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

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

by Harvey Blatt

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Overview

America's Environmental Report Card: Are We Making the Grade? by Harvey Blatt

A timely survey of the state of America's environment: how we can take action to achieve a sustainable future.

Americans today are increasingly concerned about the state of the environment. Polls show that a remarkable 63 percent would roll back recent tax cuts to finance environmental protection and that fully 95 percent want environmental education included in the public school curriculum. America's Environmental Report Card offers answers to some of our most pressing environmental questions, providing a timely reminder of what we need to accomplish to achieve a sustainable environment. It lays out the scientific facts about water and air pollution, energy, global warming, and the ozone layer in a lively, conversational style, enhanced by illustrations, and charts a course of action for protecting the environment. America's Environmental Report Card focuses on the environmental issues that polls show are most important to Americans today. It looks at water pollution and the safety of the water supply (20 percent of Americans refuse to drink tap water, at least partly because they doubt its safety), the dangers of floods (increased by the clearing of forests for farms and timber), the leaching of garbage buried in landfills, and pesticide runoff in irrigation waters from agriculture. It examines the ways we generate energy and the resulting global warming, air pollution (much of the 2,500 gallons of air we inhale each day contains exhaust fumes, lead, and asbestos), and ozone depletion and its relationship to skin cancer, and offers a detailed account of nuclear energy production and the radioactive waste it generates. Most important, it outlines ways to deal with these problems—workable and reasonable solutions that individuals, industry, and government can effect without unreasonable hardship, solutions that map the course to a sustainable future.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780262524674
Publisher: MIT Press
Publication date: 09/01/2006
Pages: 272
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.60(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About 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.

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

What People are Saying About This

James W. Jordan

This book serves as an indictment of inaction on the part of citizens and policymakers, a much-needed critique of the consumption-based economic drivers of environmental degradation, and a call to action for all Americans. Blatt's revision of the first edition is a welcome and valuable contribution to the field.

Jim Motavalli

A wonderful primer for the general reader. I'm not aware of any book that provides such a useful overview of environmental science.

From the Publisher

This book is an environmental mirror held up for the American public to study and reflect upon. It highlights and presents in a straightforward manner what should be seen and acknowledged by all citizens as the greatest challenge to our future and our security. The environmental report card that Blatt presents goes far beyond 'how we are doing' to urgent discussions of how we got here and what decisions we have to make to ensure a livable environment for our own and coming generations. America's Environmental Report Card should be required reading for politicians at local, state, and federal levels, regardless of party affiliation or positions on environmental policy.

James W. Jordan, Department of Environmental Studies, Antioch New England Graduate School

Endorsement

This book is an environmental mirror held up for the American public to study and reflect upon. It highlights and presents in a straightforward manner what should be seen and acknowledged by all citizens as the greatest challenge to our future and our security. The environmental report card that Blatt presents goes far beyond 'how we are doing' to urgent discussions of how we got here and what decisions we have to make to ensure a livable environment for our own and coming generations. America's Environmental Report Card should be required reading for politicians at local, state, and federal levels, regardless of party affiliation or positions on environmental policy.

James W. Jordan, Department of Environmental Studies, Antioch New England Graduate School

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