Environmental science is a field that deals with the study of interaction between human systems and natural systems. Natural systems involve the earth itself and life. Human systems are primarily the populations of the earth.
Environmental science is the academic field that takes physical, biological and chemical sciences to study the environment and discover solutions to environmental problems. Sciences used in environmental science include geography, zoology, physics, ecology, oceanology, and geology. Environmental science also branches out into environmental studies and environmental engineering. It provides integrated and interdisciplinary approach to the study of environmental problems.
Environmental science involves different fields of study. Most often, the study of environmental science includes the study of climate change, natural resources, energy, pollution, and environmental issues. In environmental sciences, ecologists study how plants and animals interact with each other, chemists study the living and non-living components of the environment, geologists study the formation, structure and history of earth, biologists study the biodiversity, Physicists are involved in thermodynamics, computer scientists are involved in technical innovations and computer modelling and biomedical experts study the impact of environmental issues on our health and social lives.
In common usage, “environmental science” and “ecology” are often used interchangeably, but technically, ecology refers only to the study of organisms and their interactions with each other and their environment. Ecology could be considered a subset of environmental science, which also could involve purely chemical or public health issues (for example) ecologists would be unlikely to study. In practice, there is considerable overlap between the work of ecologists and other environmental scientists.
Environmental scientists work on subjects like the understanding of earth processes, evaluating alternative energy systems, pollution control and mitigation, natural resource management, and the effects of global climate change. Environmental issues almost always include an interaction of physical, chemical, and biological processes. Environmental scientists bring a systems approach to the analysis of environmental problems. Key elements of an effective environmental scientist include the ability to relate space, and time relationships as well as quantitative analysis.
Another useful way to conceptualize environmental science is to contrast it with three similar fields that exist in close proximity to environmental science.
- While often used interchangeably with environmental science, ecology is generally tailored to the study of living organisms and their interactions with features of their immediate environment. Environmental science includes ecology, but takes a more expansive, wide-angle view of the ways in which natural processes impact and are impacted by humankind. Environmental science is also more explicitly directed toward addressing problems like climate change, pollution, and sustainability.
- The social, behavioral, and political facets of environmental policy are the focal points in environmental studies. In contrast to environmental science, which is rooted in quantitative analysis and scientific data, environmental studies is more strongly oriented toward the psychology, sociology, and political science of environmental issues.
- Environmental engineering is a branch of engineering that aims to devise practical solutions to the problems explored by environmental scientists. Environmental scientists generate data and experimental conclusions that environmental engineers can then act on, designing public works projects and infrastructure enhancements that make better use of natural resources and reduce damage to the environment. For example, based on new findings in the field of environmental science, environmental engineers may design better industrial and municipal water treatment facilities, more efficient recycling plants, and other innovations that minimize pollution and improve the overall health of the environment.
According to UNESCO (1971), the Objectives of environmental studies are:
(i) Creating awareness about different environmental problems.
(ii) Imparting fundamental knowledge regarding environment and its allied problems.
(iii) Developing an attitude of concern for environment.
(iv) Motivating public to participate in environmental protection and environmental improvement.
(v) Striving to attain harmony with nature.
(vi) Acquiring skills to help the concerned individuals in identifying and solving environmental problems.