Ch.5 - Human-Caused Change

environmental biology lecture

Reading Assignment

Chapter 5: Human-Caused Change -- click on this link to download.

Video Assignment

TED Talk Juan Enriquez: We can reprogram life. How to do it wisely

For four billion years, what lived and died on Earth depended on two principles: natural selection and random mutation. Then humans came along and changed everything — hybridizing plants, breeding animals, altering the environment and even purposefully evolving ourselves. Juan Enriquez provides five guidelines for a future where this ability to program life rapidly accelerates. "This is the single most exciting adventure human beings have been on," Enriquez says. "This is the single greatest superpower humans have ever had."

TED Talk: Gavin Schmidt: The emergent patterns of climate change.

You can't understand climate change in pieces, says climate scientist Gavin Schmidt. It's the whole, or it's nothing. In this illuminating talk, he explains how he studies the big picture of climate change with mesmerizing models that illustrate the endlessly complex interactions of small-scale environmental events.

Note Card Assignment

Prepare a single, personally-prepared, 3-inch x 5-inch note card.

Your note card may be used during the exam. Submit it for credit when turning in exam form. (one point).

Study Questions

Recommendation (NOT an assignment): Print these study questions. Then as you move through the reading or video, jot down short answers. Keep your answers VERY short, a few key words or phrases to prompt your memory. Remember, this activity is a study aid to help you prepare for the exam. Do what you need to do, but don't overdo it. You are NOT submitting your answers for points.

Reading assignment study questions

  1. For each of the ten categories of land use by humans, list:
    • the nature of the activity,
    • an example of the activity,
    • and the reasons why humans are using the land in this way.
  2. Considering solid waste production. On average, Americans produce about 4-1/2 pounds of solid waste (trash) per day. How many pounds of trash do Americans produce per year?
  3. Why do countries have militaries?
  4. What was the world human population in the 1300s?
  5. What is the current world human population?
  6. Calculate the proportional increase in humans. Population today divided by the population in the 1300s.
  7. As human population increases, what does that do to the demand for land? What does that do to the amount of undisturbed space?
  8. Be able to locate Madagascar on a world map.
  9. What were the main causes for habitat loss on Madagascar?
  10. How did humans manage the land on Madagascar after they cleared the forests? What was the result?
  11. What is an endemic species?
  12. What percentage of species on Madagascar are endemic? Give examples.
  13. Be able to locate Borneo on a world map.
  14. How did humans manage the land on Borneo after they cleared the forest? What was the result?
  15. Give examples of endemic and rare species that live on Borneo.
  16. Be able to locate Kenya on a world map.
  17. How did humans manage the land in Kenya after they cleared the savannah? What was the result?
  18. Give examples of endangered and vulnerable species that live in Kenya.
  19. Be able to locate Rondonia, Brazil on a world map.
  20. What is most remarkable about the deforestation in Rondonia.
  21. How did humans manage the land in Rondonia after they cleared the tropical rain forest? What was the result?
  22. Give examples of species in decline in Rondonia.
  23. What percentage of wilderness remains in Europe and America?
  24. Be able to locate southern California on a world map.
  25. How did humans manage the land in southern California after they cleared the chaparral? What was the result?
  26. Give examples of species in decline in southern California.
  27. What is habitat fragmentation and why is it bad?
  28. What is the “edge effect”? Give examples of edge effects.
  29. What are the five characteristics that make some species particularly vulnerable to human influences?
  30. Give examples of species from each category.
  31. How are conservation biologists attempting to save the California condor and the Arabian oryx?
  32. What are the specialized habitats of the light footed clapper rail and the California gnatcatcher?
  33. In Kenya, why is migration getting more troublesome for wildebeests?
  34. In Oregon, why has migration become more difficult for salmon? What are the problems with dams, reservoirs and warmer river water?
  35. Why are cheetahs attacking livestock introduced by farmers in Africa? How do the farmers react?
  36. Why are wolves attacking livestock introduced by ranchers in the USA? How do the ranchers react?
  37. Where can you find grizzly bears in California?
  38. What caused and continues to cause the rapid decline and near extinction of the whooping crane; cats with spotted fur; gorillas; black rhinos?
  39. What are the practical reasons humans should consider preserving biodiversity on Earth? Give examples.
  40. What are the ethical reasons humans should consider preserving biodiversity on Earth?
  41. What are the categories of risk for species – established by the IUCN?
  42. What are the three characteristics of a biodiversity hotspot?
  43. In terms of conservation efforts, what is the significance of a biodiversity hotspot?
  44. At what point is it decided to capture all remaining animals in the wild and begin a captive breeding program?
  45. Give examples of animals saved by captive breeding programs.
  46. What is the point of seed banks?
  47. How can governments help protect wild species?
  48. How can individual citizens help protect wild species?
  49. What is the value of topsoil?
  50. How was much of the topsoil lost on Madagascar?
  51. What happened to the harbor at the mouth of the Betsiboka River?
  52. What combination of climate and farming practices contributed to create the Dust Bowl in the 1930s?
  53. What are some techniques that can be used to protect topsoil from eroding away and from blowing away?
  54. Where do chemical wastes come from?
  55. What was the Love Canal incident in the town of Niagara Falls, NY?
  56. Who was Lois Gibbs and what significant action did she take to resolve the Love Canal problem?
  57. What two important federal laws now help control hazardous waste disposal and cleanup?
  58. To a farmer in an arid land, what is the main difference between rain water and irrigation water?
  59. What causes salt to accumulate on some farmland, but not on others?
  60. How do salty soils make it hard for plants to grow?
  61. How can farmers counteract the buildup of salt on their land?
  62. How is radioactivity harmful to living systems?
  63. What are the two main kinds of radioactivity?
  64. What is meant by “half-life?”
  65. What is “ionizing radiation?”
  66. How can overexposure to ultraviolet radiation be harmful to you?
  67. What are the special dangers from exposure to radioactive particles?
  68. Why would residents near a nuclear power plant be advised to take iodine tablets in the event of an accident at the plant?
  69. What is radioactive fallout?
  70. Why did most nations stop atmospheric testing of nuclear bombs?
  71. How did radiation kill many survivors of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bomb attacks?
  72. What were the four similar outcomes that followed the accidents at the Chernobyl and Fukushima nuclear power plants?
  73. What caused the accident at Chernobyl in 1986?
  74. How did the exposure to the reactor affect the health of volunteer workers at Chernobyl?
  75. What is the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone?
  76. What caused the accident at the Fukushima plant in 2011?
  77. Why weren’t the emergency diesel generators able to supply emergency power?
  78. What are the dimensions of the Fukushima exclusion zone?


