Unit 6: Environmental Impacts
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The human presence and impact on this Earth has been changing with our population, technology, and affluence. In order to start understanding how these variables have an impact on Earth (in a general sense) the IPAT equation was created. As is the case for any equation,
\[I = P \times A \times T \nonumber\]
- "\(I\)" represents the impacts of a given course of action on the environment
- "\(P\)" is the relevant human population for the problem at hand
- "\(A\)" is the level of consumption per person
- "\(T\)" is impact per unit of consumption. Impact per unit of consumption is a general term for technology, interpreted in its broadest sense as any human-created invention, system, or organization that serves to either worsen or uncouple consumption from impact
The equation is not meant to be mathematically rigorous; rather it provides a way of organizing information for a “first-order” analysis. To achieve meaningful reductions of human impact, there are intense debates on where the focus should lie. Where one group sees expensive remedies with little demonstrable return, another sees opportunities for investment in new technologies, businesses, and employment sectors, with collateral improvements in global and national well-being.
This unit will investigate variables that represent the biggest modern components for human impact at local and global scales. Specifically, it will focus on solid waste, pollution, and climate change.
- 19: Solid Waste Management
- On average, each individual in the U.S. generates about 4.9 lbs of municipal solid waste per day. Sanitary landfills and incineration are common strategies for waste disposal. A large volume of solid waste escapes to the ocean where it harms marine life and forms garbage patches. Reducing waste at the national, state, local, and individual level limits the environmental consequences of solid waste.
- 21: Climate Change
- Climate change is an alteration of long-term weather patterns. The climate change that we are currently experiencing involves an increase in average global temperature. It is caused by human activities, which release greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane.
Modified by Rachel Schleiger from Sustainability: A Comprehensive Foundation by Openstax (licensed under CC-BY)
Thumbnail: "Oil spill cleanup program" Is in the Public Domain