West Virginia Master Naturalist Class Description
||HUMANS AND THE ENVIRONMENT
||To better understand how humans interact with their environment.
Students will explore the concepts of ecosystem integrity and biological
diversity and the interdependence of all life, and they will explore
current major environmental issues, their causes and possible solutions.
|| 2 hours
||No special materials needed.
||The student will gain a basic understanding of
- the many ways that human life is inextricably linked with that
of all other species to a greater or lesser degree.
- how our human-devised habitats only seem to separate
us from the natural processes of ecosystems.
- meanings of, and the relationship between, ecological integrity,
ecological health, biological diversity and human existence.
- the concept of ecological services.
- the major environmental problems facing humans today.
- the origins of the cultural value systems that have allowed
us to disregard the ecological costs of doing business, and know
how and why these need to be addressed for humans to become environmental
stewards as much as "guests at the table"
- behaviors that humans could develop in the face of our inevitable
ignorance of the complexities of the earth's ecological processes.
- why we need to assess and factor in ecological costs and understand
the environmental economics concept of diminishing returns.
West Virginia Master Naturalist Class Outline
|| HUMANS AND THE ENVIRONMENT
- Human life and survival inextricably linked with the environment
- Humans are subject to the primary limiting factors affecting all
species such as carrying capacity (i.e. population thresholds);
water, food and energy availability; pollution, competition, cooperation,
- Discuss ecosystem services, how humans depend on them and their
primary sources, ecosystem integrity; and biological diversity
- Energy cycling, nutrient cycling, and the water cycle are the
engines maintaining ecosystem integrity and biodiversity; conversely
fuel for these engines is in part derived from ecosystems in a dynamic
- Historical perspective of the human footprint upon the earth
- Pre-historical extinctions due to over-harvesting (i.e., large mammals
during Ice Age)
- Civilization collapse due to over-expansion, overpopulation, soil
degradation (i.e., Roman Civilization; Ancient Mayans; Mid-western
- The human ecological footprint or ecological price
- Ecological costs of doing business being ignored and ultimately
- Evaluate the ecological price tag of, for example
Economic principle of diminishing returns applied to environmental
Global and local environmental issues of the century
- dumping industrial waste and raw sewage into rivers and streams
- urban sprawl with increased impervious surfaces and diversion
of acres of rainwater into storm drains
- clear cutting of Appalachian forests from about 1880 to 1925
- mountaintop removal mining and valley fill
Human value systems and cultural beliefs influence how humans relate
to their environment
Future of the human species relative to the current state of the
- Discuss ozone depletion, how ozone is an ecosystem service; how
human ignorance nearly led to a planetary disaster; and how abatement
of the ozone problem could be a model for environmental management
- Loss of biological diversity causes and consequences
- Global warming causes and consequences
- Water pollution (from air or runoff) feedlots, human wastewater,
sedimentation, fertilizer and other chemical pollutants
How far have we come? (specifically West Virginia)
- Population growth
- Pollution control standards worldwide
- Energy demands
- What are some local solutions?
- Clean Water Act and effluents/sediments from mining and logging
- Clean Air Act and industrial pollutants