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USC / Environment / ENVR 101 / When did views about the environment begin to change?

When did views about the environment begin to change?

When did views about the environment begin to change?


Environmental 101

When did views about the environment begin to change?

Professor Kneas


Yellow highlight: Important term 

Blue highlight: Important event 

Purple highlight: Important person 

Environmental Thinking: Precursors and Preconditions (Chapter 1): 

● What is the environment?

○ The surrounding conditions that affect organisms:

■ Abiotic factors: Non living conditions

■ Biotic factors: Interactions with other organisms

○ “Everything that affects an organism during its time”

● How and when did views about the environment begin to change? ○ The sublime 

What is the main source of solid waste in the us?

■ “ rare landscapes where one had more chance than elsewhere to get a glimpse of God”

○ Frontier Ideology and Anxiety

■ Urbanization 

● The US population increased from 1.9 to 54 million

between 1850 and 1920

■ Frederick Jackson Turner (1893)

● “The Frontier line is the most rapid and effective Don't forget about the age old question of How did immigrants learn about america prior to coming?


■ William Cronon (1995)

● “Wild country became a place not just of religious

redemption but national renewal. The quintessential

location for experiencing what it meant to be American.”

■ Manifest Destiny 

What is the most important determinant of toxicity?

● the 19th-century doctrine or belief that the expansion of

the US throughout the American continents was both

justified and inevitable

○ Labor Theory of Property or Labor Theory of Appropriation ■ John Locke Don't forget about the age old question of What are the two types of societies according to durkheim?

● Land in its original state is “un-owned” by anyone

because God gave the world to all men

● BUT if an individual applies his labor to the land (eg by

farming it) it becomes his property.

○ Policy of Preservation

■ John Muir 

● “Founder of the National Parks”

● Wanted there to be no industrial profit from

government owned lands (national parks)

■ 16 National Parks created between 1880 and 1906 

■ Teddy Roosevelt

● Strongly advocated for national parks during


○ Science of Conservation We also discuss several other topics like How is the raft of medusa organized?

■ Gifford Pinchot 

● Believed that land owned by the government should be

used for recreation by the public but also for research,

mining and lodging (if done responsibly).

● Pinchot and Muir had very contrasting views

● Environmental Ethics

○ Application of ethical standards to environmental questions and the study of the moral relationship of human beings to the environment ○ Three Environmental approaches to environmental ethics ■ Anthropocentrism: humans are the most important

● Environmental responsibility is derived from human

interests alone

● Value of the environment lies in its instrumental worth

■ Biocentrism: the rights and needs of humans are not more important than the rights and needs of other living beings

● All forms of life have inherent right to exist

■ Ecocentrism: a point of view that recognizes the ecosphere rather than the biosphere as central importance We also discuss several other topics like What is a brain circuit?

● The environment itself, and not just living organisms

that inhabit it, has moral worth


● Neo-Classical Economics, 3 kinds of resources:

○ Labor: “the human resource”

○ Capital: anything that enables the efficient production of goods and services

○ Land: the natural resources of the planet

● What is a natural resource?

○ A natural resource is a component of the biophysical world that can be appropriated for human use.

■ Plants that are valued become “crops”, species that compete with them are called “weeds,” and insects that ingest them are called “pests”

■ Perpetual resource: Sun, wind, tide

■ Renewable resource: can be formed or regenerated by natural processes (water, animal stocks, timber)

● Sustainable yield: rate that a renewable resource can be used indefinitely without reducing its available supply

● Environmental degradation: the available resource

supply begins to shrink because we have exceeded the If you want to learn more check out What fraction of the original 14c remains in a sample after 11,460 years?

sustainable yield

■ Nonrenewable resource: not replaced by natural processes or the rate of replacement is so slow it is ineffective (fossil fuels, minerals)

● Exist in a fixed quantity in earth’s crust

● Are almost never completely exhausted, but they can

become economically depleted

● Economic depletion- when the costs of extracting and

using what is left of a resource exceeds its economic


○ Mining Law of 1872 

■ Developed to encourage settling in the West (1800s)

■ Encouraged mineral exploration and mining of hard-rock minerals on public lands

● Environmentalism

○ An argument to account for degradation and waste

○ A way to reflect on/think about different time-scales of production and different systems of value

○ Key moments/Processes: 

■ Urban Smog

● “London, particularly, where the population are Don't forget about the age old question of What is the meaning of the silver trade?

