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Earth Science


Review Essays of Academic, Professional & Technical Books in the Humanities & Sciences


Geology and the Environment With Infotrac, 4th edition by Bernard W. Pipkin (Brooks Cole) explores the relationship between humans and the geologic hazards, processes, and resources that surround us. A true market leader, the book has an accessible and entertaining writing style, superior pedagogy, appropriate amount of detail and coverage, and tables that provide meaningful and relevant real data for readers. With an emphasis on geology that can improve the human endeavor, this new edition addresses the changing market as it consistently emphasizes student decision-making, careers, resources, and relevance. Medical geology, environmental law, land-use planning, and engineering geology are discussed within the context of each geologic situation rather than as separate chapters. The book has been significantly updated to address current events, such as recent earthquakes in Turkey and Taiwan and the Hector Mine earthquake in Southern California. There are now more global references, reflecting the increased scope of this field of study. The CD- ROM contains activities with simulations, animations, and live data.

Environmental geology is the study of the relationship between humans and their geologic environment. An under-lying assumption is that this relationship is interactive. Not only do naturally occurring geologic phenomena affect the lives of people each day, but also human activities affect geological processes, sometimes with tragic consequences. Renowned historian Will Durant noted that our physical environment "exists by geological consent, subject to change without notice." We may regard this as the historian's assurance that during our lifetimes, we will probably be subject to an earthquake, a flood, a landslide, volcanic activity, or some other significant geologic hazard. No one is truly educated until she or he knows about our geological environment and these hazards.

This book deals with the geology of now and not some distant past. The reader will find that the seismic chapter deals with earthquakes as recent as 2003 and emphasizes that earthquakes don't kill people; the collapse of human-built structures is the danger that seismic hazards present to our existence. The devastating magnitude-7.7 earthquake near Gujarat, India, in 2001 that killed close to 20,000 people is the example presented of the danger that poorly constructed buildings present to humans. An earthquake in the central United States in 2003 reminds us also that the most widely felt and perhaps the strongest earthquake in U.S. history was centered near New Madrid, Missouri, which has a geologic setting similar to Gujarat, India. Gujarat is worthy of study for this reason, and the U.S. Geological Survey believes the Gujarat earthquake to be an important event that can expand our understanding of mid-continent seismicity. The human misery and economic impact of natural disasters is difficult to evaluate, but the book emphasizes that practically no area is free from geologic hazards.

Fresh water is now thought to be the limiting factor to man's existence on earth, and this and the hydrologic hazards presented by too much water are emphasized. In late 2003 a group of young people were camped at the foot of the mountains in southern California that had been subject to an intense forest fire several months earlier. A debris flow caught them by surprise and took many lives. It is the sincere hope of the authors that the students who take this course and read this book will be more aware of the hazard that denuded slopes present during the rainy season. The same might be said of rip currents (erroneously called rip tides) in the surf zone discussed in the chapter on coastal environments. To be aware of your geologic surroundings will lead to a safer existence in an increasingly complex and dangerous world, and has the added benefit of being satisfying intellectually.

In a society where science and technology are inter-woven with economics and political action, an understanding of the sciences is increasingly important. The National Science Foundation, the National Center for Earth Science Education, and several other prestigious earth-science organizations are promoting earth-science literacy in the United States for students from elementary school through college. The hope is that through education, today's students will become better stewards of our planet than their predecessors have been. How long can civilization sustain itself if it continues to harvest the earth's natural resources at the current rate? How much responsibility should we as individuals take for maintaining the earth that we share, and how much can we accomplish as individuals? Earth-science literacy opens our minds to such questions and allows us to give them better answers. It helps us to appreciate the earth's beauty, but also to recognize its limitations.

One thing is certain: the earth can sustain just so much life, and it is now being pushed to the limit. The fragility of earth was described very eloquently by Apollo 14 astronaut Edgar Mitchell:


It is so incredibly impressive when you look back at our planet from out there in space and you realize so forcibly that it's a closed system—that we don't have unlimited resources, that there's only so much air and so much water. You get out there in space and you say to yourself "That's home. That's the only home we have, and the only one we're going to have for a long time." We had better take care of it. We don't get a second chance.

