PolSci Definitions

  1. Environment:
    The aggregate of all the external conditions and influences affecting the life and development of an organism.
  2. Ecology:
    a branch of science concerned with how living organisms are connected to each other and to their environment; derived from the Greek oikos, household or living place.
  3. Ecosystem:
    The organisms of a particular habitat, such as a pond or forest, together with their physical environment. Depending upon their purpose scientists, resource managers or policymakers consider a lake, a watershed or an entire region an ecosystem.
  4. Habitat:
    The environment in which an organism lives.
  5. Sustainable Development:
    Development which meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
  6. Greenhouse effect:
    Changes in the earth's atmosphere due to the burning of fossil fuels, the release of other pollutants and deforestation which is increasing the temperature of the earth.
  7. Ozone depletion:
    The loss of the shield matter in the upper atmosphere which blocks out harmful ultra-violet rays due to the release of chemicals such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs).
  8. Deforestation:
    The permanent loss of forests or their conversion to other uses.
  9. Limits to survival:
    Each species operates within environmental limits beyond which survival is not possible; if things are too cold, hot, dry, wet--death results; if change is slow enough a species may adapt and survive.
  10. Soil Degradation:
    a process that describes human-induced phenomena which lessen the current and/or future capacity of the soil to support human life.
  11. Evolutionary adaptation:
    Plants and animals have evolved the ability to deal with the physical conditions to which they are normally exposed.
  12. Photosynthesis:
    The process by which simple carbohydrates (sugars, starches, cellulose) are formed from carbon dioxide, water and essential nutrients in special plant cells using sunlight as the energy source.
  13. Cellular Respiration:
    the controlled burning of carbohydrates which produces energy and enables growth and reproduction--this is (roughly) the reverse of photosynthesis.
  14. Food chains:
    the cycle in which the nutrients necessary for life pass from and through plants and animals to the soil and from the soil back to plants.
  15. Politics:
    The activity of reconciling conflicts and gathering support that makes government possible.
  16. Desertification:
    The process by which extreme levels of soil degradation (usually preceded by deforestation) produce desert like conditions in formally non-degraded soils.
  17. Acclimation:
    The ability of the current generation of individual plants and animals to change their tolerance to physical factors when exposed to gradually changing conditions.
  18. Transpiration:
    The process by which plants release water through tiny pores where evaporation occurs.
  19. Decomposers:
    The bacteria, fungi, soil insects and worms which digest the wastes/dead bodies of other organisms; breaks down organic molecules and returns them to soil or water.
  20. Carrying capacity:
    The maximum number of organisms that can use a given area of habitat without degrading it and without causing social stresses that cause species to die or to die out.
  21. Biodiversity:
    All living organisms and the ecological complexes of which they are a part; in other words, the variety of the world's species and genes.
  22. Renewable fuels:
    Examples are wood, plants, dug, falling water, geothermal sources, solar, tidal, wind, wave, human and animal muscle power and nuclear 'breeder' reactors and fusion reactors.
  23. External costs:
    Costs (or benefits) imposed on others by the producer which effect neither the producer's decision to produce nor his costs.
  24. Industrialization:
    The process in which work organization dominated by capital- intensive industry, division-of-labour and economies of scale in which the use of machines powered by fossil fuels replaced craftwork and the power of humans, animals and nature.
  25. Modernity:
    Refers to modes of social life or organization which emerged in Europe from about the seventeen century and which subsequently became more or less worldwide in their influence.
  26. Globalization:
    The intensification of worldwide social relations which link distant localities in such a way that local happenings are shaped by events occurring many miles away and vica versa.
  27. Temperate Forests:
    Hardy, resilient trees which have evolved to survive in a seasonal climate and draw 97% of the nutrients for new growth from the soil.
  28. Tropical Forests:
    Trees which survive in a relatively constant climate; they are sensitive and have less ability to survive change; 90% of the nutrients they need are stored in vegetation.
  29. Urbanization:
    The phenomena in which the effects of industrialization forced the predominately rural population to migrate to urban areas.
  30. Government:
    The process that makes and enforces rules and decisions for society.
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PolSci Definitions
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