Introduction to Environmental Science

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Previous Lessons
Open Chapter Ch. 1: Science and the Environment
Lesson #1 The State of the Planet
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Lesson #2 Environmental Science and the Environmental Movement
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Lesson #3 3 Unifying Themes - Sustainability, Sound Science and Stewardship
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Lesson #4 Moving Towards a Sustainable Future
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Open Chapter Ch. 2: Economics, Politics, and Public Policy
Lesson #5 Economics and the Environment
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Lesson #6 Resources in a Sustainable Economy
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Lesson #7 Environmental Public Policy
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Lesson #8 Benefit-Cost Analysis of Environmental Public Policy
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Lesson #9 Politics and the Environment
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Open Chapter Ch. 3: Basic Needs of Living Things
Lesson #10 Organisms in Their Environment
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Lesson #11 Environmental Factors
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Lesson #12 Matter in Living and Nonliving Systems
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Lesson #13 Matter and Energy
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Lesson #14 The Cycling of Matter in Ecosystems
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Open Chapter Ch. 4: Populations and Communities
Lesson #15 Dynamics of Natural Populations
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Lesson #16 Limits on Population
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Lesson #17 Community Interactions
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Lesson #18 Evolution as a Force for Change
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Lesson #19 Implications for Human Management
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Open Chapter Ch. 5: Ecosystems: Energy, Patterns, and Disturbance
Lesson #20 Characteristics of Ecosystems
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Lesson #21 The Flow of Energy in Ecosystems
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Lesson #22 From Ecosystems to Global Biomes
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Lesson #23 Ecosystem Responses to Disturbance
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Lesson #24 Human Values and Ecosystem Sustainability
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Open Chapter Ch. 6: Wild Species and Biodiversity
Lesson #25 The Value of Wild Species and Biodiversity
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Lesson #26 Biodiversity and Its Decline
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Lesson #27 Saving Wild Species
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Lesson #28 Protecting Biodiversity Internationally
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Exam Exam 1
Open Chapter Ch. 7: The Value, Use, and Restoration of Ecosystems
Lesson #29 Ecosystem Capital
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Lesson #30 Consumption and Production
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Lesson #31 Biomes and Ecosystems Under Pressure
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Lesson #32 Protection and Restoration
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Open Chapter Ch. 8: The Human Population
Lesson #33 The Human Population
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Lesson #34 Population and Consumption: Different Worlds
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Lesson #35 Consequences of Population Growth and Affluence
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Lesson #36 Projecting Future Populations
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Open Chapter Ch. 9: Population and Development
Lesson #37 Predicting the Demographic Transition
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Lesson #38 Promoting Development
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Lesson #39 A New Direction: Social Modernization
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Open Chapter Ch. 10: Water: Hydrologic Cycle and Human Use
Lesson #40 Water: A Vital Resource
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Lesson #41 Hydrologic Cycle: Natural Cycle, Human Impacts
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Lesson #42 Water: Getting Enough, Controlling Excess
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Lesson #43 Water Stewardship: Supply and Public Policy
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Open Chapter Ch. 11: Soil: The Foundation for Land Ecosystems
Lesson #44 Soil and Plants
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Lesson #45 Soil Degradation
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Lesson #46 Soil Conservation
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Open Chapter Ch. 12: The Production and Distribution of Food
Lesson #47 Crops and Animals: Major Patterns of Food Production
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Lesson #48 From Green Revolution to Gene Revolution
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Lesson #49 Food Distribution and Trade
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Lesson #50 Hunger, Malnutrition, and Famine
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Lesson #51 The Future: Feeding the World as We Approach 2030-2050
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Exam Midterm Exam
Open Chapter Ch. 13: Pests and Pest Control
Lesson #52 The Need for Pest Control
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Lesson #53 Chemical Treatment: Promises and Problems
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Lesson #54 Alternative Pest Control Methods
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Lesson #55 Making a Coherent Plan
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Lesson #56 Pests, Pesticides, and Policy
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Open Chapter Ch. 14: Energy from Fossil Fuels
Lesson #57 Energy from Fossil Fuels
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Lesson #58 Exploiting Crude Oil
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Lesson #59 Drilling for Natural Gas
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Lesson #60 Mining Coal
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Lesson #61 Energy Policy
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Open Chapter Ch. 15: Nuclear Power
Lesson #62 Nuclear Energy in Perspective
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Lesson #63 How Nuclear Power Works
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Lesson #64 The Hazards and Costs of Nuclear Power Facilities
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Lesson #65 More Advanced Reactors
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Lesson #66 The Future of Nuclear Power
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Open Chapter Ch. 16: Renewable Energy
Lesson #67 Strategic Issues
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Lesson #68 Putting Solar Energy to Work
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Lesson #69 Indirect Solar Energy
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Lesson #70 Renewable Energy for Transportation
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Lesson #71 Additional Renewable Energy Options
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Lesson #72 Policies for Renewable Energy
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Open Chapter Ch. 17: Environmental Hazards and Human Health
Lesson #73 Links Between Human Health and the Environment
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Lesson #74 Pathways of Risk
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Lesson #75 Risk Assessment
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Open Chapter Ch. 18: Global Climate Change
Lesson #76 Atmosphere, Weather, and Climate
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Lesson #77 Climate Change Science
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Lesson #78 Response to Climate Change
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Exam Exam 3
Open Chapter Ch. 19: Atmospheric Pollution
Lesson #79 Air Pollution Essentials
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Lesson #80 Major Air Pollutants and Their Sources
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Lesson #81 Impacts of Air Pollutants
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Lesson #82 Bringing Air Pollution Under Control
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Lesson #83 Destruction of the Ozone Layer
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Open Chapter Ch. 20: Water Pollution and Its Prevention
Lesson #84 Perspectives on Water Pollution
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Lesson #85 Wastewater Treatment and Management
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Lesson #86 Eutrophication
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Lesson #87 Public Policy and Water Pollution
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Open Chapter Ch. 21: Municipal Solid Waste: Disposal and Recovery
Lesson #88 Solid Waste: Landfills and Combustion
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Lesson #89 Better Solutions: Source Reduction and Recycling
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Lesson #90 Public Policy and Waste Management
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Open Chapter Ch. 22: Hazardous Chemicals: Pollution and Prevention
Lesson #91 Toxicology and Chemical Hazards
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Lesson #92 Hazardous Waste Disposal
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Lesson #93 Cleaning Up the Mess
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Lesson #94 Managing Current Toxic Chemicals and Waste
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Lesson #95 Hazardous Chemicals: Pollution and Prevention
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Open Chapter Ch. 23: Sustainable Communities and Lifestyles
Lesson #96 Urban Sprawl
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Lesson #97 Urban Blight
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Lesson #98 Moving Towards Sustainable Cities and Communities
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Lesson #99 Lifestyles and the Common Good
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Exam Final Exam

