Our Changing Planet: An Introduction to Earth System Science and Global Environmental Change (4th Edition)

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9780321667724: Our Changing Planet: An Introduction to Earth System Science and Global Environmental Change (4th Edition)

This book offers a general discussion of global environmental change geared toward readers like you. It presents both Earth science and ecological concepts related to global change, as well as a discussion of the human dimensions of change. The text's unifying theme is consideration of aspects of both natural and human-induced global environmental change.

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From the Publisher:

Presents an interdisciplinary discussion of global environmental change for the non-specialist in science. Provides a balanced, unified examination of the dynamic between natural change and human-induced change in the global environment. Explored first are the natural planetary systems at work (the natural exogenic systems of Earth), providing insightful coverage emphasizing the historical (geological) perspective on change as it discusses processes and change in the lithosphere, atmosphere, hydrosphere, and the biosphere systems. A detailed discussion of how human activities are influence these natural systems and the consequences that may result for ecosystems, humans and human infrastructures are provided. Areas of concern and interest include: deforestation, population and resource consumption, stratospheric ozone depletion, water usage and quality, global climatic change. The text concludes with a thought-provoking, prescriptive epilogue on the need for a new environmentally sustaining societal perspective. The first synthesis of the subject on a general level help it stand out as the new authoritative standard for engaging and accessible coverage.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

For 40 years, I have been engaged in teaching undergraduate and graduate students and doing research in a field that has now come to be called Earth system science. Two of my previous books published with my colleague and friend Robert M. Carrels were initial attempts to treat the Earth system—the solid earth, atmosphere, oceans, and living organisms—in an integrative fashion, emphasizing the interactions between the components. In addition, recently I was instrumental in developing at the University of Hawaii a bachelor of science degree program in Global Environmental Science. This program has grown dramatically in four years, demonstrating to me and my colleagues that there exists a strong interest among undergraduate students in an interdisciplinary, integrative, rigorous approach to the study of the Earth system, including the human factors involved in global environmental change.

Global environmental change is a subject area of considerable interest today. Change can be rapid and threatening; thus, the topic has forced itself before the world. It is now being addressed regularly by scientists, teachers, policymakers, economists, sociologists, lawyers, and the general public. The subject involves both the physicochemical and biological nature of change and the effects and consequences of natural and human-induced change for ecosystems, humans, and human infrastructures.

The unifying theme of this book is consideration of aspects of both natural and human-induced global environmental change. Earth's ecosphere or exogenic system-its land, water, ice, air, sediments, and biota has always been in a dynamic state of change. Change is probably more characteristic of the planet than constancy. Based on the fact that there are both natural and human-induced global changes, this book is divided into two parts. Part I deals with the natural exogenic system of Earth. It emphasizes the historical (geologic) perspective of change and discusses processes and change in the lithosphere (land, sediments, and rocks), atmosphere (air), hydrosphere (water), cryosphere (ice), and biosphere (life) systems. Part II demonstrates how human activities are influencing the natural system and the consequences of human-induced change for ecosystems, humans, and human infrastructures. It is demonstrated that human activities have become a geologic force in the global Earth surface system. Human population trends and resource consumption patterns, deforestation and land erosion, water usage and quality, acid deposition, stratospheric ozone depletion, tropospheric ozone and photochemical smog, global climatic change, and subsequent human dimensions questions are the subject matter of this section.

Since starting to write the first edition of this book in 1992, a great deal has happened in the field of study of Earth systems and global environmental change. Of special importance has been the modern recognition, which began in the 1970s but had its roots much further back in time, that Earth is an intricately coupled system where the interactions between the land and its soils, oceans, atmosphere, terrestrial and marine biota, sediments, and ice are critical to an understanding of environmental change and variability on a regional-to-global scale. As a consequence of this recognition, a new interdisciplinary field has emerged, that of Earth system science or global environmental science. The emergence of this field as a legitimate scientific discipline has been coupled to an increase in scientific papers and books, an increase in the number of courses taught at both the undergraduate and graduate level in universities and colleges, and an increase in the number of textbooks and other teaching materials, including those on the World Wide Web, concerned with the subject matter. One of the ultimate challenges of Earth system science is "to develop the capability to predict (climatic) changes (and variability) that will occur in the next decade to century, both naturally and in response to human activity" (NASA, 1996). An understanding of how Earth behaves as a complex, intricately interwoven system has implications for the future pathway of economic development and the environment.