periodically submerged in a fog the consistency of pea


● One of the first visible signs of air pollution

■ Nuclear Age & Ecology

● Tested atomic bombs, found that a residual amount of

radioactivity in the food chain for at least five years

after the explosion

■ Suburbia and its discontents

● The emergence of suburbs

■ Silent Spring

● written by rachel carson, launched the environmental 


● Argued against pesticides being sprayed to fight

against bugs

■ Events

● February 1969, Santa Barbara Oil Spill

● Cuyahoga River, 1969

○ Caught on fire

■ Earth Day & Counter-Cultural Protest

● Astronauts walked on the moon 1969

● What earth looked like from space

○ Environmental Legislation 

■ 1955: Air Pollution Control Act

■ 1963 Clean Air Act

■ 1964 Wilderness Act

■ 1973 Endangered Species Act

■ 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act


● Annual Solid Waste Generation in US

■ Mining, oil and gas production= 75%

■ agriculture= 13%

■ Industry= 9.5%

■ Municipal= 1.5%

■ Sewage sludge= 1%

○ 11 billion metric tons of solid waste per year

○ Personal consumption expenditure (PCE) is the primary measure of consumer spending on goods and services in the US. It accounts for about two-thirds of domestic final spending, and thus it is the primary engine that drives future economic growth.

● Preventing waste by increasing resource productivity and efficiency ○ Since the 1970s...

■ Plastic grocery bags 70% thinner

■ Plastic milk jugs weigh 40% less

■ Aluminum cans contain ⅓ the aluminum

■ Weight of cars reduced 25%

■ Skyscrapers use ~35% less steel

● Dealing with waste:

● Primary recycling: produces the same type of object

● Secondary recycling: products are converted into a different, often lower quality type of material

● Recycling rates have dramatically increased over the past 50 years ● *ICLICKER: Which US State has the highest recycling rate for beverages (aluminum, glass and plastic)?

○ Michigan

● Waste Incinerators

○ Advantages

■ Reduce trash volume

■ Low water pollution

■ Energy Generation

○ Disadvantages

■ High Cost

■ Potential Air Pollution

■ Highly Toxic Ash

● Landfill Disposal: a site for the disposal and burial of solid waste materials

○ Stores waste over a long period of time

● Landfill history:

○ Urbanization: US population increased from 1.9 million to 54 million between 1850-1920

○ *Over the years, the total number of landfills have decreased, but each individual one has increased

● Landfill advantages:

● Less expensive

● Can store waste indefinitely with secure liners

● Disadvantages of Landfills:

■ Groundwater contamination (leaking liners or no liners)

■ Air pollution from VOCs

■ Overflow from flooding

■ Leachate 

● Contaminant- laden water that leaches through a

landfill site

● Environmental slogans for anti-landfills:

○ NIMBY: Not in my backyard

○ NIMTOO: Not in my term of office


● Spill in West Virginia 

○ Leaves thousands without water

○ Water got contaminated by toxic chemical waste


○ Charleston, West Virginia

○ 2014

● Classifying something as hazardous:

○ Ignitability 

○ Reactivity (explosiveness) 

○ Toxicity

○ corrosiveness

● Determining Toxicity

○ Lethal dose- 50% (LD50)

■ Means dose is lethal to 50% of the population

■ Dose-Response Curve

■ Determined for all new synthetic chemicals, typically through animal testing

■ The smaller the LD50, the less toxic

○ Factors affecting toxicity

■ Individual sensitivity: varies as a function of age, how well the body’s detoxification systems are working (liver, lungs, kidneys) and a person’s sensitivity as determined by genetic makeup ■ Solubility 

● Water soluble toxins easily move throughout the

environment in water

■ Persistence 

● Some chemicals have long-lasting effects in the

environment because they do not break down easily

■ Exposure frequency 

● How often a subject is exposed to the toxic substance

○ Acute: single short-term exposure that is usually

high in concentration

○ Chronic: contact with the toxicant at a sub lethal

level for a long period of time

○ Synergism: although the materials may be relatively harmless as separate compounds, once mixed, they may become highly toxic and cause more serious problem sthan do individual pollutants

● Environmental Costs

○ Internal costs: costs reflected in the price of the product ○ External costs: modern production techniques and consumption patterns transfer some of the waste disposal, pollution and health costs to society; they are external costs in that they are borne by someone other than the individuals who use a resource

○ Deferred costs: damage that may not be anticipated by will later have to be “paid”

● Love Canal 

○ 1978

○ Hooker chemical company

○ Area of niagara falls where toxic waste was being dumped ○ Chemicals were leaking into homes near canals having dangerous effects

○ Caused birth defects

○ Had to evacuate nearby homes

○ It was not until 2003 until the soil was treated for the landfill site ● GAO: three out of every 4 landfills were located in minority communities.

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