In this new edition, we are pleased to welcome our longtime friend and professional colleague, Rick Hazlett, to the author team. All of us have drawn upon our many field studies in the writing of this text. One of us (Pipkin) has specialized in the study of geologic hazards and their mitigation—more specifically, in the safe setting of engineering works ranging from dams and tunnels to single-family dwellings. Dee Trent has focused on geologic fieldwork, exploration for natural resources, and glacier studies. Rick Hazlett, formerly a ranger at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, has maintained his interest and his research on volcanoes and is active in environ-

mental studies. As colleagues in the teaching profession, it seemed natural for us to combine our past experiences and mutual interests in teaching and environmental protection in a textbook.

Geology and the Environment, Fourth Edition, is intended to fulfill the needs of a one-semester college course for students with little or no science background. It examines geologic principles, processes, and phenomena and relates them to human activities. What you learn in this course will be useful to you throughout your life. It will serve you as you form opinions about environmental issues, select a home site, or evaluate real property in a business venture. At the very least, when you understand how the earth "works," any fears you have about such things as earthquakes, hurricanes, and volcanic eruptions should be lessened.

This book presents geology that can be applied to improving the human endeavor. Chapter 1 presents an overview of the underlying cause of many of our present environmental problems. The stress of overpopulation on the environment has resulted in water and air pollution, land degradation, occupation of lands subject to geological hazards, and uncontrolled extraction of resources. The impact of overpopulation and the relatively new awareness of the environment are reasons that colleges are adding "environmental" courses such as environmental geology to their curriculums.

Because this book is intended for students who are not (yet!) geology majors, Chapters 2 and 3 offer some basic information useful for "getting around in geology." Chapter 2 presents information that is needed for the book's subsequent examinations of geological hazards and processes, mineral resources, and so on. The emphasis is that the earth is an interacting "system." Students will see that one cannot divorce atmospheric and oceanic processes from processes that occur on the solid earth surface, nor moving tectonic plates (Chapter 3) from volcanic and seismic activity.

Following these groundwork chapters, the focus shifts to various types of geologic processes and hazards. Earthquakes and volcanoes are two of the most spectacular expressions of the energy contained within the earth, and Chapters 4 and 5 examine how this energy is transferred to the earth's surface—where we live—and how we can learn to recognize the signals that "something's up" and work to minimize the dam-age when the inevitable occurs.

The next two chapters focus on geologic processes that occur on or very near the surface of the earth. Much of the soil that we build our homes on and grow our food in today is bedrock of the far distant past that has been chemically and physically altered through weathering processes (Chapter 6). Present-day rocks and soils continue to undergo these processes, in some cases assisted by human activities such as construction, mining, and extraction of water from the earth. The results—mass wasting (landslides) and ground subsidence and collapse—cause deaths and millions of dollars of damage each year. These ground-failure problems are examined in detail in Chapter 7.

Earth is sometimes described as the water planet, and the presence or absence of water is essential in defining the geological and biological environments in which we live. Chapter 8 deals with fresh-water resources, with the emphasis on underground water and how we can protect and con-serve this most essential resource. Streams, rivers, and lakes are also vital water and esthetic resources. They sustain life along their banks, and some of them are important means of transportation. They also pose hazards, most notably floods, to people who live along them. These hazards are the subject of Chapter 9.

In Chapter 10 we look at the effects of the largest bodies of water on earth, the oceans, on life. Coastal geologic processes, beaches, and hurricanes—the most life-threatening of all natural hazards—are examined. Because oceans play an important role in global climate, the phenomenon known as El Niño is discussed.

Glaciers and glaciation and their impacts on humans are the subject of Chapter 11. This chapter logically includes a discussion of long-term climate change, which leads naturally to the consideration of the potential for global warming that is so much on people's minds today. The theme of climate extremes continues in Chapter 12, which deals with arid environments and the consequences of human-induced desertification.

