Our Environment: the Sum Total of Our Surroundings

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I.Our environment is the sum total of our surroundings A photograph of Earth reveals a great deal, but it does not convey the complexity of our environment. Our environment (a term that comes from the French environner, “to surround”) is more than water, land, and air; it is the sum total of our surroundings. It includes all of the biotic factors, or living things, with which we interact. It also includes the abiotic factors, or nonliving things, with which we interact. Our environment includes the continents, oceans, clouds, and ice caps you can see in the photo of Earth from space, as well as the animals, plants, forests, and farms that comprise the landscapes around us. In a more inclusive sense, it also encompasses our built…show more content…
III. Natural resources are vital to our survival An island by definition is finite and bounded, and its inhabitants must cope with limitations in the materials they need. On our island, Earth, human beings, like all living things, ultimately face environmental constraints. Specifically, there are limits to many of our natural resources, the various substances and energy sources we need to survive. Natural resources that are virtually unlimited or that are replenished over short periods are known as renewable natural resources. Some renewable resources, such as sunlight, wind, and wave energy, are perpetually available. Others, such as timber, food crops, water, and soil, renew themselves over months, years, or decades, if we are careful not to use them up too quickly or destructively. In contrast, resources such as mineral ores and crude oil are in finite supply and are formed much more slowly than we use them. These are known as nonrenewable natural resources. Once we use them up, they are no longer available. We can view the renewability of natural resources as a continuum (Figure 1.1). Some renewable resources may turn nonrenewable if we overuse them. For example, overpumping groundwater can deplete underground aquifers and turn a lush landscape into a desert. Populations of animals and plants we harvest from the wild may be renewable if

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