Only do questions 1-78

  1. As human settlements became established along a river, what happened to the river’s water quality?
  2. What is a chamber pot and how did city dwellers dispose of them in medieval Europe?
  3. What human diseases accompanied sewage accumulation?
  4. What is the condition of “eutrophication?”
  5. Why does abundant sewage in a waterway result in the depletion of dissolved oxygen (O2)?
  6. Once the dissolved oxygen is depleted, what happens to the aerobic bacteria in the water?
  7. How do anaerobic bacteria get rid of waste hydrogen atoms produced by cellular respiration?
  8. What are the three main environmental impacts from eutrophication?
  9. What is so special about the history of the Cuyahoga River near Cleveland, Ohio?
  10. How does the Clean Water Act help reduce water pollution?
  11. What is the basic difference between the Clean Water Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act?
  12. During the “Airpocalypse” of January 2013, monitors measured how many micrograms of particulate matter per cubic meter?
  13. What is the (PM 2.5) world standard for particulates?
  14. Review other deadly smog episodes: Meuse Valley, Belgium; Donora, Pennsylvania; London’s Great Smog.
  15. How many stage 2 smog episodes occurred in the L.A basin in 1978?
  16. When was the last stage 1 smog episode in the L.A. basin?
  17. What causes smog?
  18. What is a thermal inversion? How do thermal inversions promote the accumulation of air pollutants?
  19. What is the difference between “classical smog” and “photochemical smog?”
  20. How is smog harmful to human health and other living things?
  21. What is the Clean Air Act?
  22. What kinds of changes did the Clean Air Act bring about for industries, refiners and drivers?
  23. What is acid rain?
  24. On the pH scale: what is the range for acidic solutions? What is neutral? What is the range for “basic” solutions?
  25. How is acid rain harmful to the natural environment and to human creations?
  26. Why is tropospheric ozone bad, while stratospheric ozone is good?
  27. What is causing the seasonal depletions of stratospheric ozone over Antarctica?
  28. What are CFCs used for?
  29. What is the photochemical mechanism in which CFCs reduce ozone in the stratosphere?
  30. What is the irony concerning loss of ozone in the stratosphere and ozone levels in the troposphere?
  31. What are the biological impacts from overexposure to ultraviolet radiation?
  32. What is the Montreal Protocol?
  33. How does a garden greenhouse work?
  34. How does your car behave like a greenhouse on a sunny day?
  35. What are the main greenhouse gases?
  36. How does the greenhouse effect work on a planet? What is the “greenhouse effect?”
  37. What is “global warming?”
  38. What are some of the different ways to produce global warming?
  39. What is “global climate change?”
  40. How do scientists take the planet’s temperature using direct measurements?
  41. How do scientists take the planet’s temperature using proxies?
  42. What has been the general trend in global temperature since the late 1800s?
  43. Is the warming we have seen spread out uniformly across the planet?
  44. How do scientists discover what the global climate was like hundreds of thousands of years ago?
  45. Of what use are the tiny bubble of air trapped in ice cores?
  46. What is the pattern of CO2 and global temperature change over the last 420,000 years expressed by the Vostok ice core data?
  47. P.V. Forster and others did a study to compare the proportional contributions of human activity and natural activity to recent global warming. What did they find out?
  48. What are the six steps that scientists take in order to construct a reliable tool for predicting global climate?
  49. General circulation models are abstract models that represent the global climate. How do scientists graphically represent such models?
  50. Why do scientists run simulations of past climates? Isn’t the problem in the future instead?
  51. After decades of effort, what are the five main predictions about the global effects of increased greenhouse gas emissions?
  52. Why can’t scientists be more exact in their predictions about the global climate a hundred years from now?
  53. Why are pine beetles suddenly killing pine trees by the millions in Canada’s taiga?
  54. Historically, how important has global climate been in influencing the development of human civilization?
  55. What has global climate change done for the nuclear power industry?
  56. What is happening to automobile design?
  57. What are the special challenges being faced by water providers?
  58. What are the special challenges being faced by food producers?
  59. What are the special challenges being faced by first responders?
  60. What is the biggest concern about global climate change?
  61. How does unpredictability of global climate influence the behavior of global capital (financial investments)?

