COURSE OUTLINE (2013-2014)
COURSE TITLE: ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE
COURSE NUMBER: SCI3010
QUARTER CREDIT HOURS: 4.5
CONTACT HOURS: 45 lecture hours
Instructor: Ryan King
Contact info: RKing@jwu.edu
Office hours: By appointment
This course presents major scientific concepts dealing with the biological and physical nature of the Earth System. A major theme is the impact of human population and economic growth on the biodiversity and ecosystems of our planet, considering how sustainable use of the world’s resources may be achieved for both developing and developed nations. Topics such as energy, air, water or resource use, land use and agriculture will be discussed.
Upon satisfactory completion of this course, the student should have the ability to:
· Define and match basic scientific principles with notable environmental phenomena; identify aspects of world cultures past and present that are in harmony with the trends of nature and those in discord.
· Critically discuss major environmental impact and challenges between industrialized and developing societies; explore emerging phenomena in complex societies.
· Interpret data, including analysis of numerical data, regarding the environmental impact of political or economic activities.
· Justify by a logical analysis how local actions can impact the global environment; investigate contemporary movements in networked/collective intelligence.
· Apply, when relevant, the use of the scientific method of inquiry; discuss how scientific theories shape our social interactions with human and non-human communities; consider the role of science as a mythology and its future potential.
This course will be divided into several units approximately equal in duration that attend primarily to these topics. Reading topics are REQUIRED, documentaries/videos are SUGGESTED
1. Introduction to Environmental Issues of the 21st Century, Global change science and the Earth System: Read – Global Change and the Earth System: A Planet Under Pressure at IGBP.net and Black Swans and Bottom up Environmental Action at http://news.mongabay.com/2012/0208-king_blackswans.html; watch – The 11th Hour
2. The Global Brain Storm: Maps, mythology and migration: human population, culture and the environment. Read: War, Waste and Moneylenders at http://news.mongabay.com/2008/1113-ryan_king.html; Watch BBC Planet Earth – The Future part 1
3. The physical environment, the physical structure of the earth, issues related to chemistry, physics and geology. Arctic melting as an indicator of abrupt climate change. Read Climate Code Red, watch – How we wrecked the Oceans – TED
4. The Biological Environment: evolution and ecology. Endosymbiosis, Gaia Theory, and Hologenome theory of evolution. Read: Margulis, Lovelock (provided) Watch
5. Population Issues: demography including topics such as age structure, population control issues, the demographic transition and the population changes in developed and developing countries. Read: Watch: What a way to go – life at the end of empire
6. Agriculture: food security, food safety, related issues such as water resources, soil and climate, pesticide, fertilizer and chemical use and genetic engineering. Read: Food security Watch – Vanishing of the Bees
8. History of Human Interaction with the Environment: how cultural choices or technological advances impact the earth. Topics might include hunter-gatherer societies, agricultural societies, urbanization, utilitarian or biocentric approaches to managing resources and human impact on climate change. Read:
9. Pollution, Solutions and Revolution: The future of environmental science and action; the evolution of environmental ethics, cultural movements and conflict. Read: Is the Earth F**ked?; Watch – Poison fire
10. Final Discussion and Presentations
REQUIRED TEXT BOOK(S)/SOFTWARE (to be purchased by students… or maybe not):
Miller, Living in the Environment, 17th edition, Cengage, 2011 ISBN-13 9780538735346
Friedland, Environmental Science: Foundations and Applications, 1st edition, Freeman, 2011 ISBN-13 978-1429240291
Cunningham, Principles of Environmental Science, 7th Edition, McGraw-Hill, 2012, ISBN- 978-0-0-7340276-5
1. Final grades will be based on at least four graded items, one of which will be an examination administered at the officially scheduled final exam time.
2. A portion of the class grade may be assigned on the basis of class participation and timeliness of performance. Specific final discussion topics and presentations will be assigned by the middle of the term.
3. Research papers may be required using correct MLA format and language usage.
4. Weight percentages of these criteria will be determined by the professor at the beginning of class.
1) Waste oil collection: Used cooking oil is collected from local sources, poured through a metal mesh filter and into a 450 L container with closing valve near the bottom. Passive solar heat works great to separate any water or leftover junk; the best oil will rise to the top. The tube used to extract the oil from the container is closed at the bottom, with holes for oil to enter starting about 15 – 20 centimeters up to prevent sucking in the bad stuff. The watery oil that settles to the bottom of the tank will eventually have to be disposed of through the greywater tube. The more careful the collection of waste oil, the less often you’ll have to drain the watery crap!
