Glossary

Glossary2018-07-17T14:16:05-04:00
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Population Dynamics Unit

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arable: land that can be cultivated for the production of crops.

asylum seeker: a person who has left his/her country of origin and applied for refugee status to receive protection and support from a foreign nation.

birth rate: the number of babies born annually per 1,000 women of reproductive age in any given set of people.

brain drain: the emigration of highly trained or educated people from one country to another, usually in search of better living conditions, higher salaries or more stable political conditions.

carrying capacity: the maximum number of people a given area can support without degrading the natural, social, cultural, and economic environment for present and future generations.

cohort: a group of persons sharing a demographic characteristic, often age.

contraception: also called birth control, methods used by sexually active people to prevent pregnancy.

death rates: the number of individuals who die annually per 1,000 individuals in any given set of people.

demographers: scientists studying the characteristics of human populations, such as size, growth rate, and other vital statistics.

demographic transition: population change over time, in the three-part pattern: high birth and death rates, to high birth and low death rates, to low birth and low death rates.

developing countries: countries at a relatively early stage in the process of economic development classified using a range of economic and social criteria such as per capita income and life expectancy.

doubling time: the period of time required for a quantity or population to double in size assuming a constant growth rate.

ecological footprint: a resource management tool that measures how much land and water area a human population requires to produce the resources it consumes and to absorb its waste under prevailing technology.

emigrating: leaving one’s country to live in another.

exponential growth: also called geometric growth, growth with an increasing rate of change, resulting in faster and faster growth over time.

family planning program: a program which enables women and men to plan the timing and spacing of childbearing through reproductive health information and the use of contraceptives.

fertility rate: the average number of live births per woman during her reproductive years, among a given set of people.

forced migration: involuntarily leaving one’s country because of political or environmental drivers.

immigrating: arriving in a country after leaving another.

Industrial Revolution: a period in the 18th and 19th centuries during which human society transitioned from an agrarian and handicraft economy to one dominated by industry and machine manufacturing. This process began in Britain and from there spread to other parts of the world. The Industrial Revolution marks a major historical turning point, influencing many aspects of daily life for people around the world and contributing to unprecedented and sustained human population growth.

intervening obstacle: an environmental or cultural feature that hinders migration.

J-curve: also called a geometric curve, a J-shaped curve modeling population growth that is exponential, growing rapidly with no limit.

least developed countries: nations that have primarily agricultural economies and lower standards of living relative to most other countries, and face serious structural challenges to their sustainable development.

less developed countries: nations that generally have a less industrialized, more agricultural economy with lower standards of living relative to more developed countries.

life expectancy: the average number of years someone is expected to live based on current health trends.

limiting factor: an environmental or societal condition that limits the growth, size or distribution of a population.

migration: movement to a new location.

more developed countries: nations that generally have a more industrialized economy that is strong and diverse, and higher standards of living relative to less developed countries.

population growth rate: the average annual percent change in a population over time, resulting from the difference in births and deaths as well as the balance of migration into and out of a country.

population pyramid: distribution (by age and sex) of a given population, usually forming the shape of a pyramid.

pro-natalist: an individual or sentiment supportive of childbearing.

pull factor: a factor that motivates people to move to a new location.

push factor: a factor that motivates people to leave their current location.

rate of natural increase: the difference between the birth rate and the death rate of a given population.

refugee: person forced to leave their community or country in search of safety, often because of conflict or persecution.

remittance: cash or goods sent from migrants to support their family or friends back home.

S-curve: also called a logistic curve, an S-shaped curve modeling population growth that is initially exponential, and then levels off as population approaches a maximum size constrained by limited resources available.

urbanization: the process in which an increasing proportion of a population inhabits cities and their suburbs.

voluntary migration: choosing to relocate in order to take advantage of an opportunity such as better living conditions or better employment prospects.

zero population growth: a demographic balance where a population neither grows nor declines.

