Chapter 1 - Understanding Our Environment

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29 terms · Cunningham & Cunningham


the natural world and the "built" or technological, social and cultural world

environmental science

the systematic study of our environment and our place in it

challenges in environmental studies (7)

climate change, hunger, clean water, energy resources, air quality, biodiversity loss and marine resources

signs of hope in environmental studies (6)

population and pollution, health, renewable energy, information and education, conservation of forests and nature preserves and the protection of marine resources

sustainable development

meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs

indigenous people

the least powerful, most neglected group of people in the world; natives


a process for producing empirical knowledge by observing natural phenomena


scientists demand for this because they are cautious about accepting conclusions; making an observation or obtaining a result just once doesn't count for much


repeating studies or tests

deductive reasoning

logical reasoning from general to specific

inductive reasoning

reasoning from many observations to produce a general rule


a testable explanation: "the flashlight doesn't work because the batteries are dead"

scientific theory

when an explanation has been supported by a large number of tests and when a majority of experts have reached a general consensus that it is a reliable description or explanation


a measure of how likely something is to occur; estimates are based on a set of previous observations or on standard statistical measures (what is likely to happen)

natural experiment

an experiment that involves observation of events that have already happened

manipulative experiment

an experiment in which conditions are deliberately altered, and all other variables are held constant

controlled study

comparison of an exposed treatment group and an unexposed control group

blind experiment

an experiment in which the researcher doesn't know which group is treated until after the data have been analyzed (avoids bias)

double-blind experiment

neither the subject (who receives a drug or a placebo) nor the researcher knows who is in the treatment group and who is in the control group

dependent variable

affected by the independent variable (response variable found on the Y axis)


variables that are rarely really independent, may be affected by the same environmental conditions as the dependent variable (explanatory variables)

scientific consensus

general agreement among informed scholars

paradigm shifts

great changes in explanatory frameworks; term coined by Thomas Kuhn

critical thinking

the logical, orderly, analytical assessment of ideas, evidence and arguments

different types of thinking

analytical (how can I break down this problem?), creative (how can I approach this problem in an inventive way?), logical (does my argument make sense?) and reflective (what does it all mean?)

utilitarian conservation

policy that forests should be saved "not because they are beautiful or because they shelter wild creatures of the wilderness, but only to provide homes and jobs for people"


emphasizes the fundamental right of other organisms - and nature as a whole - to exist and to pursue their own interests

modern environmentalism

new wave of concerns extended to include both natural resources and environmental pollution

sustainable development

the idea that economic improvement for the world's poorest populations is possible without devastating the environment (ideas was well known after the Earth Summit in 1992)

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