Chapter 1

agricultural revolution

Gradual shift from small, mobile hunting and gathering bands to settled agricultural communities in which people survived by learning how to breed and raise wild animals and to cultivate wild plants near where they lived. It began 10,000P12,000 years ago. Compare environmental revolution, hunterPgatherers, industrial revolution, information and globalization revolution.

common-property resource

Resource that people normally are free to use; each user can deplete or degrade the available supply. Most are renewable and owned by no one. Examples are clean air, fish in parts of the ocean not under the control of a coastal country, migratory birds, gases of the lower atmosphere, and the ozone content of the upper atmosphere (stratosphere). See tragedy of the commons.

conservation biologist

Biologist who investigates human impacts on the diversity of life found on the earth (biodiversity) and develops practical plans for preserving such biodiversity. Compare conservationist, ecologist, environmentalist, environmental scientist, preservationist, restorationist.


Person concerned with using natural areas and wildlife in ways that sustain them for current and future generations of humans and other forms of life. Compare conservation biologist, ecologist, environmentalist, environmental scientist, preservationist, restorationist.

developed country

Country that is highly industrialized and has a high per capita GNI. Compare developing country.

developing country

Country that has low to moderate industrialization and low to moderate per capita GNI. Most are located in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Compare developed country.

ecological footprint

A measure of the ecological impact of the (1) consumption of food, wood products, and other resources, (2) use of buildings, roads, garbage dumps, and other things that consume land space, and (3) destruction of the forests needed to absorb the CO2 produced by burning fossil fuels.


Biological scientist who studies relationships between living organisms and their environment. Compare conservation biologist, conservationist, environmentalist, environmental scientist, preservationist, restorationist.

economic development

Improvement of living standards by economic growth. Compare economic growth, environmentally sustainable economic development.

economic growth

Increase in the capacity to provide people with goods and services produced by an economy; an increase in real GNI (GNP). Compare economic development, environmentally sustainable economic development, sustainable economic development.


All external conditions and factors, living and nonliving (chemicals and energy), that affect an organism or other specified system during its lifetime.

environmental degradation

Depletion or destruction of a potentially renewable resource such as soil, grassland, forest, or wildlife that is used faster than it is naturally replenished. If such use continues, the resource becomes nonrenewable (on a human time scale) or nonexistent (extinct). See also sustainable yield.

environmental science

Interdisciplinary study of how the earth works, how we are affecting the earth's life-support systems (environment), and how to deal with the how to deal with the environmental problems we face.

environmental scientist

Scientist who uses scientific information to understand how the earth works, learn how humans interact with the earth, and develop solutions to environmental problems. Compare conservation biologist, conservationist, ecologist, preservationist, restorationist.


Person who is concerned about the impact of people on environmental quality and believe that some human actions are degrading parts of the earth's life-support systems for humans and many other forms of life. Compare conservation biologist, conservationist, ecologist, environmental scientist, preservationist, restorationist.

environmentally sustainable society

Society that satisfies the basic needs of its people without depleting or degrading its natural resources and thereby preventing current and future generations of humans and other species from meeting their basic needs.

free-access resource

See common-property resource.

frontier environmental worldview

Viewing undeveloped land as a hostile wilderness to be conquered (cleared, planted) and exploited for its resources as quickly as possible. Compare environmental wisdom worldview, planetary management worldview, spaceship-earth worldview.


See gross domestic product.


Broad process of global social, economic, and environmental change that leads to an increasingly integrated world. See information and globalization revolution.


See gross national income.

gross world product (GWP)

Market value in current dollars of all goods and services produced in the world each year. Compare gross domestic product, gross national income.


People who get their food by gathering edible wild plants and other materials and by hunting wild animals and fish. Compare agricultural revolution, environmental revolution, industrial revolution, information and globalization revolution.

industrial revolution

Use of new sources of energy from fossil fuels and later from nuclear fuels, and use of new technologies, to grow food and manufacture products. Compare agricultural revolution, environmental revolution, hunter-gatherers, information and globalization revolution.

information and globalization revolution

Use of new technologies such as the telephone, radio, television, computers, the internet, automated databases, and remote sensing satellites to enable people to have increasingly rapid access to much more information on a global scale. Compare agricultural revolution, environmental revolution, hunter-gatherers, industrial revolution.

input pollution control

See pollution prevention.


See developing country.

less developed country (LDC)

See developing country.


See developed country.

more developed country (MDC)

See developed country.

output pollution control

See pollution cleanup.

perpetual resource

An essentially inexhaustible resource on a human time scale. Solar energy is an example. See renewable resource. Compare nonrenewable resource, renewable resource.


An undesirable change in the physical, chemical, or biological characteristics of air, water, soil, or food that can adversely affect the health, survival, or activities of humans or other living organisms.

pollution cleanup

Device or process that removes or reduces the level of a pollutant after it has been produced or has entered the environment. Examples are automobile emission control devices and sewage treatment plants. Compare pollution prevention.


