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Our Changing Planet: An Introduction to Earth System Science and Global Environmental Change

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  • Edition: 3rd
  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2003-01-01
  • Publisher: Pearson College Div
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List Price: $109.80


This book offers a general, interdisciplinary discussion of global environmental change oriented toward the non-specialist in science.The unifying theme of the book is consideration of aspects of both natural and human-induced global environmental change. The two part organization according to this distinction allows for easy reading on specific topics.This book is useful for anyone interested in learning more about Earth's systems.

Table of Contents


1. Earth's Lithosphere: Geologic Time and Building Blocks.
2. Earth's Lithosphere: Plate Tectonics.
3. The Fluid Earth: Atmosphere.
4. The Fluid Earth: Hydrosphere.
5. Earth's Ecosphere.
6. Biogeochemical Cycles of Carbon, Nutrients, and Oxygen.
7. Historical Framework of Global Environmental Change.


8. World Population, Development, and Resource Consumption.
9. The Changing Earth Surface: Terrestrial Vegetation.
10. The Changing Earth Surface: Land and Water.
11. The Changing Atmosphere: Acid Deposition and Photochemical Smog.
12. The Changing Atmosphere: Pleistocene and Holocene Environmental Change.
13. The Changing Atmosphere: Global Warming and Stratospheric Ozone Depletion.
14. Human Dimensions of Global Environmental Change.
Appendix A. Minerals.
Answers to Study Questions.

Supplemental Materials

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For 40 years, I have been engaged in teaching undergraduate and graduate students and doing research in a field that has now come to be called Earth system science. Two of my previous books published with my colleague and friend Robert M. Carrels were initial attempts to treat the Earth system--the solid earth, atmosphere, oceans, and living organisms--in an integrative fashion, emphasizing the interactions between the components. In addition, recently I was instrumental in developing at the University of Hawaii a bachelor of science degree program in Global Environmental Science. This program has grown dramatically in four years, demonstrating to me and my colleagues that there exists a strong interest among undergraduate students in an interdisciplinary, integrative, rigorous approach to the study of the Earth system, including the human factors involved in global environmental change.Global environmental change is a subject area of considerable interest today. Change can be rapid and threatening; thus, the topic has forced itself before the world. It is now being addressed regularly by scientists, teachers, policymakers, economists, sociologists, lawyers, and the general public. The subject involves both the physicochemical and biological nature of change and the effects and consequences of natural and human-induced change for ecosystems, humans, and human infrastructures.The unifying theme of this book is consideration of aspects of both natural and human-induced global environmental change. Earth's ecosphere or exogenic system-its land, water, ice, air, sediments, and biota has always been in a dynamic state of change. Change is probably more characteristic of the planet than constancy. Based on the fact that there are both natural and human-induced global changes, this book is divided into two parts. Part I deals with the natural exogenic system of Earth. It emphasizes the historical (geologic) perspective of change and discusses processes and change in the lithosphere (land, sediments, and rocks), atmosphere (air), hydrosphere (water), cryosphere (ice), and biosphere (life) systems. Part II demonstrates how human activities are influencing the natural system and the consequences of human-induced change for ecosystems, humans, and human infrastructures. It is demonstrated that human activities have become a geologic force in the global Earth surface system. Human population trends and resource consumption patterns, deforestation and land erosion, water usage and quality, acid deposition, stratospheric ozone depletion, tropospheric ozone and photochemical smog, global climatic change, and subsequent human dimensions questions are the subject matter of this section.Since starting to write the first edition of this book in 1992, a great deal has happened in the field of study of Earth systems and global environmental change. Of special importance has been the modern recognition, which began in the 1970s but had its roots much further back in time, that Earth is an intricately coupled system where the interactions between the land and its soils, oceans, atmosphere, terrestrial and marine biota, sediments, and ice are critical to an understanding of environmental change and variability on a regional-to-global scale. As a consequence of this recognition, a new interdisciplinary field has emerged, that of Earth system science or global environmental science. The emergence of this field as a legitimate scientific discipline has been coupled to an increase in scientific papers and books, an increase in the number of courses taught at both the undergraduate and graduate level in universities and colleges, and an increase in the number of textbooks and other teaching materials, including those on the World Wide Web, concerned with the subject matter. One of the ultimate challenges of Earth system science is "to develop the capability to predict (climatic) changes (and variability) that will o

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