Recogida de residuos: aceite de cocina usado se obtiene de fuentes locales, se vierte a través de un filtro de malla metálica y en un contenedor de 450 L con válvula de cierre en la parte inferior. Calor solar pasiva funciona muy bien para separar el agua o restos de basura, el mejor aceite subirá a la cima. El tubo utilizado para extraer el aceite del recipiente está cerrado en la parte inferior, con orificios para entrada de aceite a partir de aproximadamente 15 – 20 centímetros para impedir la succión en la mala materia. El aceite acuoso, que se deposita en el fondo del tanque al final tendrá que ser eliminados a través del tubo de aguas grises. Cuanto más cuidado la recogida de aceites usados, con menos frecuencia que tendrá que vaciar la basura líquida!
2) Biodiesel processing: Used oil heated to about 50 – 55 C from the collection container passes through a filter immediately before entering the processing tank. The braided tube can be permanently marked and used as a sight valve to determine the volume of oil in the tank. When the desired volume is reached, the reagents (either methoxide or ethoxide) may be introduced into the oil through the valve system. After processing about an hour using Senor Grasacycle, the mixture is allowed to settle, separate, and then is tested for quality.
Procesamiento de Biodiesel: El aceite usado se calienta a aproximadamente 50 – 55 C desde el recipiente de recogida pasa a través de un filtro inmediatamente antes de entrar en el tanque de procesamiento. El tubo trenzado puede estar marcados y utilizarse como una válvula de la vista para determinar el volumen de aceite en el tanque. Cuando el volumen deseado, los reactivos (ya sea metóxido o etóxido) puede ser introducido en el aceite a través del sistema de válvula. Después del procesamiento de una hora utilizando señor Grasacycle, la mezcla se deja reposar, separar, y luego se ensaya para la calidad.
3) Wash/Dry Tank: When processed biodiesel has settled and passed the 27/3 quality test, it is transferred into the wash/dry tank to remove excess reagents and slight impurities. The air is bubbled through water and biodiesel for several hours until the biodiesel is clear. The wash water now contains excess potassium (K) from the KOH and a small amount of excess alcohol (either methanol or ethanol). These are a healthy part of the nutrients needed for algae to grow, but must be diluted.
Lave / Tanque seco: Cuando el biodiesel elaborado se ha instalado y aprobado el examen 27/3 calidad, se transfiere al tanque de lavado / seco para eliminar el exceso de reactivos e impurezas ligeras. El aire se hace burbujear a través de agua y el biodiesel durante varias horas hasta que el biodiesel es clara. El agua de lavado contiene ahora el exceso de potasio (K) a partir de la KOH y una pequeña cantidad de exceso de alcohol (metanol o etanol). Estos son una parte saludable de los nutrientes necesarios para el crecimiento de algas, pero debe ser diluido.
4) Storage – After washing and drying, biodiesel is stored in an airtight/water tight 55 gallon drum before being pumped through a final filter and into vehicles. Since biodiesel can be food for bacteria and algae, it must be stored safely in closed, airtight containers to prevent the growth of unwanted microbes.
De almacenamiento – Después de lavar y secar, el biodiesel se almacena en un recipiente hermético / agua apretado tambor de 55 galones antes de ser bombeado a través de un filtro final y en los vehículos. Dado que el biodiesel puede ser alimento para las bacterias y las algas, que se deben almacenar en recipientes cerrados, herméticos para prevenir el crecimiento de microbios no deseados.
5) Ethanol Fermentation – ethyl alcohol (ethanol) is produced in the fermentation tank by a community of yeast who give off CO2 during as they grow. The CO2 is vented into the water where it feeds a type of algae called Chlorella vulgaris.
Fermentación del etanol – alcohol etílico (etanol) se produce en el tanque de fermentación por una comunidad de levadura (microbio explicar) que emiten CO2 durante su crecimiento. El CO2 se ventila en el agua, donde se alimenta de un tipo de alga llamada Chlorella vulgaris.
6) Biochar stove/ethanol distillation – In order to ensure the net effect of our production is carbon negative we use a biochar stove designed by Seachar as a heating device during distillation and heat transfer. Biochar is a type of charcoal that makes a great soil addition to organic gardens
Biochar estufa / etanol destilación – Con el fin de garantizar el efecto neto de la producción de carbono es negativo se utiliza una estufa biochar diseñada por Seachar como un dispositivo de calentamiento durante la destilación y la transferencia de calor. El biochar es un tipo de carbón que hace una adición excelente suelo para jardines orgánicos.
Modular design should focus on developing scalable, independent functional elements (modules) with a variety of applications and potential uses.
