
Science video 1. It is the first in a series of videoes for AP Environmental Science, which
is the study of the interactions between the systems of the earth and the human systems.
And I remember visiting Shanghai and looking across the Bund and thinking, Wow. We have
so many people on our planet. We are pushing well beyond 7 billion. That is going to put
pressure on the earth. And understanding how that works is incredibly important. And so
in AP Environmental Science we will study the interactions between the natural systems
and the human systems. So we will begin with the earth itself. And then we will move through
living systems. And finally we will get to the populations that make up human systems.
The rest of the course will be dedicated to the interactions between these two worlds.
And so we begin with land and water use. Then energy. Finally pollution and climate change.
Now since this is a science course it is incredibly important that we study the practices of science,
what it is to be an environmental scientist. And so this is the outline for the course.
We will begin with the earth. We will move through climate change. But we are going to
deal with the practices throughout. Now what is most important to us as humans are the
human populations. And so to live within those boundaries, it is important that we understand
the concept of sustainability. What happens when you out-step those boundaries? Well we
could look to Easter Island for an example. We used to have a flourishing population there.
But what happened was deforestation. They put pressure on the island itself and their
population dropped off dramatically. And so as we study environmental science we will
deal with very important figures. But I wanted to begin with a very important figure named
Rachel Carson. And she really brought us into the modern age of environmental science. Her
study of DDT and the negative consequences of that, which are illustrated in her book
Silent Spring, really brought that to the forefront of our minds. What are we doing
and how are we impacting the environment itself. And so this is an environmental science course.
And so like any other science course we are going to deal with the scientific method.
Now sometimes students will confuse that term with environmentalism. Now that is going to
be a belief system. So we are going to lobby officials and try to get laws passed that
protect the environment. That is not environmental science. Environmental science is looking
for that truth of how we can interact with the environment. So maybe in the future science
will say that DDT is an important tool that we could use to fight malaria. Then we have
to follow that pathway. And so why is this course important? Well when I was young people
used to wear t-shirts that said Save Our Planet. And it is kind of a funny shirt because the
planet, the earth, is going to do fine. It is how we do on that planet that is important
to us. And so a better slogan is Save Our Society. And why is that a big deal right
now? Well we are starting to exceed some, what have been coined, planetary boundaries
by Johan Rockstrom and his group at the Stockholm Resilience Center. And so if we look at this
model, we look at all the things that are affecting the earth that can then affect society.
And so the one that you are probably familiar with is climate change. But we also have ocean
acidification. We have ozone depletion. We have changes in biogeochemical cycling. Increases
in nitrogen and phosphorous. We have fresh water use, or the availability of fresh water.
Deforestation. Biodiversity loss. Particle pollution and chemical pollution. And so what
they have done is said, how can we exist within the safe boundaries of the earth. So on this
model if we say the blue represents where we can safely live. This yellow dot represents
where humanity was preindustrialization. Before the industrial revolution and the spread of
industry around the world, these were our levels. But now if we look at where we are
as far as those boundaries, as far as climate change, we are increasing the climate, the
temperature. And as a result we are going to have consequences that are beginning to
affect society and will continue to affect society. We are looking at a thee degree increase
which is incredible. But if we look at these other ones, ocean acidification, ozone depletion,
our increase in the amount of nitrogen in the biosphere. Phosphorous. If we look at
fresh water use. Deforestation. Biodiversity loss. A lot of scientists are saying that
we are headed into this sixth extinction, that caused by humans. Now we do not have
good models for pollution, but if you put our earth back, we are exceeding these boundaries.
We are putting pressure on the earth. Now the earth will survive, but humans may not
survive in the numbers that we are today. And so that is why it is important. We have
to live within the boundaries of the earth itself. And so sustainability is incredibly
important. Now a model that works is since industry brought us to this point, industry
is going to have to bring us back. And so this model works for me. If you think of the
earth as this boundary of life support and society exists within that, then what is at
the center? What drove industrialization? It is the economy. And so as we come up with
solutions for sustainability, it is not enough to just say that we should save the earth
because that is good. Or we should be altruistic in that. It has to be an economical driver
that is pushing that sustainability. Another term that you will hear a lot is the idea
of an ecological footprint. Since we, I live in a developed country, I am using more resources
on our planet than other people in developing countries. And so as they become developed
that is going to put even more pressure on the planet. And so that is why this course
is incredibly important. It is also why this is unlike the other sciences that you have
probably taken. It is not just going to be science. It is going to contain the natural
sciences but it will also have the social sciences and the humanities as well. So we
are going to be talking about science but also we will be talking about ethics and law
and politics. And so it is really going to be a fun course to walk through. Also you
should remember that this is a science course. And so as we move forward the AP folks are
focussing on the practices of science. So inside the course itself you should be acting
like an environmental scientist. And so you should not just be learning about environmental
sciences, you should be applying it. So if we start with one of theses practices, asking
questions, conducting investigations, this would be a great field investigation for me
to do. So this is the eastern Gallatin, right outside of Bozeman. And so I could do studies
here on water quality over time. But I could also do studies in the laboratory. I should
be doing investigations where I am coming up with a question and trying to answer that
question. Case studies will be incredibly important as well. Making these connections
between what we have learned in the course. So you are probably familiar with the deep
water horizon. There was a fire and that led to this spread of oil. So this fire, eventually
there was a breach of the pipe, and now we have oil spreading. So to look at where we
are, this is in the Gulf of Mexico. This is Florida. And so we are looking at this area
right here. You can see so much oil is spread out. And in each of these case studies there
is something happening to the environment. And so we have to understand all the ramifications
of that. And lots of times it takes decades to figure out what really has happened. And
then finally you are going to take an AP exam at the end. And so understanding how that
AP exam is important right now to understand what can you do throughout the course to kind
of prepare for that. And so analyzing data. Using mathematics is going to be incredibly
important. So let me briefly talk about the test. And so the first section will be multiple
choice. You are going to have 100 questions. You get 90 minutes to answer those questions.
Some will be discrete by themselves and some will come in big sets. So you might have a
map and try to point to different geology on the planet. And then you will move into
the free response. In the free response you are going to have 1 question that is going
to be based in a data set. And so understanding how to analyze data, both on the multiple
choice and the free response is incredibly important. You will then have 1 document based
question. It is always on the pretend city named Fremont. So it is an article in the
Fremont Gazette, for example. And so you are going to have to analyze that. So connecting
the knowledge that you have learned is incredibly important. And you are also going to have
to do a lot of calculating. And what is interesting is there is no calculator. So prepare for
that. So understanding how to solve simple problems just using mathematics, dimensional
analysis and scientific notation. That is incredibly important as well. And so did you
learn the following? Could you fill out this concept map? Well you could pause the video
right now and try to do that. But I will step you through it. And so what is environmental
science? It is the interactions between the natural systems and the human systems. That
will be the earth systems and the living systems interacting with populations. And so this
is interactions right here. We will start with land water use, energy. We move towards
pollution and the pressures we are putting on the earth and global change. And remember
that you want to focus on the practices. So hopefully you have learned that. And I hope
that was helpful.

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