Video assignment study questions

TED Talks Juan Enriquez: We can reprogram life. How to do it wisely

  1. So in 2016, what word of advice would you give a college graduate out by the pool and you said one word, just one word?
  2. What is lifecode?
  3. What are the three popular vegetables that have been created by simply selectively breeding the mustard plant?
  4. How would it be possible for twins to be conceived decades apart?
  5. How did Emma Ott avoid being born with a deadly mitochondral disease?
  6. How is lifecode technology different from Darwin's evolution?
  7. What are some examples of non-random mutation given by the speaker?
  8. What are the five guiding principles for lifecode technology presented by the speaker?

TED Talk: Gavin Schmidt: The emergent patterns of climate change.

  1. How many orders of magnitude in space and time would the ideal global climate model span?
  2. How many orders of magnitude do the present day climate models span?
  3. List the examples of the "pieces" of the climate that models incorporate.
  4. What does the speaker mean when he calls the model results "emergent" properties?
  5. What are the different ways that modelers can "kick" the system to see how it will behave?
  6. Under what conditions is a model determined to be "skillfull?"
  7. How do scientists determine if a model is skillfull?
  8. What did Sherwood Rowland say about the usefullness of scientific predictions?


There is something odd about the situations described below. See if you can identify the problem(s).

  1. Why is Los Angeles? Think of other major cities of the world and ask the same question.
  2. A magical spell cast by a demon converts all roads and freeways into dirt footpaths, and eliminates all automobiles, trucks, trains, airplanes, boats and ships. Under such conditions, what would life be like in southern California?
  3. An AM radio talk show host reports that since Madagascar has no military or economic significance to the USA, who cares if the Madagascar environment is destroyed?
  4. A Borneo canola palm plantation operator says that orangutans are free to use their palm trees as a substitute for the forest.
  5. A Kenyan farm worker complains that building terrace barriers is too much work.
  6. All those haters complain that, because of all the cattle ranches, there is no more rain forest in Rondonia, Brazil. Sure there is. Haters gonna hate.
  7. A local land developer owns 100 acres of land of pristine chaparral habitat. He complains that the local planning agency limits construction on only 50 acres.
  8. It’s the age of humans now – the Anthropocene. Maybe species who can’t cope with our greatness should just die. “Moochers!”
  9. An energy company wants to build a dam on the Columbia River in Oregon. They claim that, “Dams provide clean energy with absolutely no environmental impact.
  10. A plastics manufacturer argues that, “When you buy our products, you own the toxic wastes we produce.”
  11. Cattle ranchers in Wyoming complain that, “Wolves are evil and deserve to die.”
  12. Can’t scientists just invent new species? I read on Facebook that they could.
  13. A real estate developer tries to lease salty land to farmers arguing that, “Your crops will be pre-salted and delicious.”
  14. A spokesperson for the nuclear energy industry says, “Nuclear fallout is good for the land. It delivers useful nutrients and energizes the soil.”
  15. The term, “eutrophication, means “truly well fed.” What could possibly be bad about that?
  16. The chemical companies whose wastes caused the fires on the Cuyahoga River were “externalizing costs” to increase profit. In business, isn’t “profit” the only thing that matters?
  17. Ozone is the main pollutant of concern in Los Angeles. Scientists analyzed exhaust from cars and found no ozone. Obviously, cars aren’t contributing to the smog problem in LA.
  18. Same with acid rain. Scientists analyzed exhaust from cars and stack emissions from power plants and found no acids.
  19. On the one hand, environmentalists complain about the lack of ozone in Antarctica. On the other hand, they complain about too much ozone in Beijing. Sheesh! Make up your mind.
  20. The last time I checked, planet Earth is not surrounded by a layer of glass. So, claims about a so-called “greenhouse effect” are obviously lies.
  21. This year, Chicago had one of the coldest winters on record. Obviously, the planet is not getting warmer.
  22. If scientists are so darn smart, why do they have to develop complicated computer models for global climate? Any fool can just look out the window to know what the climate is.
  23. Farmers can always irrigate. Who cares about changing rainfall patterns from global climate change?


Links for Enrichment and Further Learning

Global Forest Watch - near realtime maps and data on the world's forets