Module 1: Biodiesel processor
Alternative processor design using propane tanks – http://make-biodiesel.org/propane-tank-processor.html.
Notes: 55 gal steel drums with welded “cone bottoms” (http://journeytoforever.org/biodiesel_processor3.html) should be avoided for use as biodiesel processors. The thin steel allows too much heat escape, the weld typically leaks after several batches are run, and the system cannot tolerate high pressure.
If using electrical heating elements for processing, electric water heaters are preferable for use as processors, though gas ones may be substituted. Gas water heaters with donut-style opening in the inner core of the tank are preferable for heat exchange systems.
Module 2: Bicycle powered pump/generator
The red barrel pumps (http://www.harborfreight.com/barrel-pump-45743.html) tend to require a relatively large amount of force to turn.
Alternative pumps: drill master – resistant to solvents, oils, heat, seawater – http://www.harborfreight.com/heavy-duty-drill-powered-pump-98384.html.
Fly wheel system for generator?
Module 3: Biochar stove/heat exchange system
Module 4: Fermentation tank/algae photo bioreactor
Rationale for using Chlorella vulgaris
C. vulgaris is a common species of single-celled algae found in most bodies of fresh water. It is spherical in shape and around 2 to 10 μm in diameter. C. vulgaris multiplies rapidly, requiring only carbon dioxide, water, sunlight, and a small amount of nutrients to reproduce. It has been thoroughly investigated as a potential food source due to its high protein content and presence other essential nutrients. When dried, C. vulgaris is about 45% protein, 20% fat, 20% carbohydrate, 5% fibre, and 10% minerals and vitamins.
- Cell wall has a high elasticity modulus
- Even when free water has been removed, wet biomass retains sufficient interstitial water to act as lubricant
- Rupture of cell wall through mechanical friction and steam explosion is only possible when dry
- increased oil production in high KOH wash water
Module 5: Methyl/Ethyl alcohol distillation system
could this be integrated into heat exchanger inside a gas water heater?
Above image: fatty acid ethyl esters (FAEE), glycerol precipitate. Ethanol was fermented in photobioreactor fermenter with algal CO2 capture, distilled on biochar stove, and dried with corn starch followed by silica gel. New vegetable oil (soybean) was processed with ethanol and KOH as a catalyst. FAEE did not pass the 27/3 test for ASTM spec biodiesel. Likely sources of error: old, impure KOH; short reaction time.
The NSIDC reports the current rate of arctic sea ice loss is between 100,000 and 150,000 square kilometers per day, more than twice the rate of climatological change. As of June 19th, sea ice was less than the previous record low extents for the same time period.
Researchers from Yale University and the University of Connecticut suggest that extinction models have overlooked important “species interaction networks.” The scientists claim that the complexity of these interactions typically limits their predictive abilities of the effects of climate change in extinction rates.
Top consumers such as keystone predators and herbivores tend to have a much more profound influence on survivability of very many other organisms within larger, inter-related networks. Alterations to these “biotic multiplier” species often leads to large fluxes throughout entire food webs. In some cases, climate change may lead to relatively gradual ecosystem flux, in other instances it may alter keystone species, leading to rapid, systemic change.
The report’s primary author, Phoebe Zarnetske, explains, “Species interactions are necessary for life on Earth. We rely on fisheries, timber, agriculture, medicine and a variety of other ecosystem services that result from intact species interactions… Humans have already altered these important species interactions, and climate change is predicted to alter them further. Incorporating these interactions into models is crucial to informed management decisions that protect biodiversity and the services it provides.”
Official Chinese news agency Xinhua admitted that food safety authorities have exposed some 15,000 instances of unsafe food this year. Investigative reporters from the Chinese periodical Caixin have discovered that the actual amount of toxic food cases is much, much greater, claiming, “these publicized food safety scandals represent only a fraction of unsafe food production practices. Hundreds of chemical food additives are pumped into products that Chinese people consume every day.”
Milk and dairy product contamination has been a particular problem. In the year 2008, contamination of infant formula and dairy products was linked to 300,000 cases of sickness and the deaths of six children. Issues concerning widespread contamination of dairy products have been “reportedly blocked by government censors,” and resulted in the execution of several milk distributors.
“Resilience” for the rich and impoverishment for global biodiversity?
During the Global Earth Summit in Rio, dozens of catadores – Brazilians who subside by sifting through waste heaps for scraps and recyclables – tolerated miserable, muddy conditions in makeshift encampments to have their voices heard.