Geology and the Environment, Fourth Edition, closes with a look at mineral resources—their origins, limits, extraction, and processing—and at the potential health hazards to humans from mining and smelting activities (Chapter 13). All sources of energy that can be utilized by humans, their geology and limitations, are considered in Chapter 14. The geology of disposing of waste materials generated by affluent, energy-rich societies is discussed in the final chapter.

At most schools, the course for which this book is used is a component of the general education curriculum. General education broadens and enriches students' lives and minds beyond the specialization of their major interest. To this end, Galleries of photos at the end of each chapter illustrate many geologic wonders and some oddities. For example, at the end of Chapter 5 (Volcanoes), there are photographs of often-visited scenic volcanic features with explanations of how they formed. In addition, we also show some jarring images high-lighting the often catastrophic collision of humans with the volcanic environment. The Galleries are intended to stimulate students' curiosity and appreciation for natural geologic wonders.

Case Studies in each chapter highlight the relevance of the text discussion. These cover a broad spectrum of subjects and geographic areas, but many of them focus on the causes and aftereffects of bad environmental and geological planning. Also within each chapter are several provocative

The text continues to emphasize remediation and prevention, an outgrowth of the authors' professional geological experiences. All of the chapters on geological hazards have dedicated sections on mitigation options, and resource and pollution issues are considered both in terms of the problems we face and of the potential ways to help forestall or lessen the impacts of these problems.

We also continue to employ the systems approach in this edition—the idea that all of the earth's reservoirs (atmosphere, hydrosphere, solid earth, biosphere, and extraterrestrial) and the processes acting within them and interconnected.

Environmental legal issues are discussed in the text where they are applicable, rather than placed in a separate chapter near the end of the text.

All chapters have been updated in terms of data (where available), art, and photos. New Case Studies have been included and existing ones have been revised.

Consider This questions. They require students to apply the information just presented in the text and, thus, reinforce the learning. The questions will stimulate classroom discussion as well.

At the end of each chapter is a list of Key Terms introduced in the chapter, a Summary of the chapter in outline form, Study Questions geared to test understanding of the chapter's key concepts, and a list of related books and articles (For Further Information).

In this fourth edition of Geology and the Environment, we have attempted to incorporate as many of the reviewers' suggestions as possible. For example, the Case Studies were moved to the end of each chapter to make it easier for the student to follow the flow of text. It has also enabled the locating of figures closer to their discussions in the text and generally made the text more user friendly.

The new edition has been significantly enhanced with the introduction of a powerful new interactive media program called Environmental GeologyNow, which has been seamlessly integrated with the text, enhancing students' understanding of important geological processes. It brings geology alive with animated figures based directly on figures in the text (Active Figures), media-enhanced activities, tutorials, and personalized learning plans. And like other features in our new edition, it encourages students to be curious, to think about geology in new ways, and to connect their new-found knowledge of the world around them to their own lives.

Chapter 4 (Earthquakes and Human Activities) now provides a comparison of four extremely strong earth-quakes (Gujarat, India, 2001; Alaska, 2002; Colima, Mexico, 2003; and Northridge, California, 1994) and the different impacts they had on nearby inhabitants due to population density near the source. A discussion of impulsively generated waves (tsunami) now takes place in Chapter 10 (Coastal Environments and Humans) and has been expanded to include the danger, to all coastal dwellers, of submarine landslide-generated tsunami.

Chapter 11 (Glaciation and Long-Term Climate Change) contains significant revisions to discussions of climate change and evidence of global warming as well as completely new material on the shrinking Arctic ice cap. Chapter 12 (Arid Lands and Desertification) contains new sections on arid regions, winds, and human health, and an update on the drought in Africa's Sahel.

The chapters dealing with water are now presented as Fresh-Water Resources (Chapter 8) with the addition of lakes. Flooding by both streams and hurricanes as hazards at the earth's surface are to be found in Chapter 9 (Hydrologic Hazards at the Earth's Surface).

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