Lesson 17: Air Pollution and Waste Management
This is our final lesson and, like last week's, it considers some of the environmental
changes we cause as we use Earth's resources. The part first of the chapter examines how both natural and man-made compounds, including
atmospheric pollutants (like the gases and particulates emitted by coal-fired power plants, right), affect human health. The second chapter
explores how we currently dispose of a variety of different types of waste in the geological environment, and what we are doing to move towards zero waste production. This chapter is very timely, and brings us "full
circle" in our study of humanity's interactions with Earth.
As you read through chapter 19 on air pollution and solid waste it will be helpful to take notes on topics addressed by the learning objectives so that you can keep track of key facts and concepts as you prepare for this week's quiz and begin thinking about next week's final. Be sure that you are prepared to meet the learning objectives outlined below before you move on to the quiz at the bottom of the page. Finally, this week's exercise looks at coastal flooding caused by tsunamis and storm surges—the latter likely to become more common as air pollution drives climate change.
Weekly Learning Objectives
Upon successful completion of this week's lesson, a student is expected to be able to:
- Explain why, despite many intriguing correlations, it is difficult to link biogeochemical data to specific human health problems (e.g. soft water to heart disease).
- Rank the five most important primary air pollutants in order of decreasing human contributions (see Table 19.1), and explain why major efforts are being made to control nitrogen oxides (NOX) even though they have less severe effects on human health and the environment than several other primary pollutants.
- Identify the meteorological phenomenon that largely confines photochemical smog ("brown air") to the lower part of the atmosphere over some urban areas, and briefly describe how this phenomenon develops.
- Explain why the three Rs of integrated waste mamagement (reduce, recycle, and reuse) are gradually giving way to the concept of materials management and how this change is being promoted.
- Determine whether or not a site would likely be suitable as a sanitary landfill based on criteria such as topographic relief, location of the water table, amount of precipitation, and the type(s) of underlying soil and rock.
- List the two major hazards posed by sanitary landfills and briefly outline how we can deal with each.
- Determine whether a given type of waste could likely be disposed of safely in a santiary landfill or has characterics that would require it be disposed of in a secure landfill or by some other hazardous waste disposal method (ground application or deep-well disposal).
- Finally, outline the three steps that Brown proposes to enable humanity to avoid the severe societal disruption that would accompany a human environmental crisis.
Reading and Browsing Assignment
- Read Chapters 19, focusing on the topics outlined in the learning objectives above.
- To learn more about efforts to monitor and combat air pollution in California, check out the California Air Resources Board website.
- If you can "tune out" all the annoying ads on the margins of the page, the landfill write-up on the How Stuff Works site is an easy and informative read. Figure 2, which shows how recycling and composting are becoming more popular relative to burial and incineration, is particularly heartening.
- You can learn about a host of different waste management issues on from the Zero Waste America site. This is clearly an advocacy site, but has background information on a wide range of waste management strategies and links to dozens of diverse resouces.
- Finally, here in our home state waste management is overseen by the California Intregrated Waste Management Board. You can learn about state rules for disposing of various materials and how you can do so properly. For example, since February 2010 it has been illegal to dispose of household batteries and compact fluorescent bulbs in the trashfind out how to dispose of them safely here!
Exercise 17: Tsunami and Storm Surge Assessment (Due by 9:00 AM on 12-Dec-2011)
After you have studied chapter 19 and mastered the learning objectives outlined above, please load up you Hazard City CD and work through version 1 of the Tsunami/Storm Surge exercise. This exercise is really linked to last week's topic: climate change. As Earth's climate warms so do the waters of the sea's surface and this, in turn, leads to the formation of larger and more intense hurricanes. Although tsunamis are not related to changes in Earth's climate, the larger storm surges that are expected to accompany stronger storms certainly are. This week's exercise is interesting because it pulls together several different topics and skills, and it will probably take you about an hour to complete. One key point to remember is that the population of Harbor City is evenly-distributed. Also, note the following: (1) to calculate the speed of the tsunamis I simply printed the page and made measurements right on the paper; and (2) there are only six questions on this week's exercise so, to make them come out to 10 points I made each worth 1.67 points. Be sure to jot down any useful notes on the procedure you followed and have your final report in hand before you go to the "Assignments, Tests, and Surveys" area of the Etudes site to submit your answers for Exercise 17.
Quiz 17: Air Pollution and Waste Management (Due by 9:00 AM on 12-Dec-2011.)
After you feel you have met the learning outcomes outlined above, please complete Quiz 17 in the Etudes "Assignments, Tests, and Surveys" area. There are ten questions, each worth one point. If you can answer all of them correctly it means that you know your way around the basics of air pollution and global climate change pretty well and have completed all of the lessons in our course. Next, it's time to begin preparing for our final (see below). All of the answers to this week's quiz will be available for review one hour after after the quiz closes, at 10:00 AM on Monday, 13-Dec. Please look over the results of your quiz and contact me if you have any questions about either content or scoring.
Final Exam Preview: Chapters 1-3, 5-11 and 13-19 (Due by 5:00 PM on 15-Dec-2011.)
Our final exam will open at 9:00 AM on Monday, 12-Dec, and be available through 5:00 PM on Thursday, 15-Dec. It will be comprehensive, and will include questions that address the learning objectives from all of the chapters we have studied. The questions will be similar to the ones you have had on the quizzes; some will ask you about basic concepts whereas others will ask you to interpret a diagram or make a calculation. (You will want to have a calculator handy during the exam). The final will be posted in two parts. Each part will be timed for 60 minutes and have the same format as one of our quizzes (one question per page, strict order). You may take both parts of the final in sequence, or take them separately during any two one-hour periods you wish during the four days the exam is open. Because I need to review the final results and turn-in grades the next day, however, I will not be able to accept any late submissions after the exam closes at 5:00 PM on Thursday.