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all external conditions, factors, matter, and energy, living and nonliving, that affect any living organism or other specified system

environmental science

interdisciplinary study that uses information and ideas from the physical sciences (such as biology, chemistry, and geology) with those from the social sciences and humanities (such as economics, politics, and ethics) to learn how nature works, how we interact with the environment, and how we can help deal with environmental problems

developed country

country that is highly industrialized and has a high per capita GDP

developing country

country that has low to moderate industrialization and how to moderate per capita GDP; most are located in Africa, Asia, and Latin America

ecological footprint

amount of biologically productive land and water needed to supply a population with the renewable resources it uses and to absorb or dispose of the wastes from such resource use; it is a measure of the average environmental impact of populations in different countries and areas


biological science that studies the relationships between living organisms and their environment; study of the structure and functions of nature

economic development

improvement of human living standards by economic growth

environmental degradation

depletion or destruction of a potentially renewable resource such as soil, grassland, forest, or wildlife that is used faster than it is naturally replenished; if such use continues, the resource becomes nonrenewable (on a human time scale) or nonexistent (extinct)

environmental ethics

human beliefs about what is right or wrong with how we treat the environment

environmental wisdom worldview

worldview holding that humans are part of and totally dependent on nature and that nature exists for all species, not just for us; our success depends on learning how the earth sustains itself and integrating such environmental wisdom into the ways we think and act

environmental worldview

set of assumptions and beliefs about how people think the world works, what they think their role in the world should be, and what they believe is right and wrong environmental behavior


social movement dedicated to protecting the earth's life support systems for us and other species

environmentally sustainable economic development

development that meets the basic needs of the current generations of humans and other species without preventing future generations of humans and other species from meeting their basic needs; it is the economic component of an environmentally sustainable society

environmentally sustainable society

society that meets the current and future needs of its people for basic resources in a just and equitable manner without compromising the ability of future generations of humans and other species from meeting their basic needs

exponential growth

growth in which some quantity, such as population size or economic output, increases at a constant rate per unit of time

gross domestic product (GDP)

annual market value of all gods and services produced by all firms and organizations, foreign and domestic, operating within a country

input pollution control/pollution prevention

device, process, or strategy used to prevent a potential pollutant from forming or entering the environment or to sharply reduce the amount entering the environment

natural capital

natural resources and natural services that keep us and other species alive and support our economies

nonpoint sources

broad and diffuse areas, rather than points, from which pollutants enter bodies of surface water or air

nonrenewable resource

resource that exists in a fixed amount (stock) in the earth's crust and has the potential for renewal by geological, physical, and chemical processes taking place over hundreds of millions to billions of years

output pollution control/pollution cleanup

device or process that removes or reduces the level of a pollutant after it has been produced or has entered the environment

per capita ecological footprint

amount of biologically productive land and water needed to supply each person or population with the renewable resources they use and to absorb or dispose of the wastes from such resource use; it measures the average environmental impact of individuals or populations in different countries and areas

per capita GDP

annual gross domestic product (GDP) of a coutnry divided by its total population at midyear; it gives the average slice of the economic pie per person; used to be call per capita gross national product (GNP)

perpetual resource

essentially inexhaustible resource on a human time scale because it is renewed continuously

planetary management worldview

worldview holding that humans are separate from nature, that nature exists mainly to meet our needs and increasing wants, and that we can use our ingenuity and technology to manage the earth's life-support systems, mostly for our benefit; it assumes that economic growth is unlimited

point source

single identifiable source that discharges pollutants into the environment


undesirable change in the physical, chemical, or biological characteristics of air, water, soil, or food that can adversely affect the health, survival, or activities of humans or other living organisms


inability to meet basic needs for food, clothing, and shelter


collecting and reprocessing a resource so that it can be made into new products

renewable resource

resource that can be replenished rapidly (hours to several decades) through natural processes as long as it is not used up faster than it is replaced


anything obtained from the environment to meet human needs and wants; it can be applied to any species


using a product over and over again in the same form

social capital

result of getting people with different views and values to talk and listen to one another, find common ground based on understanding and trust, and work together to solve environmental and other problems

solar capital

solar energy that warms the plant and supports photosynthesis, the process that plants use to provide food for themselves and for us and other animals; this direct input of solar energy also produces indirect forms of renewable solar energy such as wind and flowing water

stewardship worldview

worldview holding that we can manage the earth for our benefit but that we have an ethical responsibility to be caring and responsible managers, or stewards, of the earth; it calls for encouraging environmentally beneficial forms of economic growth and discouraging environmentally harmful forms

sustainability (durability)

ability of earth's various systems, including human cultural systems and economies, to survive and adapt to changing environmental conditions indefinitely

sustainable yield

highest rate at which a potentially renewable resource can be used indefinitely without reducing its available supply

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