Assignments:

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Lesson Objectives:

- Solar energy
- Solar heating
- Producing solar energy
- The future of solar energy



The Solar Constant is the rate at which solar energy reaches the Earth. Solar energy is radiant energy and enters the Earth at 1,366 watts per square meter.

Solar energy ranges from ultraviolet light to visible light and infrared light. About 30% of energy is reflected and 20% absorbed back into the atmosphere. Full sunlight delivers about 700 watts per square meter to the Earth's surface when the Sun is overhead. The Sun can deliver 700 MW of power or the size of one power plant to an area of 390 square miles.



The amount of solar energy reaching the Earth is massive.

40 minutes of direct sunlight striking the land surface of the United States yields the energy equivalent of one year's use of fossil fuel. The Sun delivers 10,000 times the energy used by human beings.

Using solar energy does not change the energy balance of the biosphere. Solar energy is converted to heat energy and usually lost to outer space. If human beings captured and used solar energy, it would ultimately be broken down into heat energy and then dispersed into the atmosphere.



Solar heating has been popular in warm sunny climates for a long time.

A solar collector consists of a thin box with glass or clear plastic at the top and black bottom with embedded tubes. As sunlight gets absorbed by the black surface, it is converted into heat. The black bottom gets hot and the plastic prevents heat from escaping. Solar collectors can help cut down utility bills as heat is collected and moves into the home via passive convection. Solar collectors can also be used to heat water. In this case, a flat plate collector is used again and water circulates through the embedded tubes. As the black bottom heats up, the water circulating through the tubes gets warmer and is sent to a tank for storage.

A well-designed passive solar energy building can reduce energy bills significantly. Excellent solar design can save a lot in oil, gas and electrical power consumption.

The Energy Star Program by the EPA recognizes energy efficiency and well-designed products and buildings. The Program awards the Energy Star Label to public and corporate buildings and products that use less than 40% of energy compared to other products or buildings in the same category and that meet other environmental criteria.



We all use electricity in some form or another throughout the day. Switching to renewable energy sources like solar would require that solar energy produce electricity on a scale like we are used to.

Photovoltaic cells are the most common method of capturing solar energy and converting it into electrical energy. A photovoltaic cell consist of a simple wafer of material with one wire at the top and one at the bottom. As sunlight shines on the wafer, it puts out an amount of electrical energy via a current that is equal to roughly a flashlight battery. PV cells are in use today to power calculators, watches and toys. They also provide power in rural areas for radio transmitters, lighthouses and traffic signals.

The most complicated part of the PV system is the inverter, which connects the solar PV modules with the electric grid or batteries. It connects the direct current from the PV panels to alternating current and acts as a control for the system.



The cost of producing solar energy keeps decreasing. The Sun is a plentiful energy source. More adoption is happening as homeowners add Photovoltaic (PV) systems, especially through government subsidies.

Other methods of capturing solar energy are being explored, such as solar troughs and power towers. Solar facilities do not face the same threats incurred with oil supplies that are vulnerable to terrorist attacks and require diplomatic efforts in volatile regions of the world.