Module 01 – Environmental Problems / Connections in Nature

To begin your exploration of the Environmental Problems, please visit the National Library for the Environment (NLE)( The NLE is a single point of entry for articles, links, and references on environmental topics). Please bookmark this website as it will provide good background information about environmental problems and serve as a good resource for some of your assignments.

Environmental science is an interdisciplinary study of how the earth works, how we interact with the earth, and how we deal with environmental problems. One of the most profound, prophetic, inspirational statements made on the environment was a speech given to President Franklin Pierce by “Chief Seattle” in 1854. President Franklin made an offer for two million acres of Indian Land and promised a Reservation for the Indian people. The text of Chief Seattle’s speech is his reply to President Pierce’s offer. Visit the following link to read the text of his speech Consider the message that this speech teaches all of us about the environment.

Much controversy surrounds the authenticity of Chief Seattle’s speech. Some feel the speech was actually written by Ted Perry, who wrote a biography of Chief Seattle. Various versions of the speech exist. Each translation loses or embellishes parts of his message. The Ted Perry text of the speech was used for a film on pollution and ecology called “Home”. Film producers used the script without his knowledge, removed his name, and made posters with the speech. This began the confusion that exists today. Perry is pleased that his words have served as a powerful inspiration to many. The Chief Seattle Speech has a message to teach all of us about the environment. Would Chief Seattle agree or disagree with the spirit of the message?

World populations are putting pressure on the earth’s resources to meet our wants and needs. We classify these material resources as perpetual renewable or nonrenewable. In 1968, biologist Garrett Harden called the degradation of renewable resources the Tragedy of the Commons( It happens because each user reasons “If I do not use this resource, someone else will. The little bit I use or pollute is not enough to matter, and such resources are renewable”.

Supplying each person with renewable resources, and absorbing wastes from such resource use, creates a large ecological footprint or environmental impact. It measures the average environmental impact of individuals in different countries and areas.

Most of the harmful environmental problems we face in the world are the unintended results of human activities designed to increase the quality of life. Underlying causes of environmental problems include:

  • Rapid population growth
  • Poverty
  • Excessive and wasteful resources
  • Not including environmental costs in market prices
  • Inadequate understanding of how the earth

*****This week you were introduced to environmental science. With some of your background knowledge, and what you have learned from your readings, consider the following statement:

The world will never run out of resources because we can use technology to find substitutes; this will help us reduce resource waste.

Do you agree with this statement? Explain your position.

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