Environmental Studies

What are Environmental Studies?

Environmental study is a multidisciplinary field that examines the interactions between humans and the natural world. It encompasses a broad range of topics, including ecology, conservation biology, environmental policy, environmental justice, sustainability, and climate change. Environmental studies seek to understand the complex relationships between humans and the environment and to identify solutions to environmental problems. It draws on knowledge from a variety of disciplines, including biology, chemistry, physics, geology, geography, economics, political science, and sociology. Environmental studies is an important field of study as it helps us understand and address environmental issues that impact our planet and our future.

Types of Environmental Studies:

Environmental studies is a broad and interdisciplinary field that encompasses various sub-disciplines. Here are some of the types of environmental studies:

(1) Environmental science: Environmental science is a branch of science that studies the natural environment and the interactions between the physical, chemical, and biological components of the environment.

(2) Ecology: Ecology is the study of the relationships between living organisms and their environment, including their interactions with each other and with their physical surroundings.

(3) Environmental policy: Environmental policy involves the study of the laws, regulations, and policies related to the environment, including their development, implementation, and enforcement.

(4) Environmental economics: Environmental economics is the study of the economic impacts of environmental policies and practices, including the costs and benefits of environmental regulation, pollution control, and natural resource management.

(5) Environmental engineering: Environmental engineering is the application of engineering principles to the design and construction of systems and technologies that protect the environment and conserve natural resources.

(6) Environmental health: Environmental health is the study of the impacts of environmental factors on human health, including the effects of pollution, climate change, and other environmental hazards.

(7) Sustainable development: Sustainable development involves the study of strategies and policies for economic development that balances economic growth with environmental conservation and social well-being.

(8) Conservation biology: Conservation biology is the study of the preservation, restoration, and management of biodiversity, including the protection of endangered species and their habitats.

(9) Environmental education: Environmental education involves the study of methods and techniques for teaching people about environmental issues and encouraging them to take action to protect the environment.

These are just a few examples of the types of environmental studies, and there are many other sub-disciplines and areas of specialization within this field.

Scope and Importance of Environmental Studies:

Environmental Studies as a subject has a wide scope. We have today, fairly good knowledge of this subject, especially the environmental problems that concern us and our future on this planet. Some of the problems are global because they affect everyone in the world. Examples of these are global warming or climate change and ozone depletion. Then there are problems that are regional and local. Examples of these are the destruction of forests, degradation of land, pollution of air, water soil, and management of wastes both, hazardous and non-hazardous.

All the environmental problems pose a great challenge to us and our way of life irrespective whether we are living in developed countries or developing countries. We today find that our economic growth is proceeding at a faster rate. Standards of living are rising especially in the developed nations and among the middle and upper strata of society in the developing nations; international trade is rapidly growing, production of goods and food grains is increasing; life expectancy is going up and many diseases have been brought under control. Many more positive developments like those in communication and information system are indications of human capacity using science and technology for making life more comfortable.

However, we must take care of the results arising out of such situations which show a rapid pace of growth and development. If this development is destroying our support system i.e., our natural resources, then we have to reconsider our concept of living standards and economic development. If by producing bumper crops and large quantities of food grain we deplete our groundwater resource, erode our topsoil, and lose soil fertility, then we are damaging our life support system. Our livestock (sheep, goat, and cow), which are the major sources of animal proteins, live on grazing land which is under great pressure. Overgrazing has led to an increase in desertification and in turn, to dust storms. Our forests are under great stress. Trees are cut faster than they can be planted. Deforestation thus leads to floods, it also causes an imbalance in the ecosystem. The capacity of an ecosystem to absorb excess carbon dioxide produced as a result of the burning of fossil fuels (coal, petrol) is reduced. The result is, a rise in the level of carbon dioxide leading to rising in the earth’s temperature, which further leads to the melting of ice in the arctic causing havoc in the form of cyclones and floods. We are witnessing the loss of biodiversity, (plants and animals) which means we are losing biological wealth. Our plants and animals are being destroyed due to the destruction of habitat, climate change, and pollution. We must realize that each species of plant and animal not only has a role in the ecosystem but many of them constitute a source of food and life-saving drugs. In 1999, a winter storm in France destroyed millions of trees and buildings. Such natural disasters due to hurricanes and cyclones are occurring often causing not only environmental damage but also huge economic losses.

