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America's Environmental Report Card: Are We Making the Grade? / Edition 2

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Overview

Americans are concerned about the state of the environment, and yet polls show that many have lost faith in both scientists' and politicians' ability to solve environmental problems. In America's Environmental Report Card, Harvey Blatt sorts through the deluge of conflicting information about the environment and offers an accessible overview of the environmental issues that are most important to Americans today. Blatt has thoroughly updated this second edition, revising and adding new material. He looks at water supplies and new concerns about water purity; the dangers of floods (increased by widespread logging and abetted by glacial melting); infrastructure problems (in a new chapter devoted entirely to this subject); the leaching of garbage buried in landfills; soil, contaminated crops, and organic food; fossil fuels; alternative energy sources (in another new chapter); controversies over nuclear energy; the increasing pace of climate change; and air pollution. Along the way, he outlines ways to deal with these problems—workable and reasonable solutions that map the course to a sustainable future. America can lead the way to a better environment, Blatt argues. We are the richest nation in the world, and we can afford it—in fact, we can't afford not to.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Nostalgia for a lost natural world and/or ire at industry waste and government failures inform many a book about the environment, but Blatt examines the world's most pressing environmental problems in a balanced, learned tone. A longtime geology professor currently teaching in Israel, Blatt breaks down environmental issues into their components, describing different aspects of the problem, offering solutions and suggesting a prognosis. When it comes to America's attempts to decrease air pollution and protect the ozone layer, Blatt gives surprisingly good grades (A and A-). The world's rapid response to the ozone problem, he says, "is a fine example of what can be accomplished when cooperation prevails among nations." But from failing to ratify the Kyoto Treaty to failing to discourage suburban sprawl (which means, among other things, longer drive times and larger, more energy-inefficient houses), Americans aren't doing enough to stop global warning, he says. We should practice better private conservation-e.g., use shower heads that save water-but what's required is systemic change. Frank but hopeful, serious but readable, this is an excellent environmental science primer. (Dec.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
From the Publisher
"Frank but hopeful, serious but readable, this is an excellent environmental science primer." Publishers Weekly
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780262515917
  • Publisher: MIT Press
  • Publication date: 2/25/2011
  • Edition description: second edition
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 384
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Harvey Blatt is the author of America's Environmental Report Card: Are We Making the Grade? (MIT Press). He taught geology at the University of Houston and the University of Oklahoma for many years and is now Professor of Geology at the Institute of Earth Sciences at Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

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Table of Contents

Preface ix

Introduction xi

1 Water: No Cholesterol, Fat Free, Zero Sugar 1

The Water Future 3

Where Does Our Water Come From? 4

Virtual Water: Now You See It, Now You Don't 10

How Do We Use It? 12

What Do We Pay for It? 16

Reusing Dirty Water 17

Taking Out the Salt 19

Poisoning Our Water 19

Water as a Human Right 31

2 Infrastructure: Pipes, Wires, Roads, Bridges, Railroads, Dams, Airports, and Levees 35

The Real Needs 36

Pipes for Water 38

Pipes for Sewers 40

Pipes for Gas and Hazardous Liquids 44

Wires for Electricity 45

Crumbling Highways 49

Collapsing Bridges 51

Resurrecting Railroads 52

Unsafe Dams 56

Airports: Taking Off and Landing 58

When the Levees Break 60

3 Floods: When the Levees Break 63

River Floods Are Terrible 64

Hurricane Floods Are Worse 69

Will Your Insurance Cover It? 79

4 Garbage: Trash Talk 83

The Stuff We Throw Out 83

Litter: Do We Care? 89

Who Wants My Garbage? 89

Really Bad Garbage 94

Superfund: The Worst of the Worst 95

Brownfields 97

Incineration 97

Plasma Gasification 98

Recycling 99

Garbage in the Ocean 104

5 Soil, Crops, and Food: Dirt and Nutrition 105

How Are Crops Nourished? 106

Pesticides and the Human Body 111

Why Eat Organic Food? 112

Is Your Food Contaminated? 115

Can We Improve on Nature? Genetically Modified Foot 120

How Much Food Can We Grow? 122

Will Climate Change Affect Crop Production? 123

Can Terrorists Harm Our Food Supply? 124

Fossil Fuels and Crop Production 126

Food Production and Renewable Energy 127

Eating Animals 128

Fish, the Bounty of the Sea 130

From Farms to Factories to Families 132

What Is Food? 133

6 Fossil Fuels: Energy from the Past 137

Petroleum: Can We Live without It? 137

Natural Gas: Better Than Petroleum 152

Coal: The Worst of the Worst 157

Summing Up: What Should We Do? 171

7 Alternative Energy Sources: Energy for the Future 179

Alternative Energy and Geography: Where Should We Put It? 179

Current Development: Where Are We Now? 180

Energy from Plants: Biological Energy 185

Energy from Moving Water: Our Major Source of Electricity 192

Energy from Nuclear Fission: Splitting Atoms 196

Energy from the Earth's Interior: Heat beneath Our Feet 199

Energy from the Wind: Hold On to Your Hat 203

Energy from the Sun: It's Hot Out There 207

Fuel Cells: Splitting Water for Power 212

Summing Up: We Know What to Do. Will We Do It? 213

8 The Nuclear Energy Controversy: Radiation for Everyone 215

Is Nuclear Energy Renewable? 217

How Much Does Nuclear Energy Cost? 217

Reactor Construction in Other Countries 220

Will Nuclear Power Plants Slow Global Warming? 221

Accidents and Explosions at Nuclear Power Plants 222

Irradiating Employees and Their Neighbors 226

Fanatical Terrorists and Nuclear Power 227

Tearing Down Old Nuclear Reactors 229

Radioactivity Never Dies; It Just Fades Away-Very Slowly 230

What Should We Do with Old Nuclear Waste? 235

Should There Be a Global Nuclear Waste Repository? 238

What's the Bottom Line? 239

9 Climate Change: What Have We Done? 241

How Hot Is It? 243

Who's Going to Suffer? 245

The Nasty Gases 264

Let's Be Realistic 271

What's Causing the Climate to Change? 273

10 Air Pollution: Lung Disease 277

What's in the Air We Breathe? 279

Good News 288

Air Pollution and Ultraviolet Radiation 289

Air Pollution in Homes and Offices 294

Multiple Chemical Sensitivity 299

11 Conclusion: Is There Hope? 301

So, How Are We Doing? 301

Why Does Environmental Pollution Continue? 306

Gimme More Stuff: The Growth Economy 307

Does More Money Bring More Happiness? 310

Why Do We Work? 311

The Law of Unintended Consequences 311

What Can We Conclude from This Information? 315

The Environment and Spirituality 315

The Ideal Environmental Life 318

Notes 321

Additional Readings 353

Index 363

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