What’s New in Environmental Science
What brought about environmental science? In the past 25 – 30 years, there was the public and academic interest in environmental problems and environmental management. This increasing interest has resulted or led to the birth of a new discipline called “Environmental Science”.
The contents or composition of this discipline are not new as such, since they are drawn from the existing areas of science such as physics, chemistry, biology, and geosciences.
What is New in Environmental Science?
What is new about environmental science is its viewpoints. The viewpoints can be seen in three ways:
i. In environmental science, the orientation is towards global problems
ii. Its conception of the earth as a set of interlocking and interacting system
iii. Its interest in man as part of this system
These are the three ways in which environmental science is different from the present science like physics, chemistry, and biology.
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Environmental science also includes all science directed towards the understanding of the environment particularly, as a system. And this environmental system contains complex processes that must be understood to be able to solve several problems. And such problems include:
i. The maintenance of renewable resources such as timber and fish;
ii. The conservation of non-renewable resources such as fuels. Fossil fuels take a long time to form and are therefore non-renewable.
iii. How to reduce the effects of natural disasters such as tornadoes, floods, and earthquakes
iv. How to alleviate chronic damage to the environment formed by such things as erosion and drought;
v. How to abate the problem of pollution by man and this include smoke; and
vi. How to cope with natural pollution such as volcanic dust and allergens Man-Environment Interaction
The study of environmental science will stress the understanding of the natural system and the processes of the earth, their implication on man, and their impact on man as the impact of man on these processes.
Two areas of interaction between the natural system and man have been recognized within environmental science:
i. Geosciences, and ii. Eco-sciences
In Geoscience, interaction is in the realms of physical phenomenon. Here, we are concerned with the component and processes of the atmosphere, lithosphere, and hydrosphere.
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In Eco-Science, interaction is in the realms of biological phenomenon. The emphasis is on the function and component of the biosphere. The interaction of man with the natural systems can be looked at from two viewpoints:
a. The impact of natural environmental forces on man. For example, floods, earthquakes, and landslides
b. The impact of man upon the environment. For example, the air and water pollution, extinction of certain species of animals, and accelerated rate of erosion.
In the broadest sense, the environment which is the focus of the study of environmental science consists of all matter and energy capable of influencing life forms.
The four realms of the environment are:
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