 Climate Change Unit

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afforestation: the planting of trees in an area where there were no trees before to create a new forest.

anthropogenic: caused or influenced by humans, often referring to human impacts on the environment or pollution produced by our activities.

cap and trade: an approach to reducing pollution by placing a limit (cap) on the amount of greenhouse gases that a company or country can legally emit and having companies pay penalties if they exceed it. This is paired with a market where companies buy and sell allowances (trade) permitting a certain amount of emissions. Companies that cut their emissions can save money by selling or saving their allowances, thereby incentivizing lower pollution.

carbon budget: the cumulative amount of carbon dioxide emissions permitted over a period of time to keep the global average temperature within a certain threshold.

carbon dioxide (CO2): a naturally occurring greenhouse gas in the atmosphere, concentrations of which have increased mostly due to human activities, such as the combustion of fossil fuels.

carbon dioxide emissions: carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere mostly from burning fossil fuels and other human activities.

carbon footprint: the amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases produced by the activities of a person or group in a given time frame.

carbon tax: a fee charged for carbon dioxide and greenhouse gas emissions, with the aim of discouraging the burning of fossil fuels (coal, oil, gas) and incentivizing energy efficiency and switching to cleaner energy sources.

chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs): ozone-depleting substances (ODSs), such as cleaning solvents or refrigerants, that are among the strongest insulators of greenhouse gases.

climate change: the regional and global changes in weather patterns and natural phenomena primarily caused by the human use of fossil fuels that releases carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into Earth’s atmosphere. These changes include increased temperature trends on Earth’s surface, sea level rise, sea and glacier ice melting, and extreme weather events.

climate refugees: people forced to leave their homes or communities because of the effects of climate change, including sea level rise, drought and desertification.

climate vulnerability: the degree to which natural ecosystems and human communities are susceptible to, or are unable to cope with, the adverse impacts of climate change.

emissions trading: a process established by Congress which assigns allowances (one allowance = one ton of emissions per year) to electric utilities and other industries that produce pollutants. Each utility or factory decides the most cost-effective way to reduce its emissions; then it may sell the allowances it no longer needs after the reductions.

environmental refugees: people forced to leave their homes due to a serious environmental disruption that threatens their survival or seriously affects their quality of life. Disruptions include sudden catastrophes such as floods and storms as well as slower disasters like prolonged drought, sea-level rise, and desertification.

food insecurity: a lack of consistent access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food for an active and healthy life.

fossil fuels: energy resources from the remains of plants and animals; most commonly used are oil, coal, and natural gas. When burned for energy, they create byproducts, such as carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide (greenhouse gases).

global warming: the increase in the average temperature of the Earth’s surface.

greenhouse gases (GHGs): gases which allow sunlight to enter the atmosphere freely, then absorb infrared radiation and trap heat in the atmosphere. Common examples include carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, chlorofluorocarbons, and ozone.

greenhouse effect: the exchange of incoming and outgoing radiation from the sun that warms the Earth. When solar energy reaches Earth’s atmosphere, some is reflected back to space and the rest is absorbed and re-emitted as heat by greenhouse gases. Increased levels of greenhouse gases from human activities trap more of the sun’s radiation and warm the planet’s surface above normal temperatures, causing global warming.

hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs): artificially produced chemicals used for refrigeration, air conditioning, foam blowing, aerosols, fire protection and solvents. HFCs were developed as alternatives to ozone-depleting substances phased out in the Montreal Protocol, but they have a global warming potential 1,000 to 3,000 times that of carbon dioxide, raising concerns about their efficacy as a replacement chemical.

Industrial Revolution: a period in the 18th and 19th centuries during which human society transitioned from an agrarian and handicraft economy to one dominated by industry and machine manufacturing. This process began in Britain and from there spread to other parts of the world. The Industrial Revolution marks a major historical turning point, influencing many aspects of daily life for people around the world and contributing to unprecedented and sustained human population growth.

market-based solution: a solution to an environmental problem that sets a price on pollution or other use of the environment and spurs businesses to find cost-effective ways to reduce their environmental impact.

methane (CH4): a greenhouse gas that remains in the atmosphere for approximately 9-15 years, emitted from a variety of natural and human-influenced sources, such as landfills, natural gas and petroleum systems, agricultural activities, coal mining, stationary and mobile combustion, and wastewater treatment.

