the total surrounding of an organism in a given
area including the physical and non-physical
the conditions of an organism’s surroundings.
a set of conditions and forces which
surround and have direct influence on the
the conditions that affect the behavior of
somebody or something and/or the physical
conditions that somebody or something exists
in…the natural world in which animals and plants
It, therefore, implies that environment is made
up of all the physical visible and microscopic
matters that affect the existence of organisms
positively or negatively and an organism does
not exist in isolation. It must co-exist with other
• The human dimensions of global environmental
change must take as its point of departure the
interaction between human activities and the Earth's
physical, chemical and biological systems.
• Consequently, a description of these systems and
their processes is an essential part in understanding
the global environmental change.
• The total Earth system, from the center of the planet
to the outer edges of its atmosphere, can be
described in terms of a number of systems.
• The simplest classification consists of two systems:
the geosphere and the biosphere.
• The geosphere includes the inanimate lithosphere
(rocks), pedosphere (soils), hydrosphere (liquid water
and ice), and atmosphere (the gaseous envelope
surrounding the earth).
• The biosphere is "the integrated living and life-
supporting system comprising the peripheral
envelope of Planet Earth together with its
surrounding atmosphere so far down, and up, as any
form of life exists naturally".
• Hence the two systems are interwoven within the
oceans and bodies of fresh water, on land, and in the
• Homo sapiens is a living organism, whose activities
take place within the geosphere and biosphere,
contributing to global environmental change, and
formed another geo-system called the
anthroposphere (the built up environment).
• Thus, anthroposphere is part of the environment that
is made or modified by humans for use in human
activities and human habitats.
• Since the Earth is a sphere, these systems that
surround the Earth can also be described as ‘spheres’,
known as geospheres/earth spheres.
• As human technology becomes more evolved, so do
the impacts of human activities on the environment.
Examples: deforestation for housing, extracting
minerals, constructing cities/towns, establishing
• These spheres all interact with one another, and are
only separated for ease of study.
• There is an intricate interaction among them and an
impact on one sphere can have consequences on
• The diagram below puts the pedosphere in the middle
but in reality, there are lots of ways of interpreting
Interactive and complex processes linking the pedosphere with the
atmosphere, biosphere, hydrosphere and lithosphere. Nature
1.2 The Concepts of Environmental Change, Disaster, and
What is an environmental change?
• Environmental change is a change or disturbance of the
environment most often caused by human influences and
natural ecological processes.
• Global climate change has already had observable effects
on the environment.
• Some examples of environmental change include glaciers
have shrunk, ice on rivers and lakes is breaking up earlier,
plant and animal ranges have changed, contents of water
and air have been changed through pollution, trees are
flowering sooner, freshwater shortages, loss of biodiversity
(with consequent changes to functioning of ecosystems),
exhaustion of fisheries, etc.
What is disaster?
• Disaster is a serious problem occurring over a short
or long period of time that causes widespread
human, material, economic or environmental loss
which exceeds the ability of the affected community
or society to cope using its own resources.
What is meant by environmental disaster?
• An environmental disaster or ecological disaster is
defined as a catastrophic event regarding the natural
environment that is due to human activity. ... These
disasters have included deaths of humans, livestock,
wildlife, and plants, or severe disruption of human life
or health, possibly requiring migration.
• Examples of disaster resulting hazards include wildfires,
landslides, floods, earthquakes, droughts, tornadoes,
tsunamis, and volcanic eruptions.
• Although the causes of these natural environmental
hazards do not involve human activities, in some cases the
effects are worsened by the influence of people.
What is risk?
• In simple terms, risk is the possibility of something bad
• Risk involves uncertainty about the effects/implications of
an activity with respect to something that humans value
(such as health, well-being, wealth, property or the
environment), often focusing on negative, undesirable
What is Environmental disaster risk?
• Environmental disaster risk is the probability and
consequence of an unwanted accident in the
• For example, because of deficiencies in waste
management, waste transport, and waste treatment
and disposal, several pollutants are released into the
environment, which cause serious threats to human
health along their way. This is referred to as
environmental disaster risk.
