Environmental Science: Toward a Sustainable Future / Edition 11

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For introductory courses in Environmental Science, Environmental Studies, and Environmental Biology.

With dramatically revised illustrations, the Twelfth Edition of Environmental Science: Toward a Sustainable Future is even more student-friendly while retaining the currency and accuracy that has made Wright/Boorse a best seller. The text and media program continue to help you understand the science behind environmental issues and what you can do to build a more sustainable future, with further exploration of the hallmark core themes: Science, Sustainability, and Stewardship.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780321598707
  • Publisher: Benjamin Cummings
  • Publication date: 1/6/2010
  • Edition description: Older Edition
  • Edition number: 11
  • Pages: 696
  • Product dimensions: 8.40 (w) x 10.80 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Richard T. Wright is Professor Emeritus of Biology at Gordon College in Massachusetts, where he taught environmental science for 28 years. He earned a B.A. from Rutgers University and a M.A. and Ph.D. in biology from Harvard University. For many years Wright received grant support from the National Science Foundation for his work in marine microbiology, and in 1981, he was a founding faculty member of Au Sable Institute of Environmental Studies in Michigan, where he also served as Academic Chairman for 11 years. He is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Au Sable Institute, and the American Association for the Advancement Scientific Affiliation. In 1996, Wright was appointed a Fulbright Scholar to Daystar University in Kenya, where he taught for tow months. He is a member of many environmental organizations, including The Nature Conservancy, Habitat for Humanity, the Union of Concerned Scientists, the Audubon Society, and a supporting member of the Trustees of Reservations. Wright continues to be actively involved in writing and speaking about the environment. He and his wife Ann recently moved to Byfield, Massachusetts, and they drive a Toyota Camry hybrid vehicle as a means of reducing their environmental impact. Wright spends his spare time hiking, fishing, golfing, and enjoying his three children and seven grandchildren.

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Table of Contents


1. Science and the Environment

2. Economics, Politics, and Public Policy


3. Basic Needs of Living Things

4. Populations and Communities

5. Ecosystems: Energy, Patterns, and Disturbance

6. Wild Species and Biodiversity

7. The Use and Restoration of Ecosystems


8. The Human Population

9. Population and Development

10. Water: Hydrologic Cycle and Human Use

11. Soil: Foundation for Land Ecosystems

12. The Production and Distribution of Food

13. Pests and Pest Control


14. Energy from Fossil Fuels

15. Nuclear Power

16. Renewable Energy


17. Environmental Hazards and Human Health

18. Global Climate Change

19. Atmospheric Pollution

20. Water Pollution and Its Prevention

21. Municipal Solid Waste: Disposal and Recovery

22. Hazardous Chemicals: Pollution and Prevention


23. Sustainable Communities and Lifestyles

Appendix A Environmental


Appendix B Units of Measure




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As we plunge into a new century and a new millennium, the environment is being called on to supply the growing needs of an expanding human population in the developing countries and increasing affluence in the developed countries. In many areas, we are already taking more from Earth's systems than they can provide in a sustainable fashion. Our ecological footprint weighs heavily on Earth's natural resources—the "ecosystem capital" that provides the goods and services that sustain human life and economic well-being. Also, there are still billions of people who are not adequately housed, fed, or provided with health care or a paying job. Yet we must, as soon as possible, make a transition to a sustainable civilization, one in which a stable human population recognizes the finite limits of Earth's systems to produce resources and absorb wastes, and acts accordingly. This is hard to picture at present, but it is the only future that makes any sense. If we fail to achieve it by our deliberate actions, the natural world will impose it on us in highly undesirable ways.

Environmental science stands at the interface between humans and Earth and explores the interactions and relations between them. This relationship will need to be considered in virtually all future decision making. This text considers a full spectrum of views and information in an effort to establish a solid base of understanding and a sustainable formula for the future. What you have in your hands is a readable guide and up-to-date source of information that will help you to explore the issues in more depth. It will also help you to connect them to a framework of ideas and values that will equip you tobecome part of the solution to many of the environmental problems confronting us.

