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The catchment area of the Mississippi River
Mississippi Watershed Map The catchment area of the Mississippi River covers almost 40% of the U.S. continental landmass, collecting freshwater from 32 states. Included in the runoff that feeds the river system are large quantities of agricultural fertilizer and other chemicals that eventually drain into the Gulf of Mexico, creating an ever-growing “dead zone.” Source: Environmental Protection Agency

Air pollution

In many parts of the world, pollution of the air by industrial particles is now less a problem than it was a century ago, when newspapers lamented the “black snow” over Chicago. This is due to concerted efforts by a clean air caucus of international scope that arose in the 1940s and gained significant political influence with the emergence of the environmental movement in the 1970s. The impact of the post-70s environmental movement on the quality of air and water, mostly in the West, but also developing countries such as India, is the most hopeful precedent we have that the sustainability issues facing the world in the new century might yet be overcome, given political will and organization equal to the task.

Climate change

Air pollution is still a major problem in the megacities of the developing world, however, while a global change in air chemistry—an increase of 40% in the carbon load of the atmosphere since industrialization—is ushering in an era of accelerated climate change. This era will be characterized by increased droughts and floods, higher sea levels, and extreme weather events, unevenly and unpredictably distributed across the globe, with the highest initial impact in regions that, in economic and infrastructural terms, can least support climate disruption (for example, sub-Saharan Africa). The environmental historian J. R. McNeil estimates that between 25 and 40 million people died from air pollution in the 20 th century. The death toll arising from climate change in the 21 st century is difficult to predict, but given the scale of the disruption to weather systems on which especially marginal states depend, it is likely to be on a much larger scale.


From the Portuguese sea merchants of the 16 th century in quest of silver and spices from Asia, to the multinational oil companies of today seeking to drill in ever more remote and fragile undersea regions, the dominant view driving global economic growth over the last half millennium has been instrumentalist    , that is, of the world’s ecosystems as alternately a source of raw materials (foods, energy, minerals) and a dump for the wastes produced by the industrialization and consumption of those materials. The instrumentalist economic belief system of the modern era, and particularly the Industrial Age, is based on models of perennial growth, and measures the value of ecosystems according to their production of resources maximized for efficiency and hence profit. In this prevailing system, the cost of resource extraction to the ecosystem itself is traditionally not factored into the product and shareholder values of the industry. These costs are, in economic terms, externalized .

A future economics of sustainability, by contrast, would prioritize the management of ecosystems for resilience rather than pure capital efficiency, and would incorporate the cost of ecosystem management into the pricing of goods. In the view of many sustainability theorists, dismantling the system of “unnatural” subsidization of consumer goods that has developed over the last century in particular is the key to a sustainable future. Only a reformed economic system of natural pricing, whereby environmental costs are reflected in the price of products in the global supermarket, will alter consumer behavior at the scale necessary to ensure economic and environmental objectives are in stable alignment, rather than in constant conflict. As always in the sustainability paradigm, there are tradeoffs. A future economy built on the principle of resilience would be very different from that prevalent in the economic world system of the last 500 years in that its managers would accept reduced productivity and efficiency in exchange for the long-term vitality of the resource systems on which it depends.

Review questions

What are the major technological and economic developments since 1500 that have placed an increased strain on the planet’s ecosystem services? What is the role of carbon-based energy systems in that history?

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What is the so-called Great Acceleration of the 20 th century? What were its principal social features and environmental impacts?

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What is the Green Revolution? What were its successes, and what problems has it created?

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Questions & Answers

what does nano mean?
Anassong Reply
nano basically means 10^(-9). nanometer is a unit to measure length.
do you think it's worthwhile in the long term to study the effects and possibilities of nanotechnology on viral treatment?
Damian Reply
absolutely yes
how to know photocatalytic properties of tio2 nanoparticles...what to do now
Akash Reply
it is a goid question and i want to know the answer as well
characteristics of micro business
for teaching engĺish at school how nano technology help us
Do somebody tell me a best nano engineering book for beginners?
s. Reply
what is fullerene does it is used to make bukky balls
Devang Reply
are you nano engineer ?
fullerene is a bucky ball aka Carbon 60 molecule. It was name by the architect Fuller. He design the geodesic dome. it resembles a soccer ball.
what is the actual application of fullerenes nowadays?
That is a great question Damian. best way to answer that question is to Google it. there are hundreds of applications for buck minister fullerenes, from medical to aerospace. you can also find plenty of research papers that will give you great detail on the potential applications of fullerenes.
what is the Synthesis, properties,and applications of carbon nano chemistry
Abhijith Reply
Mostly, they use nano carbon for electronics and for materials to be strengthened.
is Bucky paper clear?
so some one know about replacing silicon atom with phosphorous in semiconductors device?
s. Reply
Yeah, it is a pain to say the least. You basically have to heat the substarte up to around 1000 degrees celcius then pass phosphene gas over top of it, which is explosive and toxic by the way, under very low pressure.
Do you know which machine is used to that process?
how to fabricate graphene ink ?
for screen printed electrodes ?
What is lattice structure?
s. Reply
of graphene you mean?
or in general
in general
Graphene has a hexagonal structure
On having this app for quite a bit time, Haven't realised there's a chat room in it.
what is biological synthesis of nanoparticles
Sanket Reply
what's the easiest and fastest way to the synthesize AgNP?
Damian Reply
types of nano material
abeetha Reply
I start with an easy one. carbon nanotubes woven into a long filament like a string
many many of nanotubes
what is the k.e before it land
what is the function of carbon nanotubes?
I'm interested in nanotube
what is nanomaterials​ and their applications of sensors.
Ramkumar Reply
what is nano technology
Sravani Reply
what is system testing?
preparation of nanomaterial
Victor Reply
how did you get the value of 2000N.What calculations are needed to arrive at it
Smarajit Reply
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Berger describes sociologists as concerned with
Mueller Reply
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Practice Key Terms 4

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Source:  OpenStax, Sustainability: a comprehensive foundation. OpenStax CNX. Nov 11, 2013 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11325/1.43
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