Thoughts in response to intro environmental
What are some
components that can be included in a definition of environmental
- using geologic knowledge wisely in human
- understanding earth and human system interaction.
- applied geologic problem solving.
- learn about environmental geology.
- to create an informed populace, a necessity
for a healthy democracy.
- develop environmental specialists.
- provide knowledge useful in personal endeavors.
- learn new sets of problem solving skills
applicable across the board.
- to increase aesthetic awareness.
- to enjoy mental exploration.
a scientific community?
- Thomas Kuhn, paradigm, 4 components
- exemplars = data and explanations for that
- What might some of these be for environmental
Basic questions confronting people?
- What do we want our world to be like?
- How do we balance individual rights versus
- To what degree can we control nature?
- What will be the long term consequences of
this or that action on the environment and the people living
How do we understand
complex natural systems?
- conceptual models of linkages between
system components. These models are
often known as cycles, the best known of which may be the hydrologic
cycle. Other examples are given below. This approach has recently
been given the name of earth system science.
- computer modeling.
Putting the above conceptual models and relevant data into computers
and then observing this model system in virtual operation we
can learn what patterns of behavior might be. This approach always
needs a very good reality check, which tells us how good our
conceptual model is.
- new perspectives of chaos, fractals and
fuzzy logic. The relatively new science
of chaos and the mathematics of fractals shows how very rich
and complex behavior and patterns can sometimes be captured in
very simple equations. Fuzzy logic allows us to work with incomplete
knowledge more consistently and precisely, and incomplete knowledge
often characterizes complex systems.
- collaborative efforts and team work. An important realization is that one individual
does not have the mental capacity to understand these systems
in their totality - they are just to big and complex. A team
approach crossing disciplinary boundaries is required. Team work
is critical to environmental science.
This includes hunches, inspirations, eureka moments and more.
It comes from immersion in and intense familiarity with a system
and subconscious analytic capacity we don't fully understand.
What are major
earth systems need to understand?
- atmosphere: meteorology.
- hydrosphere: oceanography,
limnology, many others.
- biosphere: biology.
- cryosphere: glaciology.
- lithosphere: geology.
- earth system science is a combination
of these. Need to abandon the academic
- will focus on lithosphere in this course
but will need to go wandering through these other disciplines.
© Harmon D. Maher Jr..
This page may be used for non-profit educational purposes. For
any other use please contact me.
Return to Environmental
Geology course index.
Return to Harmon's