1.3 Beginning Period of Large-scale environmental
• Scientists generally regard the later part of the 19th
century as the point at which human activity started
influencing the climate. But the new study brings that
date forward to the 1830s.
How has the environment changed over the past 100
• Over the last century, the average surface
temperature of the Earth has increased by about
1.0oF. The eleven warmest years this century have all
occurred since 1980, with 1995 the warmest on
record. ... A warmer Earth speeds up the global water
cycle: the exchange of water among the oceans,
atmosphere, and land.
How has the environment changed in the last 20 years?
– Global temperature has risen six-tenths of a
degree in those 20 years.
– Population has increased by 1.7 billion people.
– Sea levels have risen 3 inches and extreme
weather in the U.S. has increased by 30 percent.
– In Greenland and Antarctica, ice sheets have lost
4.9 trillion tons of ice.
1.4 Causes of environmental change
• Humans impact the physical environment in many
ways: overpopulation, pollution, burning fossil fuels,
• Changes like these have triggered climate change,
soil erosion, poor air quality, and undrinkable water.
These negative impacts can affect human behavior
and can prompt mass migrations or battles over
• The causes of environmental change can be divided
into two categories-natural causes and human-
• Natural causes include volcanic eruptions, ocean
currents, the Earth's orbital changes, solar variations
and internal variability.
• Anthropogenic causes for climate change are that humans
are causing most of the current changes to climate by
burning fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and natural gas.
Human/Behavioral Causes of Environmental Change
– the actions or reactions of a person or animal in
response to external or internal stimuli
– the manner in which one acts or behaves
– the actions displayed by an organism in response to its
– the manner in which something functions or operates
– in object technology, the processing that an object can
• Almost all human activity has some potential
relevance to global environmental change.
• Researchers in a number of fields have studied
human-environment interactions, usually within the
boundaries of single disciplines and almost always
below the global level.
• They have demonstrated that a complex of
economic, technological, social, political, and cultural
variables, sometimes referred to as driving forces,
influences the human activities that proximately
cause global change.
• The driving forces can be roughly classified as follows:
i. Population Growth: Each person makes some demand on the
environment for the essentials of life—food, water, clothing,
shelter, and so on.
• If all else is equal, the greater the number of people, the
greater the demands placed on the environment for the
provision of resources and the absorption of waste and
• However, all else is not equal. For example, a new individual
with the standard of living and technological base of an
average North American would use about 35 times as much
energy as an individual living at India's average standard—
with a roughly proportional impact on the global
ii. Economic Growth: For the first time in human history,
economic activity is so extensive that it causes environmental
change at the global level; the prospect of further economic
growth arouses concern about the quality of the global
• Economic growth necessarily stresses the environment,
but the amount of stress from a given amount of
economic growth depends, among other things, on the
pattern of goods and services produced, the population
and resource base for agricultural development, forms
of national political organization, and development
iii. Technological Change: Technology can influence
environmental change by finding new ways to discover
and exploit natural resources or by changing the volume
of resources required—or the amount or kind of wastes
produced—per unit of output.
• Technologies may either increase or decrease the
impact of human activity on the environment,
depending on the other driving forces, which determine
which technologies are developed and used.
iv. Political-Economic Institutions: The global
environment responds to the actions of markets,
governments, and the international political economy.
• Markets are always imperfect, and the impact of
economic activity on the environment depends on
which imperfect-market method of environmental
management is being used.
• Governmental structure and policies can also have
significant environmental consequences, both
intentional and inadvertent.
• And the international political economy, with its global
division of labor and wealth, can promote
environmental abuses, particularly in the Third World.
• The effects depend on policy at the national level and
on the behavior of particular economic actors.
v. Attitudes and Beliefs: beliefs, attitudes, and values
related to material possessions and the relation of
humanity and nature are often seen as lying at the root
of environmental degradation.
• Such attitudes and beliefs probably have their greatest
independent effects over the long-term, on the time
scale of human generations or more.