As the field of environmental science evolves and continues to change, so has this text. In this new edition, I hope to continue to reflect accurately the field of environmental science; in so doing, I have constantly attempted to accomplish each of the following objectives:

  • To write in a style that makes learning about environmental science both interesting to read and easy to understand, without overwhelming the student with details.
  • To present well-established scientific principles and concepts that form the knowledge base for an understanding of our interactions with the natural environment.
  • To organize the text in a way that promotes sequential learning, yet allows individual chapters to stand on their own.
  • To address all of the major environmental issues that confront our society and help to define the subject matter of environmental science.
  • To present the latest information available by making full use of the resources of the Internet, books, and journals.
  • To give an assessment of options or progress in solving environmental problems.
  • To support the text with excellent supplements for the instructor and the student that strongly enhance the teaching and learning processes.

Because I believe that learning how to live in the environment is one of the most important subjects in any student's educational experience, I have made every effort to put in your hands a book that will help the study of environmental science come alive.

A Guide to the Ninth Edition of Environmental Science


The ninth edition is more than just an update. The main new feature of this edition is the extensive use of six unifying themes that help the reader to focus on the significance of the many issues that are presented. The themes of sustainability, sound science, and stewardship are retained from the eighth edition and now identified as strategic themes. To these I have added three more themes, which I call integrative themes: ecosystem capital, policy and politics, and globalization. These six themes provide important threads linking the different subjects and chapters of the text. To make the connections clear, I have added at the end of each chapter a section called Revisiting the Themes, where each theme is discussed and connected to the chapter matter. In this edition, I continue to provide a balance between pure science and the political, social, and historical perspectives of environmental affairs. I am also careful to reflect differences in interpretation of environmental concerns where they exist, while maintaining the standard of sound science for judging those concerns.

Most important, the ninth edition reflects the changing environmental scene in the United States, as well as in the rest of the world. Information from new books, journal articles, and Internet-based reports from governmental and nongovernmental organizations has been incorporated into every chapter. New illustrations have been introduced—69 new photos and 49 new diagrams.

Each chapter opens with a case study or an illustrative story to catch the reader's interest and lead into the chapter's subject. A new feature in this edition is the Guest Essays; these provide challenging insights from the perspective of professionals in their fields. Another new feature is the companion CD, Global City. This is a set of 9 exercises built around I* concept of a large city struggling with many of the environmental problems presented in the book: soil erosion, water pollution, energy use, urban sprawl, and municipal waste, among others. Those familiar with the eighth edition will see a new, crisp layout, with the use of many more subheads. These enable students to read the text in clearly identified bite-sized segments.


After taking a look at the plight of Easter Island, Chapter 1 (Introduction: Toward a Sustainable Future) presents a global environmental picture, starting with the concept of the ecological footprint. In discussing ecosystem decline, the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment is presented as a new effort to understand the links between human well-being and the goods and services provided by ecosystems. The chapter then introduces the three strategic themes: sustainability—the practical goal that our interactions with the natural world should be working toward; stewardship—the ethical and moral framework that should inform our public and private actions; and sound science—the basis for our understanding of how the world works and how human systems interact with it. Each theme is thoroughly defined and explored. Following this, the three integrative themes are introduced in depth: ecosystem capital—the natural and managed ecosystems that provide essential goods and services to human enterprises; policy and politics—the human decisions that determine what happens to the natural world and the political processes that lead to those decisions; and globalization—the accelerating interconnectedness of human activities, ideas, and cultures. A new Earth Watch essay critiques Bjorn Lomborg's controversial book, The Skeptical Environmentalist.

