Environmental Science: Toward a Sustainable Future

by Richard T. Wright
Start Free Trial

Give an example of how environmental science might involve geology and chemistry in Environmental Science: Toward a Sustainable Future.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Chemistry, the science that studies the composition of matter, is extensively used in geological research and analysis. Both form integral parts of environmental science, which is an interdisciplinary field. Together they can help us understand resource use, destruction, and renewal.

One concrete example involves volcanic eruptions and the renewal of the surrounding ecosystem after it has been covered by lava and other materials emitted from the volcano. Chemistry would be used in analyzing the chemical composition of the lava and analyzing its interactions with the soil beneath it and the water into which it ran. Using geology, scientists could evaluate the overall effects of the eruption within the volcano itself as well as its relationship with other nearby land features. Geologists could compare the most recent eruption to those documented historically, which would help them model the likelihood of the timing and severity of future eruptions.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Environmental science is a growing field as increasing numbers of people become more aware of our planet's need for human intervention to sustain various populations and as we realize more about the impact humans have on the planet. There are so many areas of study and diverse job opportunities under this broad field.

One way that chemists become involved in environmental sciences is in examining the impact human waste has on the natural environment. First, chemists determine the natural chemistry that exists in an uncontaminated area and then compare the findings following a chemical accident. After a factory releases emissions into the air or after it dumps chemical waste into a lake, environmental scientists determine what natural damage has been done. Environmental chemists monitor how much of each type of chemical can be released without causing environmental impacts; they also monitor what needs to be done when this boundary is breached. When large quantities of oil are dumped into the ocean, when chemical-hauling trucks overturn on an interstate and spill their contents, or when a boat catches fire and explodes in a lake, environmental chemists are consulted to determine whether the chemical balance of nature has been disturbed.

Environmental chemists often work closely with environmental geologists, who specialize specifically in looking at the effects of humans on geologic features such as ground water, the atmosphere, and fossil fuels. These scientists also monitor the ways humans dispose of waste within the Earth and what effects those disposals may have on surrounding human populations as gasses and liquids from massive quantities of waste eventually leak into groundwater and the atmosphere.

In both fields of study, scientists are trying to maximize the preservation of our Earth's resources and minimize the devastating effects humans can have on the environment.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

"Environmental science" is a huge umbrella term because it relates to just about any kind of science that is somehow focused on the environment. Environmental science studies the effects of both natural and unnatural environmental processes. It focuses on the interactions of the physical parts of the planet and seeks to solve environmental problems. As such, environmental science is a huge interdisciplinary field. It definitely incorporates chemistry and geology.

A good example of how environmental science specifically uses chemistry and geology is the study of the usage, benefits, and controversies of hydraulic fracturing ("fracking"). Fracking is a mining technique that is designed to recover gas and oil from shale. A mixture of water, sand, and chemicals is injected into the rock layer at extremely high pressures. The rock is fractured apart by the mixture, and that allows the gas to flow out of the well. Chemists and geologists are involved in figuring out which rock layer is going to be best to drill in and exactly what the chemical mixture should be. However, environmental science is also focused on fracking because of the environmental dangers that fracking can cause. Environmental chemists are brought in to study exactly what effects the chemicals have on the environment. A huge concern is what the chemicals are doing to groundwater sources. Geologists are brought in to study what the long-term effects of fracturing the ground could be. Increased earthquake activity is among the concerns that geologists have about fracking.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial