Environmental science is the scientific study of how the natural world works, how our environment affects us, and how we affect our environment. Understanding these interactions helps us devise solutions to society’s many pressing challenges. It can be daunting to reflect on the sheer magnitude of dilemmas that confront us, but these problems also bring countless opportunities for creative solutions.
Environmental scientists study the issues most centrally important to our world and its future. Right now, global conditions are changing more quickly than ever. Right now, we are gaining scientific knowledge more rapidly than ever. And right now, there is still time to tackle society’s biggest challenges. With such bountiful opportunities, this particular moment in history is an exciting time to be alive—and to be studying environmental science. Islands are finite and bounded, and their inhabitants must cope with limitations in the materials they need.
On our island—planet Earth—there are limits to many of our natural resources, the substances and energy sources that we take from our environment and that we rely on to survive. Natural resources that are replenished over short periods are known as renewable natural resources. Some renewable natural resources, such as sunlight, wind, and wave energy, are perpetually renewed and essentially inexhaustible.