Another occurrence that has had impact on the emerging discipline was the publication in 1990, 1996, and 2001 of the volumes of the First, Second, and Third Assessments of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which includes the science of climatic change, as well as the human dimensions issues of change. Although some of the conclusions of this effort over the years are still being debated by scientists and nonscientists, the volumes on the science of climate change are an excellent example of the need for interdisciplinary studies to address questions of natural and human-induced environmental change.

A third factor that has played a role in development of the discipline has been the recognition by some scientists for the need to develop research programs that are interdisciplinary. Although most ocean, Earth, and atmospheric scientists are still highly specialized, there has been greater demand by their students for some modicum of interdisciplinary training. Furthermore, these scientists are striving to communicate more effectively with the undergraduate community in colleges and universities. Earth system science has struck a chord of interest and appreciation in the students. This has been a driving force for the creation of new courses in the field. Indeed, the Geological Society of America's 1996 Annual Meeting in Denver, Colorado, had as its theme Earth Systems, and several sessions were devoted to development and teaching of curricula in the new field of Earth system science.

Because of rapid growth in the discipline of Earth system science, I have found it necessary in only six years since publication of the first edition of this book to update it once more. The revision entails three important changes: (1) the addition of relevant material in the fields of Earth, ocean, atmospheric, and ecological sciences to the first part of the book; (2) the inclusion of updated material in the second part of the book on acid deposition, stratospheric ozone depletion, global climatic change, and so forth; and (3) the inclusion of more figures and tables showing the global distribution of environmental features of interest and more information boxes to expand on or clarify points in the main text. The epilogue in the first edition is now a full chapter on the human dimensions issues of global environmental change in this edition. The question-and-answer sections have been expanded, as has the glossary. Besides a bibliography of materials referenced in the text, a short selected readings list is provided at the end of each chapter to aid the instructor and students in searching out additional resources to complement the chapter materials.

Although the original edition of this book was written to appeal to upper-division high school students as well as lower-division undergraduate students, the intent of this revision is for its use as a text in interdisciplinary Earth, ocean, atmospheric, and ecological sciences at the undergraduate level in colleges and universities. However, both high school students and the educated layperson could benefit from reading and studying the text. The science content is in accord with National Science Education Standards that define what students need to learn to achieve scientific literacy. The text should also be useful to middle through high school science teachers in educational efforts for the professional development of these teachers.

I recognize that there will always be a need for natural resources and for development. The mining, processing, and use of resources; the construction and maintenance of transportation systems and human structures; and the activities associated with growing and distributing food are some of the human enterprises that are prone to generating pollutants and inducing environmental change. Whenever these activities occur, there is an increase in the amount of energy not available to do work (entropy) on the planet. This is an inexorable outcome of the fundamental laws of science. As a global human civilization, we must decrease the rate of production of this unavailable energy that leads to degradation of the environment and learn to manage the global ecosystem in a sustainable way. This book will provide background for students and teachers interested in protecting and managing our global commons.

The completion of this text required synthesis of a large and dispersed literature; I gratefully acknowledge all of those authors from whom I have liberally acquired information. I especially express thanks to three institutions and their directors for providing space and facilities to accomplish the task of writing the first edition: Dr. Tony Knap (Bermuda Biological Station for Research), Professor Roland Wollast (Universite Libre de Bruxelles), and Dr. George M. Woodwell (Woods Hole Research Center). During the writing of the second edition, I was a fellow at the Wissenschaftskolleg (Institute for Advanced Study) zu Berlin and I would like to thank its Rector, Professor Dr. Wolf Leperues, for providing space and atmosphere for unbridled intellectual thought. My special thanks to Dr. Lei Chou (Universite Libre de Bruxelles), Dr. James N. Galloway (University of Virginia), Dr. Mary Hassinger (Viterbo College), and Dr. Douglas Whelpdale (Environment Canada) for their words of wisdom; Dr. Rolf Arvidson and Dr. May Ver (University of Hawaii) for their computer assistance; Ms. Michele Loujens (Universite Libre de Bruxelles) for laboratory and logistical help; and Ms. Carole Frantz (Beauvoir School) and Ms. Margaret Best (Bermuda Biological Station for Research) for their critical reviews of the first complete draft of the initial edition of this work. I also thank Ms. Sue Dewing (L. P Goodrich High School), Mr. James Rye (The Pennsylvania State University), and Ms. Dorrie Tonnis (Logan Senior High School) for their thoughtful revi...

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