Montreal Protocol: adopted in 1987, an international agreement which controls the production and consumption of substances that can cause ozone depletion.

national climate action plans: individual countries’ plans to translate the goals outlined in the Paris Agreement into action at the national level.

nitrous oxide (NOX): a gas formed when fuel is burned at high temperatures, as in a combustion process. The primary manmade sources of nitrogen oxides are motor vehicles, electric utilities, and other industrial, commercial, and residential sources that burn fuels. While many of the nitrogen oxides are colorless and odorless, nitrogen dioxide, along with particles in the air, can often be seen as a reddish-brown layer over urban areas.

ozone: a gas made of three oxygen atoms (O3) that occurs naturally in Earth’s upper atmosphere (the stratosphere) and protects life on Earth from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Ozone is also created by chemical reactions between air pollutants in the lower atmosphere (the troposphere) near Earth’s surface, where it can be toxic to humans, wildlife and plants.

ozone-depleting substances (ODSs): human made chemicals, such as chlorofluorocarbons, that deplete the ozone in the upper atmosphere and are the strongest insulators of greenhouse gases.

Paris Agreement: adopted in 2016, an international agreement that aims to respond to climate change by keeping global temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. The agreement also focuses on strengthening countries’ abilities to deal with climate change impacts. Nations that signed on develop a country-specific action plan outlining their best efforts to achieve the aims of the agreement.

permafrost: ground that remains below freezing (0°C) for at least two consecutive years. It often consists of a combination of soil, gravel, and sand bound together by ice.

subsidence: the gradual settling or sudden sinking of the Earth’s surface because of the movement of underground material. Subsidence is often caused by removing water, oil, natural gas, or mineral resources out of the ground.

United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC): a treaty which sets an overall framework for intergovernmental efforts to tackle the challenge posed by climate change, produced at the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development.

Air Pollution Unit

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8-hour ozone attainment: a standard measurement of air quality that requires ozone levels to be less than 85 parts per billion (ppb) when averaged over 8-hour time blocks, for three years.

acid rain: rain caused by a chemical reaction that begins when compounds such as sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide are released into the air. These substances can rise very high into the atmosphere, where they mix and react with water, oxygen, and other chemicals to form more acidic pollutants and become a part of our precipitation.

biofuel: organic material made from plants and animals, containing energy stored from the sun, which is burned or converted to create fuel. Wood, crops (such as corn and sugar cane), vegetable oils, and animal fats are primary examples.

biomass: organic material made from plants and animals that can be burned as a renewable and carbon dioxide neutral source of energy.

black carbon: a form of particulate air pollution usually caused by biomass burning, cooking with solid fuels and diesel exhaust.

cap and trade: an approach to reducing pollution by placing a limit (cap) on the amount of greenhouse gases that a company or country can legally emit and having companies pay penalties if they exceed it. This is paired with a market where companies buy and sell allowances (trade) permitting a certain amount of emissions. Companies that cut their emissions can save money by selling or saving their allowances, thereby incentivizing lower pollution.

carbon dioxide (CO2): a naturally occurring greenhouse gas in the atmosphere, concentrations of which have increased mostly due to human activities, such as the combustion of fossil fuels.

carbon dioxide emissions: carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere mostly from burning fossil fuels and other human activities.

carbon monoxide (CO): an odorless, colorless, tasteless gas that forms from the incomplete combustion (burning) of carbon containing fuels such as coal, wood, charcoal, natural gas, and fuel oil.

catalytic converters: car pollution control devices which help remove carbon monoxide from car exhaust.

chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: a disease in which the lungs are damaged, making breathing difficult; the most common cause is cigarette smoking.

Clean Air Act of 1970: the first comprehensive federal response to address air pollution, which mandates that the Environmental Protection Agency implement and regulate programs to reduce air pollution nationwide.

Clean Air Act of 1990: a package of amendments to the Clean Air Act designed to address environmental issues such as acid rain, toxic pollutants, and urban air pollution. The amendments also began the phase out of several ozone-depleting chemicals and promoted the use of low sulfur coal and natural gas to curb acid rain.

coal belt region: in China, the coal rich, 5000 km stretch from east to west along the northern part of the country.

coal combustion: the burning of coal for energy.

emissions trading: a process established by Congress which assigns allowances (one allowance = one ton of emissions per year) to electric utilities and other industries that produce pollutants. Each utility or factory decides the most cost-effective way to reduce its emissions; then it may sell the allowances it no longer needs after the reductions.