There is another aspect of environmental studies, namely economic growth that needs our attention. The economies of both the developed and developing world are growing, India and China constitute the largest population in the developing world, and both are in the process of expanding their economies. A large number of people in both these countries are getting into the middle class economically, and affluence and consumption, particularly in China, are increasing as rapidly as in Japan. Imagine what will happen if people of China and India come to have one car per family as in the USA; it would mean the consumption of as much fuel per day as is being daily produced worldwide. And where will be the place to park these vehicles? To do this, the land will have to be made available, which is now being used for agriculture. This would in turn lead to a decline in agricultural output. Take the example of paper consumption. If the per capita consumption of paper in China or India rises to the same level as in the USA, the forests would disappear gradually. Many more examples of these kinds lead us to conclude that we need a different model of economic development, certainly not based on western fossil fuel or carbon but a new kind of economic model that would stop the decline of natural wealth in our ecosystem. A new economy is needed that would take into consideration the basic ecological concepts. The experts are of the opinion that a carbon-based economy should be replaced by a hydrogen-based economy where we would be using renewable sources of energy.

Environmental Studies vs Environmental Science:

Environmental studies and environmental science are two related but distinct fields of study.

Environmental science is a branch of science that focuses on the study of the natural environment, including its physical, chemical, and biological aspects. It includes the study of natural phenomena such as climate change, pollution, and ecosystem dynamics. Environmental science is rooted in the physical, chemical, and biological sciences, and it often involves laboratory and fieldwork.

Environmental studies, on the other hand, is an interdisciplinary field that combines science, social science, and humanities to study the relationships between humans and the natural environment. It encompasses a broad range of topics, including environmental policy, law, economics, ethics, and cultural studies. Environmental studies often involve a more qualitative approach, such as the study of the social and cultural factors that influence environmental decision-making.

While environmental science focuses on the scientific study of the environment, environmental studies take a broader view and seek to understand the complex interactions between natural and social systems. Environmental science provides a scientific basis for understanding environmental problems, while environmental studies look at these problems in a larger context that includes social and cultural dimensions.

In summary, environmental science is a scientific discipline that focuses on the study of the natural environment, while environmental studies is an interdisciplinary field that examines the relationships between humans and the natural environment from a social, cultural, and ethical perspective.

International Efforts for Environment:

Environmental issues received international attention at Stockholm Conference, held on 5th June 1972. Since then we celebrate World Environment Day on the 5th of June. At the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development held at Rio de Janeiro, in 1992, known popularly as Earth Summit, and ten years later, the World Summit on Sustainable Development, held at Johannesburg in 2002, key issues of global environmental concern were highlighted. The attention of the general public was drawn toward the deteriorating environmental conditions all over the world.

Award of the Nobel Peace Prize (2004) to an environmentalist, for the first time, came as a landmark decision, showing increasing global concern towards environmental issues and recognition of efforts being made for environmental conservation and protection.

Public Awareness Of the Environment:

The goals of sustainable development cannot be achieved by any government at its own level until the public has a participatory role in it. Public participation is possible only when the public is aware of the ecological and environmental issues.

The public has to be educated about the fact that if we are degrading our environment we are actually harming our own selves. This is because we are part of a complex network of environments where every component is linked up. It is all the more important to educate the people that sometimes the adverse impact of the environment is not experienced until a threshold is reached. So we may be caught unawares by a disaster.

A drive by the government to ban the littering of polythene cannot be successful until the public understands the environmental implications of the same. The public has to be made aware that by littering polythene, we are not only damaging the environment but posing serious threats to our health.

There is a Chinese proverb, “If you plan for one year, plant rice, if you plan for 10 years, plant trees, and if you plan for 100 years, educate people.” If we want to protect and manage our planet earth on a sustainable basis, we have no other option but to make all persons environmentally educated.

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Environmental Imbalances
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The Chipko Movement (1973): Environmental Movement In India
Read More About Environmental Studies– Wikipedia

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