Science attempts to describe and understand the nature of the universe in whole or in part. Science has many fields related to the physical world and its phenomena, 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. However, applied research’s primary goal 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. Ethical attitudes and behaviors determine how humans interact with the land and its natural resources. A frontier ethic assumes that the Earth has an unlimited supply of resources. Environmental ethics includes humans as part of the natural community rather than managers of it. Sustainable ethics assumes that the Earth’s resources are not unlimited and that humans must use and conserve resources to allow their continued use in the future. A variety of methods categorize countries. During the Cold War, the United States government categorized countries according to each government’s ideology and capitalistic development. Current classification models utilize economic (and sometimes other) factors in their determination. 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. Many problems face indigenous people, including lack of human rights, exploitation of their traditional lands and themselves, and degradation of their culture. Despite the lofty U.N. goals, the rights and feelings of indigenous people are often ignored or minimized, even by supposedly culturally sensitive developed countries.
EEA. (1997). Towards sustainable development for local authorities – approaches, experiences and sources. Retrieved from http://www.eea.europa.eu/publications/GH-07-97-191-EN-C. 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 Perspectives, 109(9), 871–876. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1240435/.
NSF. (2009). Transitions and tipping points in complex environmental systems. Retrieved September 24, 2015 from http://www.nsf.gov/geo/ere/ereweb/ac-ere/nsf6895_ere_report_090809.pdf. 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 http://firstname.lastname@example.org. Available under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. (CC BY 4.0). Modified from original.
University of California College Prep. (2012). A.P. environmental science. Retrieved from http://cnx.org/content/col10548/1.2/. Available under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. (CC BY 4.0). Modified from original.