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA): federal agency established by the White House and Congress in 1970 “in response to the growing public demand for cleaner water, air and land.” Today, the EPA leads U.S. environmental science, research, education and assessment efforts.

flue gas desulfurization devices: technology that removes sulfur dioxide (SO2) from the flue gas, or exhaust fumes, emitted by power plants burning fossil fuels.

fossil fuels: energy resources from the remains of plants and animals; most commonly used are oil, coal, and natural gas. When burned for energy, they create byproducts, such as carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide (greenhouse gases).

global warming: the increase in the average temperature of the Earth’s surface.

greenhouse gases (GHGs): gases which allow sunlight to enter the atmosphere freely, then absorb infrared radiation and trap heat in the atmosphere. Common examples include carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, chlorofluorocarbons, and ozone.

ground-level ozone (smog): a gas created by chemical reactions between oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOC) in the presence of sunlight. Major sources of NOx and VOC include emissions from industrial facilities and electric utilities, motor vehicle exhaust, gasoline vapors, and chemical solvents.

heat inversions: a reversal of normal air behavior where a layer of cool air at the Earth’s surface is overlaid by a layer of warm air above it, preventing the upward movement of air and trapping air pollution near the surface.

indoor air pollution: air pollution in and around buildings and structures, often produced by cooking and heating using solid fuels like wood, charcoal, coal, and crop wastes. These practices can produce high levels of smoke containing a variety of health-damaging pollutants such as fine particles and carbon monoxide.

mercury (Hg): a heavy metal that can accumulate in the environment and is highly toxic if breathed or swallowed.

nitrogen dioxide (NO2): gas produced during many fossil fuel combustion processes that contributes to air pollution and acid rain. While many of the nitrogen oxides are colorless and odorless, nitrogen dioxide, along with particles in the air, can often be seen as a reddish-brown layer over urban areas.

nitrogen oxides (NOx): gases formed when fuel is burned at high temperatures, as in a combustion process. The primary manmade sources of nitrogen oxides are motor vehicles, electric utilities, and other industrial, commercial, and residential sources that burn fuels.

ozone standards: norms that impose limits on the amount of ozone produced. EPA establishes minimum standards, but states are allowed to be stricter.

particulate matter (PM): suspended particles of soot, ash, dust, acids, metals, and chemicals. Once inhaled, these particles can affect the heart and lungs and cause serious health risks.

severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS): a viral respiratory illness first reported in Asia in February 2003. The illness spread to more than two dozen countries in North America, South America, Europe, and Asia.

slums: informal settlements in urban areas that are densely populated and may be characterized by poor housing and a lack of reliable services such as sanitation, electricity, clean water and law enforcement.

sulfur dioxide (SO2): a gas formed when fuel containing sulfur (such as coal and oil) is burned, when gasoline is extracted from oil, or when metals are extracted from ore. SO2  dissolves in water vapor to form acid, and it interacts with other gases and particles in the air to form sulfates and other products that can be harmful to people and the environment.

United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): 17 interconnected goals that provide individualized guidelines and targets to help every nation develop sustainably, protecting the planet and ensuring all people enjoy peace and prosperity. The SDGs are meant to build on the Millennium Development Goals (2000 – 2015) and also focus attention on addressing new problems such as climate change, economic inequality, and sustainable consumption among other priorities.

ultraviolet (UV) radiation: part of the electromagnetic spectrum emitted by the sun. Though some is absorbed by the atmospheric ozone, most UV radiation reaches the Earth’s surface. Small amounts of UV radiation are essential for the production of vitamin D in people, yet overexposure may result in acute and chronic health effects on the skin, eye, and immune system.

World Health Organization (WHO): an international organization that collaborates with governments and other partners to “build a better, healthier future for people all over the world.” WHO directs and coordinates international health in the United Nations’ system.

Water Resources Unit

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2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development: an international plan of action developed by the United Nations in 2015 to build on the Millennium Development Goals with the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Generally, the agenda seeks to address global challenges like poverty and promote sustainable development for the betterment of people and the planet.

absolute water scarcity: also called physical scarity, a lack of sufficient natural water resources to meet a region’s needs.

aquifer: an underground source of water; a permeable layer of sand, gravel, or rock where water collects.