• Within single lifetimes, attitudes and beliefs can have
significant influence on resource-using behavior, even
when social-structural and economic variables are held
• Although each of these driving forces is important at
certain times and under certain conditions, much
remains unknown about what determines their relative
importance, how they affect each other, and how the
driving forces in particular places combine to produce
• For example, various combinations of social conditions may
lead to a single outcome, such as deforestation.
• Single-factor explanations of the anthropogenic sources of
global environmental change are apt to be misleading,
because the driving forces of global change generally act in
combination with each other and the interactions are
contingent on place, time, and level of analysis.
• Understanding the linkages is a major scientific challenge
that will require developing new interdisciplinary teams.
• The research effort should include studies at both global and
lower geographic levels, with strong emphasis on
comparative studies at local or regional levels with
• Research should address the same question at different time
scales, examine the links between levels of analysis and
between time scales, and explore the ways that the human
forces that cause environmental change may also be
affected by it.
Brief Conclusion on Behavioral Causes of Environmental
• Many of the most readily identified causes of
environmental changes are human activities.
• Major contributors to the accumulation of greenhouse
gases in the atmosphere include the burning of fossil fuels
for heating and energy generation and the use of
chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) as coolants and aerosols.
• The burning of fossil fuels is also a major cause of acid
rain, which is formed when airborne sulfur dioxide and
nitrogen oxides combine with water vapor.
• Air pollutants include ozone, carbon monoxide, lead,
sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, and particulates—all by-
products of industrial and energy-generation processes.
• Stratospheric ozone thinning is believed to be a direct
consequence of the accumulation of CFCs in the upper
• Major threats to clean, fresh-water supplies include
contamination not only from precipitation of chemical
emissions that have accumulated in the atmosphere but
also from agricultural runoff containing pesticides and
fertilizers, from waste discharges into rivers, from salt
used for highway deicing, from hazardous wastes
disposed of improperly, and from leachate from
• Deforestation is the consequence both of converting
forests to farmland and residential and business areas
and of overharvesting timber.
• Wetland loss results from the "reclamation" of wetlands
for commercial development.
• Desertification, the transformation of arable land into
land on which crops will no longer grow, has a variety of
causes, including overgrazing and the salinization of soil
from excessive irrigation.
• Since the human activities that are implicated in
detrimental environmental change are aimed at
satisfying human needs and desires, those activities can
only be expected to increase as the population grows.
• And population growth, worldwide, is expected to
continue for the near future at least, at something like
its current rate, which would yield 9.8 billion of the
current number of 8 billion people in the middle of the
• Moreover, if present trends continue, the pressures on
the environment are likely to grow faster than the
• During the 20th century, worldwide energy
consumption has increased by a factor of about 15 and
the total population has increased by a factor of about
3.5, which is to say that, compared with 1900, there are
about 3.5 times as many of us now and each of us uses,
on average, 4 times as much energy.
• There is now an enormous disparity between the per
capita use of energy in the industrialized world and in
developing countries; we can expect that the desire of
the developing countries to close this gap will create a
strong impetus to increase the average use worldwide.
• In short, there is much evidence that human behavior
can adversely affect the natural environment in a
variety of ways and that the forces that motivate
environmentally detrimental behavior are likely to
become even stronger in the future.
• There is a need to better understand the coupling of
behavior and environmental change and how to
mitigate the undesirable effects.
1.5 Consequences of Environmental Change
• Increased heat, drought and insect outbreaks,
increased wildfires, all linked to climate
• Declining water supplies, reduced agricultural yields,
health impacts in cities due to heat, and flooding and
erosion in coastal areas are additional concerns.
• Climate change increases the risk of illness through
increasing temperature, more frequent heavy rains
and runoff, and the effects of storms.
• Health impacts may include gastrointestinal illness like
diarrhea, effects on the body's nervous and respiratory
systems, or liver and kidney damage.
• In general, the consequences of environmental change
are very intricate and need collaborative efforts.