Part One. Ecosystems: Basic Units of the Natural World

Part One (Chapters 2-4) explores natural ecosystems—what they are, how they function, and how they change. I no longer employ the five Sustainability Principles (an approach that has outlived its usefulness), although the actual processes they drew attention to are still very much in place. Chapter 5 (Ecosystems and Evolutionary Change) from the older editions has been removed, but material on natural selection and speciation has been kept in Chapter 4 (Ecosystems: How They Change). Some of the new material that appears in these chapters includes the work of the Heinz Center on the State of the Nation's Ecosystems, the concepts of top-down and bottom-up regulation of populations, and a guest essay by biologist David Lahti on the village weaverbird. The end of Chapter 4 returns to the idea of the ecological footprint to address the issue of human carrying capacity.

Part Two. The Human Population

Chapter 5 (The Human Population: Dimensions) first looks at the dynamics of the human population. The pressures on natural systems as a result of the growth of that population are examined, with a focus on the differences between the developed and developing countries. The chapter ends with the demographic transition—the shift from high birth and death rates to low birth and death rates that has brought stable populations to the industrialized world. Chapter 6 (Population and Development) describes the developing countries' difficulties in moving through this transition. A major new focus in the material on development is the Millennium Development Goals, presented in the context of the Human Development Report of 2002. Development aid and the World Bank are explored in detail, and the political controversy over the so-called "gag rule" is detailed. A guest essay by economist Chris Barren discusses his concept of the "poverty trap" in the context of Kenyan subsistence farmers and natural resource management.

Part Three. Renewable Resources

Part Three (Chapters 7-11) addresses the science and policies surrounding our use of the natural resources of water, soil, agriculture, and wildlife. Issues concerning the use of such resources in food production, forest growth, and fisheries management are examined in light of increasing population growth and increasing pressure on those resources: again, we all-the-while keep our eyes on sustainability. Some examples of issues receiving a new emphasis are: the Aral Sea as a major environmental disaster, the "water wars" of the Western United States, a challenge to the conventional approach to measuring erosion (GLASOD), a detailed look at genetically modified food and the controversies it has generated, the Klamath River controversy, restoration of the Everglades ecosystem, the Bush administration's "Healthy Forests initiative," and a -new Global Perspective box on the work of Gordon Sato, the "mangrove man" who has helped Eritreans to reclaim some of their coastal mangrove ecosystems.

Part Four. Energy

Part Four (Chapters 12-14) presents the energy resources currently available and the consequences each can have on the environment. Chapter 12 (Energy From Fossil Fuels) opens with the story of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and the controversy over drilling there for oil. New perspectives on energy security are added in light of recent terrorism and the U.S.-Iraqi war of 2003. The Cheney report on National Energy Policy is critiqued; supply-side and demand-side responses to energy futures are detailed. Chapter 13 (Energy From Nuclear Power) examines the possible future of nuclear power, especially as the Bush administration has moved to encourage this option. The various generations of nuclear power plants are explained, with new information on generations III and IV plants. Chapter 14 (Renewable Energy) examines (among many other options) the topic of renewable energy for transportation, especially the potential for fuel cell vehicles. Overall energy policy is summarized at the chapter's end, where the Union of Concerned Scientists' Clean Energy Blueprint is discussed. A guest essay features the work of Ken Touryan and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Denver, Colorado, where he works.

Part Five. Pollution and Prevention

Part Five (Chapters 15-21) begins with a chapter on environmental health (Chapter 15: Environmental Hazards and Human Health). Risk-based public policy is presented here, and extended to international public health risks, using the World Health Organizations precedent-setting World Health Report 2002. The text goes on to investigate the pollution of water, land, and air that results from human activities and our interactions with the environment that were discussed in earlier chapters. The coverage ranges from the use of pesticides to protect our crops, through sewage treatment and contamination of water, to municipal and hazardous wastes, and on to major atmospheric changes and more local and regional air pollution. Examples of some new issues introduced in this edition are (a) the controversy over arsenic in the context of water quality standards versus drinking water standards, (b) anew Earth Watch essay describing a remarkable approach to municipal solid waste management as practiced on Nantucket Island, (c) the Brownfields Act of 2002 and problems with the Superfund Trust Fund are discussed, (d) a thoroughly rewritten presentation of global climate change featuring the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's third assessment, and the responses of mitigation and adaptation, and (e) a thoroughly reorganized chapter on air pollution (Chapter 21: Atmospheric Pollution) adds the perspectives of costs and benefits of air pollution regulation and the controversy over the New Source Review.