Clean Water Act: 1972 U.S. legislation that establishes limitations on contaminated discharges into waters and sets water quality standards; the most comprehensive environmental legislation in the nation’s history.

desalination: any process that removes salt and other dissolved solids from sea water to obtain freshwater suitable for consumption or irrigation.

desiccation: dryness resulting from the removal of water.

developing countries: a country at a relatively early stage in the process of economic development classified using a range of economic and social criteria such as per capita income and life expectancy.

eutrophication: a flourishing of algal blooms that depletes the water’s dissolved oxygen, suffocating marine life and potentially causing human disease.

fresh water: water containing very little dissolved solids (most often salt) that sustains human, plant and animal life.

groundwater: water absorbed in the ground, originally from rain, snow, sleet, or hail.

hydroelectric: using the power of falling or fast-flowing water to generate renewable, emissions-free electricity. Most hydroelectric power generation requires blocking waterways with dams, which can negatively affect water quality and freshwater ecosystems as well as displace local human communities.

irrigation: artificial processes that deliver water to crops.

Millennium Development Goals (MDGs): 8 goals which “form a blueprint agreed to by all the world’s countries and all the world’s leading development institutions.” The goals are: 1) eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, 2) achieve universal primary education, 3) promote gender equality and empower women, 4) reduce child mortality, 5) improve maternal health, 6) combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases, 7) ensure environmental sustainability, and 8) develop a global partnership for development.

salinity: a measure of the concentration of dissolved salts in water.

schistosomiasis: a disease caused by parasitic worms that is physically debilitating and potentially fatal. Infection occurs when larval forms of the parasite released by freshwater snails penetrate the skin during contact with infested water.

surface water: water resources like rivers, streams, lakes and reservoirs found on Earth’s surface.

trachoma: an eye infection in both eyes that is the leading cause of preventable blindness in the world. The disease thrives in places with crowded living conditions, shortages of water, and inadequate sanitation. It is highly contagious and spreads through contact with infected people or contaminated objects.

United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): 17 interconnected goals that provide individualized guidelines and targets to help every nation develop sustainably, protecting the planet and ensuring all people enjoy peace and prosperity. The SDGs are meant to build on the Millennium Development Goals (2000 – 2015) and also focus attention on addressing new problems such as climate change, economic inequality, and sustainable consumption among other priorities.

water-borne biological hazards: bacteria, viruses, and parasites found in water, often due to poor sanitation and pollution.

Forests Unit

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2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development: an international plan of action developed by the United Nations in 2015 to build on the Millennium Development Goals with the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Generally, the agenda seeks to address global challenges like poverty and promote sustainable development for the betterment of people and the planet.

background extinction: without human and environmental stress, the average number of species (including all organisms), per million species, that disappear each year; in the fossil era, the background extinction rate was 10 to 100 species per year.

biodiversity: the variety of life on Earth from the level of genes to ecosystems. It can also include the evolutionary, ecological, and cultural processes that sustain life.

boreal forest: also known as taiga, a large, dense coniferous forest found south of the tundra in North America and Eurasia that receives two meters or less annual precipitation, often in the form of snow.

carbon dioxide (CO2): a naturally occurring greenhouse gas in the atmosphere, concentrations of which have increased mostly due to human activities, such as the combustion of fossil fuels.

carbon sequestration: the long-term storage of carbon in plants, soils, and oceans that occurs naturally and as a result of human activities.

clear-cut: all trees cut and removed from an area of forest.

deforestation: the loss of forest due to overcutting of trees.

ecosystem: a community of living organisms that interacts with each other and their physical environment.

ecosystem services: the life-sustaining benefits provided by nature that are necessary for environmental and human well-being.

hectare: a metric unit of measurement for area equal to 10,000 square meters, or about 2.47 acres.

global warming: the increase in the average temperature of the Earth’s surface.

greenhouse gas (GHG): gases which allow sunlight to enter the atmosphere freely, then absorb infrared radiation and trap heat in the atmosphere. Common examples include carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, chlorofluorocarbons, and ozone.

methane (CH4): a greenhouse gas that remains in the atmosphere for approximately 9-15 years, emitted from a variety of natural and human-influenced sources, such as landfills, natural gas and petroleum systems, agricultural activities, coal mining, stationary and mobile combustion, and wastewater treatment.

