Chapter Outlines - CHAPTER 3





Cutting a tree will someday make you treeless; and eventually, you will be homeless.

A.    The environment is a set of complex systems that support life as we know it.

B.    The building blocks of matter and energy support our complex environment and are weakened by pollutants, nuclear changes, and resource depletion.

C.    A sustainable economy must protect resources and make resources use more efficient.


3-1 The nature of science

Basing their research on scientific hypotheses, scientists ask questions to explain how the world works.

A.    Scientific Theory vs. Scientific Law

B.    Scientific methods

C.    Frontier science vs. consensus science

D.    Environmental science’s limits


3-2 Models and behavior of systems

Interacting, environmental systems include three key components (matter, energy or information) which function as inputs, flows and/or storage areas and outputs.

A.    Systems change: feedback loops, time delays

B.    Influence of synergy

C.    Law of conservation of problems


3-3 Matter: Forms, structure, and quality

The two chemical forms of matter are elements and compounds which are found together in mixtures.

A.    Characteristics of atoms, ions, and molecules

B.    Organic and inorganic compounds’ influence on matter quality and efficiency

3-4 Energy: Forms and quality

Energy can be either kinetic or potential, high-quality or low-quality.


3-5 Physical and chemical changes and the law of conservation of matter

No physical or chemical change can create or destroy matter.

A.    Physical and chemical changes and the law of conservation of matter

B.    Example of change: pollutants


3-6 Nuclear changes

Nuclear change occurs in three types: natural radioactive decay, nuclear fission, and nuclear fusion.

A.    Radioactive isotopes and gamma rays

B.    Effects of ionizing radiation


3-7 Two laws governing energy changes

The first and second laws of energy explain that when energy is changed, less usable energy is the result.

A.    Mechanical, electrical, and chemical energy and their results

B.    Energy efficiency


3-8 Connections: Matter and energy change laws and environmental problems

A ‘high-throughput/high-waste economy’ operates in the advanced industrialized countries of today, compromising the environment for the entire world.

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