Chapter 1: Environmental Science & Environmental Issues

1.6 Chapter Resources


Science attempts to describe and understand the nature of the universe in whole or in part. Science has many fields; those fields related to the physical world and its phenomena are considered natural sciences. A hypothesis is a tentative explanation for an observation. A scientific theory is a well-tested and consistently verified explanation for a set of observations or phenomena. A scientific law is a description, often in the form of a mathematical formula, of the behavior of an aspect of nature under certain circumstances. Two types of logical reasoning are used in science. Inductive reasoning uses results to produce general scientific principles. Deductive reasoning is a form of logical thinking that predicts results by applying general principles. The common thread throughout scientific research is the use of the scientific method. Scientists present their results in peer-reviewed scientific papers published in scientific journals. Science can be basic or applied. The main goal of basic science is to expand knowledge without any expectation of short-term practical application of that knowledge. The primary goal of applied research, however, is to solve practical problems.

Sustainability refers to three simple concerns: the need to arrest environmental degradation and ecological imbalance, the need not to impoverish future generations and the need for quality of life and equity between current generations. Added up, these core concerns are an unmistakable call for transformation. Business-as-usual is no longer an option. The concept of ethics involves standards of conduct. These standards help to distinguish between behavior that is considered right and that which is considered wrong. The ways in which humans interact with the land and its natural resources are determined by ethical attitudes and behaviors and ultimately worldviews such as planetary management, stewardship and environmental wisdom. Environmental justice is achieved when everyone enjoys the same degree of protection from environmental and health hazards and equal access to the decision-making process to have a healthy environment. This justice is often most out of reach of Indigenous people, who face a lack human rights, exploitation of their traditional lands and themselves, and degradation of their culture. Despite U.N. goals and promised by national governments, the rights and feelings of Indigenous people are often ignored or minimized, even by supposedly culturally sensitive developed countries.

Review Questions

  1. What is science?
  2. Describe the process of scientific method.
  3. What are inductive reasoning and deductive reasoning?
  4. Describe the goals of basic and applied science.
  5. Give one example of the link between basic and applied research.
  6. What are peer-reviewed articles?
  7. Explain the following terms: hypothesis, falsifiability, scientific law.
  8. Name some indicators of global environmental stress.
  9. Define sustainability.
  10. Define environmental justice.


EEA. (1997). Towards sustainable development for local authorities – approaches, experiences and sources. Retrieved from Available under Creative Commons Attribution License 3.0 (CC BY 3.0). Modified from Original.

Kriebel, D., Tickner, J., Epstein, P., Lemons, J., Levins, R., Loechler, E. L., … Stoto, M. (2001). The precautionary principle in environmental science. Environmental Health Perspectives109(9), 871–876. Retrieved from

Mitchell, K., & D’Onofrio, Z. (2016). Environmental injustice and racism in Canada: The first step is admitting we have a problem. Journal of Environmental Law and Practice, 29, 305-345. Retrieved from

NSF. (2009). Transitions and tipping points in complex environmental systems. Retrieved September 24, 2015 from Modified from original.

Nuckols, J. R., Ward, M. H., & Jarup, L. (2004). Using geographic information systems for exposure assessment in environmental epidemiology studies. Environmental Health Perspectives, 112(9), 1007–1015. doi:10.1289/ehp.6738.

Theis, T. & Tomkin, J. (Eds.). (2015). Sustainability: A comprehensive foundation. Retrieved from Available under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. (CC BY 4.0). Modified from original.

University of California College Prep. (2012). AP environmental science. Retrieved from Available under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. (CC BY 4.0). Modified from original.

Essentials of Environmental Science by Kamala Doršner is licensed under CC BY 4.0


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Environmental Issues Copyright © 2019 by Andrew Frank is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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