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Posted by motoman 02/27/2009 @ 09:02

Tags : environment, sciences

News headlines
Geoffrey Coates says his new plastics are friendlier to environment - Earth & Sky
Photo: "Plastic Chairs", by Thomas Hawk “Chemistry has a unique role in helping society address important issues, whether it's ways to generate and store energy, or to make plastics that not only make our lives better but doesn't impact our environment...
HK to begin environmental levy scheme on plastic shopping bags - Xinhua
HONG KONG, June 24 (Xinhua) -- More than 2600 qualified Hong Kong retail outlets had registered under the environmental levy scheme on plastic shopping bags, which will come into effect on July 7 in Hong Kong, a government official said here Wednesday....
LXDE: Resource-Friendly Desktop Environment for X - OS News
An exception is LXDE, a small and resource efficient desktop environment. The Lightweight X11 Desktop Environment, or LXDE as it's more commonly known, really takes its "lightweightness" seriously. They claim that LXDE's minimum hardware specifications...
Eliminating Idling Will Improve the Environment - TheAlternativePress.com
By Reisha Ramai With the growing concern for global warming, citizens have become more conscientious of the environment than ever before. Unprecedented initiatives have sprouted all over the nation in an attempt to preserve the planet....
Graduate makes documentary on Syrian environmental crisis - OCRegister
His plea became Wareh's passion, and the Cal State Fullerton environmental studies graduate student spent the next summer documenting Syria's water shortage. Last month, Wareh took the stage at her commencement ceremony and explained her award-winning...
An environmental protection dilemma - Alibaba News Channel
By Wu Meng The Ministry of Environmental Protection reported early this month that a few companies had seriously violated the country's environmental protection regulations. The ministry ordered China's two biggest power giants, China Huadian...
Federal environment gives $1b WA desalination plant go ahead - NEWS.com.au
THE planned $1 billion desalination plant at Binningup, in the South-West, has been given the green light by Federal environmental authorities. The Department of Environment has today given approval for the project to go ahead, subject to 23 conditions...
DOD Plans to Downsize Installations and Environment Office - InsideDefense (subscription)
Defense Environment Alert, June 23, 2009 -- The Obama administration plans to eliminate one of the three politically appointed positions assigned to the Defense Department's installations and environment (I&E) office, according to informed sources....
OUR VIEW | Poulsbo Project Benefits Economy and Environment - Kitsap Sun
Significantly, the project's benefits also extend from economic to environmental. Sidewalks and 5-foot-wide bicycle lanes — currently non-existent in the area — will encourage non-motorized transportation from nearby residential developments to the...
INNER GROWTH: Happy environment, calm person - AsiaOne
Her colleagues were co-operative and she adjusted well to the work environment. In her case, she was fortunate. It shows that one's personality is an important factor. A pleasant, cheerful and calm disposition can make a lot of difference....

Natural environment

A volcanic fissure and lava channel.

The natural environment, commonly referred to simply as the environment, is a term that encompasses all living and non-living things occurring naturally on Earth or some region thereof.

The natural environment is contrasted with the built environment, which comprises the areas and components that are strongly influenced by humans. A geographical area is regarded as a natural environment (with an indefinite article), if the human impact on it is kept under a certain limited level (similar to section 1 above). This level depends on the specific context, and changes in different areas and contexts. The term wilderness, on the other hand, refers to Earth that has not been modified by human activity.

Earth science (also known as geoscience, the geosciences or the Earth Sciences), is an all-embracing term for the sciences related to the planet Earth . There are four major disciplines in earth sciences, namely geography, geology, geophysics and geodesy. These major disciplines use physics, chemistry, biology, chronology and mathematics to build a qualitative and quantitative understanding of the principal areas or spheres of the Earth system. Earth science generally recognizes 4 spheres, the lithosphere, the hydrosphere, the atmosphere, and the biosphere; these correspond to rocks, water, air, and life. Some practitioners include, as part of the spheres of the Earth, the cryosphere (corresponding to ice) as a distinct portion of the hydrosphere, as well as the pedosphere (corresponding to soil) as an active and intermixed sphere.

The Earth's crust, or Continental crust, is the outermost solid land surface of the planet, is chemically and mechanically different from underlying mantles, and has been generated largely by igneous processes in which magma (molten rock) cools and solidifies to form solid land. Plate tectonics, mountain ranges, volcanoes, and earthquakes are geological phenomena that can be explained in terms of energy transformations in the Earth's crust, and might be thought of as the process by which the earth resurfaces itself. Beneath the Earth's crust lies the mantle which is heated by the radioactive decay of heavy elements. The mantle is not quite solid and consists of magma which is in a state of semi-perpetual convection. This convection process causes the lithospheric plates to move, albeit slowly. The resulting process is known as plate tectonics. Volcanoes result primarily from the melting of subducted crust material. Crust material that is forced into the Asthenosphere melts, and some portion of the melted material becomes light enough to rise to the surface, giving birth to volcanoes.