Part Six. Toward a Sustainable Future

Part Six (Chapters 22 and 23) directly addresses the relationship that exists among economics, public policy, and the environment, focusing especially on our present environmental concerns. The concept of Net National Product is put forward in Chapter 22 as a solution to the shortcomings of the Gross National Product, and the 2003 OMB report (Informing Regulatory Decisions) is cited as a prime example of the importance of environmental regulation in promoting health. A new guest essay by former EPA Ombudsman Robert Martin presents his philosophy of a "transformational environmental policy." In Chapter 23 (Sustainable Communities and Lifestyles) several new reports on urban sprawl are examined; the negative as well as positive impacts of urban sprawl are discussed. The text then goes on to examine urban blight as an outcome of urban sprawl in the developed countries, and as an outcome of population pressure and a lack of employment opportunities in the developing countries. Part VI closes with a look at personal involvement, lifestyles, and values as vital components of a vision for a sustainable future.

Individual Text Elements

Essays: Environmental Science features five kinds of essays: Earth Watch, Ethics, Global Perspective, Career Link, and Guest Essays. Lists of essays are found at the end of the outline for each chapter.

  • Earth Watch essays provide further information that enhances the student's understanding of particular aspects of the topic being covered.
  • Ethics essays focus on the fact that many environmental issues do not involve clear-cut rights or wrongs, but present ethical dilemmas.
  • Global Perspective essays help the student appreciate the global nature and extent of the topic in question.
  • Career Link essays present an individual who has chosen to work in some area of environmental concern. The essays discuss how the person got into his or her career.
  • Guest Essays provide challenging insights from the perspective of professionals in their fields.

Making a Difference: I believe that no amount of text-based learning about the environment truly becomes useful until students challenge themselves and those around them to begin making a difference. With this in mind, each of the six parts of the text concludes with a section that suggests courses of action that each student can take to bring about the needed changes to foster sustainability.

Chapter Opening: Each chapter begins with a set of "Key Issues and Questions"#151;succinct statements regarding key aspects of the issue being covered and questions inviting the student to explore those issues.

Chapter Outline: Chapter outlines may be found in the Table of Contents. Importantly, the text of each chapter is organized according to a logical outline of first-, second-, and third-order headings to assist student outlining, note taking, and learning.

Review Questions: Each chapter concludes with a set of "Review Questions" addressing each aspect of the topic covered. Of course, these questions may serve as learning objectives, as test items, or for review.

Thinking Environmentally: A set of questions, "Thinking Environmentally," is included at the end of each chapter. These questions invite the student to make connections between knowledge gleaned from the chapter and other areas of the environmental arena and to apply knowledge gained to specific environmental problems. The questions may be used also for testing or to focus class discussion.

Vocabulary: Each new term will be found in boldface type where it is first introduced and defined. All such items are found in the glossary at the end of the book.

Appendices: At many points in the text, reference is made to the work being done by various environmental organizations. A listing of major national environmental organizations is given in Appendix A. Most of these organizations and agencies hale a home page on the Internet and can be located via the Web site that supports this text.

A conversion chart for various English and metric units is found in Appendix B.

For students who need some grounding in chemistry, a discussion of atoms, molecules, atomic bonding, and chemical reactions is provided in Appendix C.

Glossary and Index: A comprehensive glossary provides definitions of virtually all of the special terms, treaties, legislation, and programs identified in the text in boldface type. The index gives page references for all of these terms and for thousands of other topics and issues dealt with in the text.

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