Hydraulic Fracturing (Fracking)
Hydraulic Fracturing, or fracking, is the method of oil and gas extraction that uses high-pressure fluids to force open existing cracks in rocks deep underground. The article "To Frack, or Not to Frack", that is located in the AP Environmental Science textbook discusses the issue of fracking that occurs in the United States. The US like many developed countries relies heavily on the process of extracting fuels such as coal and oil. With advances in technology oil and mining companies have only increased their reliance on fracking, and are now doing even more extraction of natural gas as opposed to oil and coal. Although extracting natural gas appeared to be more clean and beneficial for the environment it has actually been discovered as having negative consequences. Millions of gallons of water must be used for fracking, and are then pumped down into gas wells. A portion of the water used must be properly treated after use to avoid contaminating water bodies, but unfortunately there have been many cases of local water supply's being contaminated as a result of local fracking. Due to the high flammability of natural gas, water that has been contaminated with high levels of natural gas has been recorded as flames shooting out of kitchen faucets after someone ignited the water. In conclusion, although fracking appeared to be a clean way of extracting an energy source, the amount of natural gas that escapes during the fracking process can actually be quite dangerous to the nearby environment.
- The following video discusses the division of a community dealing with fracking.
- This picture shows the process of Hydraulic Fracturing.
Next, the general concept of environmental science is first introduced in chapter one. Environmental science offers important insights into our world and how we influence it. Humans are dependent on Earth's air, water, and soil for our existence, but the study of environmental science focuses on how humans alter the planet in many ways, both large and small, when we make use of said resources. Humans altering natural systems is a big theme in this chapter. An ecosystem is a location on Earth that includes interacting biotic and abiotic components. Systems often vary in size, and usually a large natural system will include various smaller systems within it. One cannot just study isolated events or isolated individuals when studying natural systems in environmental science. Each part of each system in the environment interacts with other aspects of that system, which in turn can have a variety of effects on the environment when one part is altered. When studying the environment on a large scale, a scientist might examine a system that includes people, fishing technology, policy, and law. Humans manipulate the systems in their environment more than any other species. We convert land from its natural state into urban, suburban, and agricultural areas. By doing so we destroy the homes and habitats of all living species in those areas, their resources and sources of energy all disappear. We are also capable of changing the chemistry of our air, water, and soil, by doing things like adding fertilizers, and pollution into the air.
*The deforestation done by humans destroys the habitat of many species.*
Some of the common environmental indicators and their units of measurement include, human population-measured by number of individuals, ecological footprint-measured in hectares of land(or planet Earths), total food production-measured in metric tons of grain, and carbon dioxide-measured in concentration in the air.
The Five Key Global Indicators.
- Biological Diversity - Recently, there have been a large number of extinctions, extinction rates are increasing. With extinctions only going to continue in the future the overall biodiversity of the planet may only be getting worse. Biodiversity exists on three scales, ecosystem, species, and genetic. Populations with a high genetic diversity are better able to respond to environmental change than populations with lower genetic diversity. If a population of fish possesses high genetic diversity for disease resistance, at least some individuals are likely to survive whatever diseases move through the population. Species diversity, indicates the number of species in a region or in a particular type of habitat. Scientists have observed that ecosystems with high species diversity are more productive and resilient, therefore better able to recover from disturbance. A tropical forest with a large number of plant species growing in the under-story is likely to be more productive and better able to withstand change, considering that whatever change occurs in the ecosystem, it cannot affect, and/or damage all of the species in the same way, therefore at least some would be able to survive, and reproduce.
- Food Production - Food production on the Earth, per capita, is leveling off, which may be a factor in limiting the total number of people that Earth can support. Just as a healthy ecosystem supports a wide range of species, a healthy soil supports abundant and continuous food production. Food grains such as wheat, corn, and rice provide more than half the calories and protein that humans consume. Yet the growth of the human population is straining our ability to grow and distribute adequate amounts of food.
- Average Global Surface Temperature (CO2 concentrations) - Carbon Dioxide concentration on the planet along with temperatures are increasing, and will most likely continue to increase in the short-term future if the human population cannot find a way to reduce carbon emissions, and find more clean sources of energy that don't lead to the trapping of sunlight on the Earth's surface, thus the rapid heating of its surface. To elaborate on this, the Earth's thick planetary atmosphere contains many gases. Some of said gases, known as greenhouse gases, trap heat near Earth's surface, the most important greenhouse gas being carbon dioxide. In the past 200 years, the concentration of greenhouse gases, specifically carbon dioxide, have risen drastically. With this increase in carbon emissions, mainly from the combustion of fossil fuels and the net loss of forests and other habitats that would otherwise take up and store CO2, more heat from the sun is being trapped on the surface, leading to the melting of polar ice caps. (*See graph below for illustration*)
- Human Population - The population is still increasing but the growth rate is slowing. The overall impact on the quality of the environment due to the increase in the human population will be negative. The size of the human population can tell us a great deal about the health of our global environment. The current human population sits at 7.2 billion people and growing. The population of the Earth is projected to reach its maximum number at 9.6 billion in 2050, and will then stabilize between 7.1 billion and 10.5 billion by 2100. However, even if the human population stops growing, the billions of additional people will create a greater demand on Earth's finite resources, including food, energy, and land.
- Resource Depletion - Many resources on the Earth are being depleted at a rapid rate, however the efficiency of resource use is increasing in many cases, and with the increase of wind and solar energy as being viable resources, the outlook could be positive, however the increased use of resources such as coal, oil, and even natural gas will have negative effects.
*The correlation between the increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and the increase in global temperatures in the last 200 years is indisputable.*