An ocean is a major body of saline water, and a principal component of the hydrosphere. Approximately 71% of the Earth's surface (an area of some 361 million square kilometers) is covered by ocean, a continuous body of water that is customarily divided into several principal oceans and smaller seas. More than half of this area is over 3,000 meters (9,800 ft) deep. Average oceanic salinity is around 35 parts per thousand (ppt) (3.5%), and nearly all seawater has a salinity in the range of 30 to 38 ppt. Though generally recognized as several 'separate' oceans, these waters comprise one global, interconnected body of salt water often referred to as the World Ocean or global ocean. This concept of a global ocean as a continuous body of water with relatively free interchange among its parts is of fundamental importance to oceanography.

The major oceanic divisions are defined in part by the continents, various archipelagos, and other criteria: these divisions are (in descending order of size) the Pacific Ocean, the Atlantic Ocean, the Indian Ocean, the Southern Ocean (which is sometimes subsumed as the southern portions of the Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian Oceans), and the Arctic Ocean (which is sometimes considered a sea of the Atlantic). The Pacific and Atlantic may be further subdivided by the equator into northerly and southerly portions. Smaller regions of the oceans are called seas, gulfs, bays and other names. There are also salt lakes, which are smaller bodies of landlocked saltwater that are not interconnected with the World Ocean. Two notable examples of salt lakes are the Aral Sea and the Great Salt Lake.

The atmosphere of the Earth serves as a key factor in sustaining the planetary ecosystem. The thin layer of gases that envelops the Earth is held in place by the planet's gravity. Dry air consists of 78% nitrogen, 21% oxygen, 1% argon and other inert gases, carbon dioxide, etc.; but air also contains a variable amount of water vapor. The atmospheric pressure declines steadily with altitude, and has a scale height of about 8 kilometres at the Earth's surface: the height at which the atmospheric pressure has declined by a factor of e (a mathematical constant equal to 2.71...). The ozone layer of the Earth's atmosphere plays an important role in depleting the amount of ultraviolet (UV) radiation that reaches the surface. As DNA is readily damaged by UV light, this serves to protect life at the surface. The atmosphere also retains heat during the night, thereby reducing the daily temperature extremes.

A significantly profound challenge is to identify the natural environmental dynamics in contrast to environmental changes not within natural variances. A common solution is to adapt a static view neglecting natural variances to exist. Methodologically, this view could be defended when looking at processes which change slowly and short time series, while the problem arrives when fast processes turns essential in the object of the study.

Although there is no universal agreement on the definition of life, scientists generally accept that the biological manifestation of life is characterized by organization, metabolism, growth, adaptation, response to stimuli and reproduction. Life may also be said to be simply the characteristic state of organisms.

Properties common to terrestrial organisms (plants, animals, fungi, protists, archaea and bacteria) are that they are cellular, carbon-and-water-based with complex organization, having a metabolism, a capacity to grow, respond to stimuli, and reproduce. An entity with these properties is generally considered life. However, not every definition of life considers all of these properties to be essential. Human-made analogs of life may also be considered to be life.

The biosphere is the part of Earth's outer shell — including air, land, surface rocks and water — within which life occurs, and which biotic processes in turn alter or transform. From the broadest geophysiological point of view, the biosphere is the global ecological system integrating all living beings and their relationships, including their interaction with the elements of the lithosphere (rocks), hydrosphere (water), and atmosphere (air). Currently the entire Earth contains over 75 billion tons (150 trillion pounds or about 6.8 x 1013 kilograms) of biomass (life), which lives within various environments within the biosphere.

An ecosystem is a natural unit consisting of all plants, animals and micro-organisms (biotic factors) in an area functioning together with all of the non-living physical (abiotic) factors of the environment.

Central to the ecosystem concept is the idea that living organisms are continually engaged in a highly interrelated set of relationships with every other element constituting the environment in which they exist. Eugene Odum, one of the founders of the science of ecology, stated: "Any unit that includes all of the organisms (ie: the "community") in a given area interacting with the physical environment so that a flow of energy leads to clearly defined trophic structure, biotic diversity, and material cycles (ie: exchange of materials between living and nonliving parts) within the system is an ecosystem." The human ecosystem concept is then grounded in the deconstruction of the human/nature dichotomy, and the emergent premise that all species are ecologically integrated with each other, as well as with the abiotic constituents of their biotope.

