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close this bookDisaster and the Environment - 1st edition (Department of Humanitarian Affairs/United Nations Disaster Relief Office - Disaster Management Training Programme - United Nations Development Programme , 1993, 60 p.)
close this folderPART 1. The earth as a system
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentStudying the environment
View the documentThe earth’s systems
View the documentInteractions of the earth’s systems: environmental degradation
View the documentCASE STUDY
View the documentCASE STUDY

Studying the environment

What is the environment? The environment can be defined as the sum total of all conditions affecting the existence, growth and welfare of an organism or group of organisms on earth. Every single element of our daily lives is part of the environment, including the air we breathe, the condition of our bodies, every single item in our homes, and every bit of food and water we consume. The wide scope of this definition makes the environment difficult to study, but certain study methods can help us make the connection between disasters and the environment.

Figure 1 Two approaches studying the environment

Studying the environment involves two basic approaches. The first approach - based on the fact that humans share this planet with other living creatures - focuses on the interactions among living systems. The second, broader approach looks at the total environment and emphasizes that all the planet’s resources, both living and non-living, are ultimately limited. With both approaches, however, the human species is the central player, because human welfare and activities are foremost in our attention.

The science of ecology is the study of the interrelationships of organisms and their physical environment; this is a useful tool for examining how natural systems operate and for discovering what affects them. An ecological system (ecosystem) is a collection of organisms and their environment. Within the global environment exist many ecosystems and environments. For example, a tree, a lake, or a human settlement can be studied as separate ecosystems. Within the framework of this module, one modem perspective of ecology is especially helpful: the growing awareness that shortages of food and space will pressure human society to change and limit its activities.

Q. What aspects of human existence are not directly or indirectly related to the environment?

A. _________________________________________________________________