The National Movement of Collectors of Recyclable Materials or “Movimento” organizer João Paolo explained, “Members of the Movimento are staying in unsanitary conditions. The bathrooms are incredibly filthy… The food is terrible. Many companheiros have food poisoning.”
Greg Hanscom describes the situation during the Rio Earth Summit, writing, “The scene is a stark contrast to the heavily guarded compound on the city’s far fringe where the official Earth Summit proceedings are taking place. There, besuited dignitaries and delegates bustle between air-conditioned tents and prefabricated buildings, wielding cell phones and laptops, sipping espresso and bier served by Brazilian waitresses dressed as German bar wenches. Special buses shuttle officials between the summit and hotel rooms that soared to nearly $500 a night as the summit approached.”
Meanwhile, in Colorado, the recent annual Aspen Environmental Forum – despite funding from the Coca-Cola Company, International mining giant Vale, and Duke Energy – charged 600 USD per day to attendees for sessions by elite environmentalists, scientists and resilience professionals. A 3,000 USD “Patron Pass” could be purchased for admission to the 4 day seminar and “intimate special events featuring our speakers and other distinguished guests.”
The Forum’s theme for 2012 was “Living in the New Normal,” and was focused on “addressing solutions for adapting to the greatest challenge of our time.” As massive wildfires erupted throughout neighboring regions of Colorado, attendees discussed topics including the application of consistently failed genetic engineering techniques for the recovery of individual extinct species to greenwashing natural gas exploration and fracking. With drought, high heat, more intense storms, and increased wildfires expected for Colorado and much of the US, the Forum might be do well to consider next year’s theme as “putting out those enormous fires everywhere around us.”
An insightful Wall Street Marketwatch commentary claims the theories, business models, and sum of economic logic is a destructive, threatening fiction. Author, analyst and former investment banker Paul Farrel explains, “…driving the economists’ growth myth is population growth. It’s the independent variable in their equation. Population growth drives all other derivative projections, forecasts and predictions. All GDP growth, income growth, wealth growth, production growth, everything. These unscientific growth assumptions fit into the overall left-brain, logical, mind-set of western leaders, all the corporate CEOs, Wall Street bankers and government leaders who run America and the world. But just because a large group collectively believes in something doesn’t make it true. Perpetual growth is still a myth no matter how many economists, CEOs, bankers and politicians believe it. It’s still an illusion trapped in the brains of all these irrational, biased and uncritical folks.”
Paleontologist’s recently unearthed the largest grave site of fossil “mega-wombat” remains in Queensland, Australia. The skeletons of about 50 diprotodons – enormous, vegetarian marsupials – are thought to have been picked dry by giant prehistoric crocodiles and lizards. Both the giant relatives of the modern wombat as well as the mega-crocodiles and mega-lizards inhabited the region over 100,000 years ago. Early human hunters and altered climate are suspected to have led to the extinction of the massive mammals.
Queensland Museum in Brisbane lead scientist Scott Hocknull explained, “We’re almost certain that most of these carcasses of diprotodon have been torn apart by both the crocodiles and the lizards, because we’ve found shed teeth within their skeletons from both animals.”
An investigative report aired June 17th on China’s Xi’an TV details the supposed unearthing of what is initially claimed to be a rare plant/mushroom. After closer inspection, however, it became clear the item was actually a human-made sex toy. Producers of the news show have apologized for the report, stating, “As our reporter was still very young and unwise to the ways of the world, this report has brought great inconvenience to everyone… We’d like to take this opportunity to thank everyone from the bottom of our hearts for your criticism and correction. Please forgive our oversight!”
Beneath the rubble: urban agricultural growth from between the cracks
As global economic downturn expands through the Americas, the Eurozone and the world at large, adaptive responses in development of do-it-yourself food production have blossomed.
Grist’s Heather Smith explains, “In the aftermath of the housing bubble, interesting signs have begun to suggest that the economics of dirt may be shifting. In fact it might one day be more valuable to grow food on a plot of land than to plop a house down on top of it. A few farmers recently made a killing buying back the farms they’d cashed out on. Meanwhile, the value of farmland in Iowa has increased by 33 percent, setting off speculation that farmland could be the next bubble. (It’s a bubble fueled by corn for ethanol and therefore food for cars instead of people, but still, it holds promise.) And then there is the matter of the failed shopping mall in Cleveland that began doing double-duty as a greenhouse.”
Officials in China stopped the building of a copper factory in the Sichuan province after intense protests. Large crowds of concerned citizens voiced their disapproval of the plant on environmental and health concerns.
Chinese government officials released a statement regarding the issue, claiming they would postpone the construction of the factory “until the majority of the people support it.”