Ecosystems can be bounded and discussed with tremendous variety of scope, and describe any situation where there is relationship between organisms and their environment. If humans are part of the organisms, one can speak of a 'human ecosystem'. As virtually no surface of the earth today is free of human contact, all ecosystems can be more accurately considered as human ecosystems, or more neutrally as human-influenced ecoystems.

Biomes are terminologically similar to the concept of ecosystems, and are climatically and geographically defined areas of ecologically similar climatic conditions such as communities of plants, animals, and soil organisms, often referred to as ecosystems. Biomes are defined based on factors such as plant structures (such as trees, shrubs, and grasses), leaf types (such as broadleaf and needleleaf), plant spacing (forest, woodland, savanna), and climate. Unlike ecozones, biomes are not defined by genetic, taxonomic, or historical similarities. Biomes are often identified with particular patterns of ecological succession and climax vegetation.

Wilderness is generally defined as a natural environment on Earth that has not been significantly modified by human activity. The WILD Foundation goes into more detail, defining wilderness as: "The most intact, undisturbed wild natural areas left on our planet - those last truly wild places that humans do not control and have not developed with roads, pipelines or other industrial infrastructure." Wilderness areas and protected parks are considered important for the survival of certain species, ecological studies, conservation, solitude, and recreation. Wilderness is deeply valued for cultural, spiritual, moral, and aesthetic reasons. Some nature writers believe wilderness areas are vital for the human spirit and creativity.

The word, "wilderness", derives from the notion of wildness; in other words that which is not controllable by humans. The word's etymology is from the Old English wildeornes, which in turn derives from wildeor meaning wild beast (wild + deor = beast, deer). From this point of view, it is the wildness of a place that makes it a wilderness. The mere presence or activity of people does not disqualify an area from being "wilderness." Many ecosystems that are, or have been, inhabited or influenced by activities of people may still be considered "wild." This way of looking at wilderness includes areas within which natural processes operate without very noticeable human interference.

It is the common understanding of natural environment that underlies environmentalism — a broad political, social, and philosophical movement that advocates various actions and policies in the interest of protecting what nature remains in the natural environment, or restoring or expanding the role of nature in this environment. While true wilderness is increasingly rare, wild nature (e.g., unmanaged forests, uncultivated grasslands, wildlife, wildflowers) can be found in many locations previously inhabited by humans.

Very large development projects - megaprojects - pose special challenges and risks to the natural environment. Major dams and power plants are cases in point. The challenge to the environment from such projects is growing because more and bigger megaprojects are being built, in developed and developing nations alike.

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Social environment

The social environment (context),also known as the milieu, is the identical or similar social positions and social roles as a whole that influence the individuals of a group. The social environment of an individual is the culture that he or she was educated and/or lives in, and the people and institutions with whom the person interacts. A given social environment is likely to create a feeling of solidarity amongst its members, who are more likely to keep together, trust and help one another. Members of the same social environment will often think in similar styles and patterns even when their conclusions differ.

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Environment variable

Environment variables are a set of dynamic named values that can affect the way running processes will behave on a computer.

Shell scripts and batch files use environment variables to store temporary values for reference later in the script, and also to communicate data and preferences to child processes.

In Unix, an environment variable that is changed in a script or compiled program will only affect that process and possibly child processes. The parent process and any unrelated processes will not be affected. In DOS changing a variable's value (or removing it) inside a BATCH file will change the variable for the duration of command.com's existence.

In Unix, the environment variables are normally initialized during system startup by the system init scripts, and hence inherited by all other processes in the system. Users can, and often do, augment them in the profile script for the shell they are using. In Microsoft Windows, environment variables defaults are stored in the windows registry or set in autoexec.bat.

In DOS and Windows, the set command without any arguments displays all environment variables along with their values.

However, this is temporary. Permanent change to the environment variable can be achieved through editing the registry (not recommended for novices) and using the Windows Resource Kit application setx.exe. With the introduction of Windows Vista, the setx command became part of Windows. The most common method of setting an environment variable in Windows is via <Control Panel:System:Advanced:Environment Variables>.

The env, set, and printenv commands display all environment variables and their values. env and set are also used to set environment variables and are often incorporated directly into the shell. printenv can also be used to print a single variable by giving that variable name as the sole argument to the command.

In UNIX, the following commands can also be used, but are often dependent on a certain shell.

In UNIX shells, variables may be assigned without the export keyword. Variables defined in this way are displayed by the set command, but are not true environment variables, as they are stored in the shell and not in the kernel. They will not be detected by the printenv command and are not inherited by child processes.

There is no equivalent in the DOS or Windows environments.

On Unix, a setuid program is given an environment chosen by its caller, but it runs with different authority from its caller. The dynamic linker will usually load code from locations specified by the environment variables LD_LIBRARY_PATH and LD_PRELOAD and run it with the process's authority. If a setuid program did this, it would be insecure, because its caller could get it to run arbitrary code and hence misuse its authority. For this reason, libc unsets these environment variables at startup in a setuid process.

