Arizona State University Climate and Environmental Science Denial Discussion

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  1. Describe what is meant by the scientific method, including the role of observations, hypotheses, experiments, data, evidence, and theories. Distinguish between what is meant by “facts” and the outputs of a scientific investigation. Discuss some of the ways in which human values might uniquely influence and interact with the scientific method in the practice of environmental science. Finally, provide some thoughts as to how environmental scientists can maintain scientific objectivity even while working on issues that may be politically controversial or emotionally charged.
  1. Define and discuss what is meant by the I = PAT equation. How does this equation relate to the concept of ecological carrying capacity for humans within the planetary ecosystem? Contrast how a neo-Malthusian is likely to approach the concept of environmental impact with the approach taken by a Cornucopian.
  1. What is the Anthropocene? In particular, describe how modern humans have fundamentally altered material flows within the carbon cycle, nitrogen cycle, and phosphorus cycle in ways that would lend support to the Anthropocene concept. Be specific in your descriptions of how modern human society (say, over the past 150-200 years) has increasingly changed the cycling of these elements in ways that are fundamentally different from background “natural” processes.
  1. How do limiting factors and ecological niches factor into species competition within a given ecosystem context? Why does competition for scarce resources tend to promote increased speciation (i.e., species richness) over time? Discuss some ways in which “disturbance” can serve as a force for maintaining, or even, increasing biodiversity within a given ecosystem area. Also describe some examples in which disturbance can decrease biodiversity. What are some of the characteristics of human disturbance that tend to cause reduced abundances and, in some cases, extinction of specialist species?
  1. Define and contrast the terms “preservation” and “conservation”. Next, describe three key major environmental concerns within each of the following biomes: rainforest, boreal forest, and temperate grasslands. Discuss one example biome where a preservation approach seems to you to be most appropriate for addressing the problems you have identified, and one example biome where conservation seems to you to be most appropriate. (Hint: Because there isn’t necessarily a right or wrong answer to the last part of this question, you should be trying to impress me with how well you defend your answer!)

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