Person concerned primarily with setting aside or protecting undisturbed natural areas from harmful human activities. Compare conservation biologist, conservationist, ecologist, environmentalist, environmental scientist, restorationist.

range of tolerance

Range of chemical and physical conditions that must be maintained for populations of a particular species to stay alive and grow, develop, and function normally. See law of tolerance.

recharge area

Any area of land allowing water to pass through it and into an aquifer. See aquifer, natural recharge.

reproductive potential

See biotic potential.

resource productivity

See material efficiency.


See aerobic respiration.

sexual reproduction

Reproduction in organisms that produce offspring by combining sex cells or gametes (such as ovum and sperm) from both parents. This produces offspring that have combinations of traits from their parents. Compare asexual reproduction.

shale oil

Slow-flowing, dark brown, heavy oil obtained when kerogen in oil shale is vaporized at high temperatures and then condensed. Shale oil can be refined to yield gasoline, heating oil, and other petroleum products. See kerogen, oil shale.

soil porosity

See porosity.


Study of the adverse effects of chemicals on health.

nonpoint source

Large or dispersed land areas such as cropfields, streets, and lawns that discharge pollutants into the environment over a large area. Compare point source.

point source

Single identifiable source that discharges pollutants into the environment. Examples are the smokestack of a power plant or an industrial plant, drainpipe of a meatpacking plant, chimney of a house, or exhaust pipe of an automobile. Compare nonpoint source.


Removal of trees from a forested area without adequate replanting.

pollution prevention

Device or process that prevents a potential pollutant from forming or entering the environment or sharply reduces the amount entering the environment. Compare pollution cleanup.

sustainable agriculture

Method of growing crops and raising livestock based on organic fertilizers, soil conservation, water conservation, biological pest control, and minimal use of nonrenewable fossil-fuel energy.

soil texture

Relative amounts of the different types and sizes of mineral particles in a sample of soil.

environmentally sustainable economic development

Development that (1) encourages environmentally sustainable forms of economic growth that meet the basic needs of the current generations of humans and other species without preventing future generations of humans and other species from meeting their basic needs and (2) discourages environmentally harmful and unsustainable forms of economic growth. It is the economic component of an environmentally sustainable society. Compare economic development, economic growth.

gross domestic product (GDP)

Total market value in current dollars of all goods and services produced within a country during a year. Compare gross national income, gross world product.

gross national income in purchasing power parity (GNI PPP)

Market value of a country's GNI in terms of the goods and services it would buy in the United States. This is a better way to compare the standards of living among countries.

natural capital

See natural resources.

natural resources

The earth's natural materials and processes that sustain other species and us. Compare financial resources, human resources, manufactured resources.

per capita GNI

Annual gross national income (GNI) of a country divided by its total population at mid-year. It gives the average slice of the economic pie per person. Used to be called per capita GNP. See gross national income. per capita GNI in purchasing power parity (per capita GNI PPP: The GNI PPP divided by the total population at mid-year. This is a better way to make comparisons of people's economic welfare among countries. See per capita GNI.


Inability to meet basic needs for food, clothing, and shelter.


Ability of a system to survive for some specified (finite) time.


Study of the interactions of living organisms with one another and with their nonliving environment of matter and energy; study of the structure and functions of nature.

doubling time

The time it takes (usually in years) for the quantity of something growing exponentially to double. It can be calculated by dividing the annual percentage growth rate into 70.

exponential growth

Growth in which some quantity, such as population size or economic output, increases by a fixed percentage of the whole in a given time period; when the increase in quantity over time is plotted, this type of growth yields a curve shaped like the letter J. Compare linear growth.

J-shaped curve

Curve with a shape similar to that of the letter J; can represent prolonged exponential growth.

linear growth

Growth in which a quantity increases by some fixed amount during each unit of time. Compare exponential growth.


Any material that makes up a large, natural, continuous part of earth's crust. See mineral.

economic depletion

Exhaustion of 80% of the estimated supply of a nonrenewable resource. Finding, extracting, and processing the remaining 20% usually costs more than it is worth; may also apply to the depletion of a renewable resource, such as a fish or tree species.

exhaustible resource

See nonrenewable resource.

mineral resource

Concentration of naturally occurring solid, liquid, or gaseous material in or on the earth's crust in a form and amount such that extracting and converting it into useful materials or items is currently or potentially profitable. Mineral resources are classified as metallic (such as iron and tin ores) or nonmetallic (such as fossil fuels, sand, and salt).

nonrenewable resource

Resource that exists in a fixed amount (stock) in various places in the earth's crust and has the potential for renewal by geological, physical, and chemical processes taking place over hundreds of millions to billions of years. Examples are copper, aluminum, coal, and oil. We classify these resources as exhaustible because we are extracting and using them at a much faster rate than they were formed. Compare renewable resource.