This variable contains the full path to the command processor, command.com.

This variable contains a semicolon-delimited list of directories in which the command interpreter will search for executable files. Equivalent to the UNIX $PATH variable (although note that PATH on Windows additionally performs the same task as LD_LIBRARY_PATH on Unix-like systems). Note that %PATH% can also be set like this PATH=c:\dos; where SET isn't required.

These variables contain the path to the directory where temporary files should be stored. Note that in MS-DOS 5 %TEMP% sometimes pointed to C:\DOS so removing all files in %TEMP% would cause great problems to say the least, something that the main creator of the web browser Arachne wasn't aware of and thus giving Arachne much unwarranted media criticism.

Contains the location of the user's home directory. Although the current user's home directory can also be found out through the C functions getpwuid and getuid, $HOME is often used for convenience in various shell scripts (and other contexts).

This variable points to the current directory. Equivalent to the output of the command pwd when called without arguments.

Contains the identifier for the display that X11 programs should use by default.

On many Unix systems with a dynamic linker, contains a colon-separated list of directories that the dynamic linker should search for shared objects when building a process image after exec, before searching in any other directories.

LANG expands to the default system locale; LC_ALL can be used to override this. For example, if its value is pt_BR, then the language is set to (Brazilian) Portuguese and the locale to Brazil.

Refers to Time zone. It can take values like GMT, AST, etc.

These variables generally expand to discrete values, such as the current working directory, the current date, or a random number. Some of these are true environment variable and will be expanded by all functions that handle environment variables. Others, like %CD% simply look like environment variables and will only be expanded by some functions and shells. They are not case sensitive.

This variable points to the current directory. Equivalent to the output of the command cd when called without arguments.

This variable expands to the current date. The date is displayed according to the current user's date format preferences.

The following is a way of reformatting the date and time for use in file copies. The example assumes UK format of day month year and the time is set for a 24 hour clock.

This variable points to the current error level. If there was an error in the previous command, this is what you need to check against to find out about that.

This variable points to the current time. The time is displayed according to the current user's time format preferences.

These variables refer to locations of critical operating system resources, and as such generally are not user-dependent.

Contains the full path to the Application Data folder of the logged-in user. Does not work on Windows NT 4.0 SP6 UK.

This variable contains the full path to the command processor; on Windows NT based operating systems this is cmd.exe, while on Windows 9x and ME it is the DOS command processor, COMMAND.COM.

This variable contains a semicolon-delimited (do not put spaces in between) list of directories in which the command interpreter will search for executable files. Equivalent to the UNIX $PATH variable.

This variable points to Program Files directory, which stores all the installed program of Windows and others. The default on English-language systems is C:\Program Files. In 64-bit editions of Windows (XP, 2003, Vista), there are also %ProgramFiles(x86)% which defaults to C:\Program Files (x86) and %ProgramW6432% which defaults to C:\Program Files. The %ProgramFiles% itself depends on whether the process requesting the environment variable is itself 32-bit or 64-bit (this is caused by Windows-on-Windows 64-bit redirection).

This variable points to Common Files directory. The default is C:\Program Files\Common Files.

The %SystemDrive% variable is a special system-wide environment variable found on Microsoft Windows NT and its derivatives. Its value is the drive upon which the system folder was placed. Also see next item.

The value of %SystemDrive% is in most cases C:.

The %SystemRoot% variable is a special system-wide environment variable found on Microsoft Windows NT and its derivatives. Its value is the location of the system folder, including the drive and path.

These variables store information related to resources and settings owned by various user profiles within the system. As a general rule, these variables do not refer to critical system resources or locations that are necessary for the OS to run.

The %AllUsersProfile% variable expands to the full path to the All Users profile directory. This profile contains resources and settings that are used by all system accounts. Shortcut links copied to the All Users' Start menu or Desktop folders will appear in every user's Start menu or Desktop, respectively.

The variable holds the name of the Workgroup or Windows Domain to which the current user belongs. The related variable, %LOGONSERVER%, holds the hostname of the server that authenticated the current user's logon credentials (name and password). For Home PCs, and PCs in a Workgroup, the authenticating server is usually the PC itself. For PCs in a Windows Domain, the authenticating server is a domain controller (a primary domain controller, or PDC, in Windows NT 4-based domains).

The %UserProfile% variable is a special system-wide environment variable found on Microsoft Windows NT and its derivatives. Its value is the location of the current user's profile directory, in which is found that user's HKCU registry hive (NTUSER).

Users can also use the %USERNAME% variable to determine the active users login identification.

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Source : Wikipedia