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Planet Earth

Planet Earth: Problems and Prospects

Copyright Date: 1995
Pages: 208
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  • Book Info
    Planet Earth
    Book Description:

    The conference took advantage of the confluence of meetings of the Royal Society of Canada, the Learned Societies of Canada, and the Canadian Federation of Biological Societies at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario. Planet Earth, a compendium of papers presented at the conference, is the result.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-6532-6
    Subjects: Environmental Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Figures
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Tables
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Preface
    (pp. xi-2)
  6. 1 Humankind: The Agent and Victim of Global Change in the Geosphere-Biosphere System
    (pp. 3-24)

    The idea that humans, uniquely, change the face of the earth goes back almost a century and has recently been summarized by Fyfe.¹ In the 1920s, Vernadsky, a Russian geologist, began to issue warnings against what he would ultimately characterize as “a new geological phenomenon on our planet. In it for the first time man becomes a large-scale geologic force. Chemically, the face of our planet, the biosphere, is being sharply changed by man, consciously, and even more so, unconsciously.”²

    From the start there seems to have been a realization that changes should be the concern of both the natural...

  7. 2 Our Common Future: World Development and the Environment
    (pp. 25-42)

    Eighteen forty-one was a momentous year for Kingston. The city had been chosen the seat of the new Parliament of Canada, and although this honour was withdrawn three years later, most fortunately the founding of Queen’s proved to be permanent. The University began in one house, with two professors and ten students.A century a half later, it has eighty-six buildings on two campuses, eight faculties and schools, a staff of 3,800, and a total enrolment of 17,668 students. During those same 150 years, Upper Canada, with 480,000 inhabitants, has become Ontario, with a population of 8.84 millian and a gross...

  8. 3 Changes in Climates of the Past: Lessons for the Future
    (pp. 43-66)

    The composition of the atmosphere is changing at an impressive rate at the current time, due largely to the effects of human activity. The abundance of CO2in the pre-industrial era was about 280 parts per million by volume (ppm); today it has risen to almost 350 ppm. The level of methane (CH4) has increased over the same period by close to a factor of 3, from about 650 parts per billion (ppb) to almost 1800 ppb. A significant increase is observed also in the concentration of nitrous oxide (N2O), and there are gases in the atmosphere, the industrial chloro-fluorocarbons...

  9. 4 World Hunger, Livelihoods, and the Environment
    (pp. 67-81)

    Environmental problems can probably be tackled most easily with regard to both analysis and policy when they can be penned within the purview of one or another of the natural sciences. Although the set of such pure (and simple) cases may be null, there is certainly a continuum ranging from problems that can be handled through primarily technical solutions to those in which social, economic, political, and technical aspects are so interwoven that a more holistic (and inevitably messier) approach is unavoidable. Until the 1960s, the problem of world hunger and food availability was viewed in the main as a...

  10. 5 Species Impoverishment
    (pp. 82-110)

    Some biologists, naturalists, and conservationists maintain that the diversity of life forms and species is one general indicator of planet Earth’s state of health. The loss of species, or “species impoverishment,” is said to be proceeding at an accelerating rate, a trend that bodes ill for our future. The situation is aggravated because the earth consists of interconnected ecosystems. Ironically, the best evidence of interconnections comes from DDT. Although this insecticide was used in just some locations, its presence in animals throughout the world reveals just how extensive the connections between the globe’s ecosystems and their components are.¹

    Every year,...

  11. 6 The Interface of Health, Population, and Development: The Ecology of Health
    (pp. 111-148)

    Almost half a century ago observations were made in the West Frontier districts of India that led to the formation of the Pioneer Health Centre in London in 1926 and, eventually, to the founding of the Peckham Health Centre in London in 1935 for the study of families living within a community to determine those factors that significantly influence health. This study became influential in reorienting medical thinking to the concept of “positive health.” The instigators of the Peckham experiment had two main concerns: the fitness of parents for their biological task, and the fitness of the child’s home and...

  12. 7 Environmental Toxicology
    (pp. 149-159)

    In its broadest definition, toxicology is the science that is concerned with the adverse effects of chemical or physical agents on biological organisms. Environmental toxicology is the branch of toxicology that deal with the adverse biological effects of chemicals found in the environment. Some might also include physical agents in this definition, but this is a relatively minor point. It is more important to emphasize that the science of toxicology is concerned with both the toxicant, which is looked upon as an “aggressor agent,” and its “target,” upon which it exerts an adverse effect. That target is a biological system;...

  13. 8 Aboriginal Peoples: The Canadian Experience
    (pp. 160-171)

    There is a myth, recounted in various quarters, that North American Indians, aboriginal peoples native to this continent, are natural ecologists. I would like to begin this chapter by evoking a tradition which, I believe, lends credence to the myth. I will proceed from there to discuss some problems in maintaining those traditions in a modern context, and conclude with prospects which I perceive for our common future.

    The Mohawk Nation, to which I belong, is one of the Six Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy, the people who lived in the Great Lakes-St Lawrence region when the earliest explorers arrived...

  14. 9 Science and Politics on Planet Earth
    (pp. 172-178)

    In my own lifetime the way we all think about our place in the natural world has been transformed. First, we now think of ourselves as a species among other species, no longer the lords and masters of creation. We have learned that our survival as a species depends on the behaviour of other species, and upon our capacity to understand and modify their behaviour and ours. Second, we understand that we live within an ecosphere, a dynamic and complex system of processes, the complexity of which we are only beginning to appreciate. Third, we have begun to appreciate that...

  15. APPENDIX Planet Earth Symposium: Principal’s Introduction
    (pp. 179-180)
  16. Contributors
    (pp. 181-188)
  17. Index
    (pp. 189-196)