old growth forest: a forest that is typically older than 200 years with large trees, dense canopies, and an abundance of diverse wildlife.

selective cutting: a logging process whereby harvesters cut only the trees they wish to sell, leaving the rest of the forest intact.

slash and burn agriculture: a method of cultivation often used in the rainforest, which involves cutting or burning large areas of land (usually for pasture or agriculture), and can leave soil infertile for many future generations.

supply chain: a network linking the entities that produce and distribute a specific product to consumers. This network includes suppliers, producers, distributors, retailers, and the consumers.

temperate forest: forests found in the moderate climates between the tropics and boreal regions in both the Northern and Southern Hemisphere. They may also be called “four-season forests” because the midlatitude climates harboring them tend to experience four distinct seasons. A vast diversity of different forest types make up this broad category, from the broadly distributed temperate deciduous forests to pine woods and relatively geographically restricted temperate rainforests.

tropical rainforest: a large, dense forest which grows near the equator, between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Tropic of Cancer, that receives four to eight meters of rain each year.

sustainable forest management: the environmentally, socially and economically beneficial management of forests for present and future generations that balances extracting forest products with maintaining forest integrity.

Oceans Unit

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2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development: an international plan of action developed by the United Nations in 2015 to build on the Millennium Development Goals with the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Generally, the agenda seeks to address global challenges like poverty and promote sustainable development for the betterment of people and the planet.

algal blooms: rapid growths of algae in aquatic systems that can have severe impacts on human and ecosystem health. They are often caused by nutrient pollution from human activities.

anthropogenic: caused or influenced by humans, often referring to human impacts on the environment or pollution produced by our activities.

aquaculture: the breeding, rearing and harvesting of plants and animals in all types of water environments.

booms: floating, physical barriers deployed to slow or contain the spread of oil or other pollutants in water environments.

bottom trawling: a fishing technique in which vessels drag large, heavy nets on the ocean floor, often scraping and damaging sea plants and animals.

bycatch: the unintentional injury or capture of wildlife during fishing operations.

coral bleaching: a loss of color in corals that occurs when changes in the environment such as temperature, light or nutrients cause them to expel the symbiotic algae that live in their tissues. When corals lose their algae, they lose their major source of food and become more vulnerable to disease.

cyanide fishing: a fishing technique in which fishers squirt sodium cyanide into the water to stun fish without killing them, making them easy to catch.

dead zone: an area of oxygen-depleted water uninhabitable for fish, caused by eutrophication.

destructive fishing practices (DFP): fishing techniques such as blast and cyanide fishing and muro-amni nets that pose a significant threat to fish and other marine wildlife.

ecosystem: a community of living organisms that interacts with each other and their physical environment.

fish aggregation devices (FADs): artificial structures deployed in oceans to attract schools of fish for harvesting. They can be made of various materials including bamboo, plastic, palm fronds, and fishing nets.

greenhouse gas (GHG): a gas which allows sunlight to enter the atmosphere freely, then absorbs infrared radiation and traps heat in the atmosphere. Common examples include carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, chlorofluorocarbons, and ozone.

in situ burning: the controlled burning of oil spilled at sea that, in certain conditions, can significantly reduce the amount of oil on the water and its impacts on ecosystems.

land subsidence: the gradual settling or sudden sinking of the Earth’s surface because of the movement of underground material. Subsidence is often caused by removing water, oil, natural gas, or mineral resources out of the ground.

longlining: also called long line fishing, a commercial fishing technique that connects hundreds of hooks to a single line that is typically 50-100 km long. Longlining can have a huge impact on ocean life, endangering any species that bites the baited hooks.

muro-ami nets: a fishing net attached with heavy weights that are pounded into coral reefs to startle fish into the encircling net. This practice can greatly damage coral reefs and quickly deplete fish populations.

nonpoint source pollution: a combination of pollutants from a diffuse area rather than specific sources, mostly as a result of contaminated runoff.

nuisance flooding: also called high tide flooding, flooding that causes public inconveniences such as road closure and other compromised infrastructure, mostly in coastal areas. As sea levels rise due to climate change, the frequency and intensity of these floods is increasing.

overfishing: fishing beyond the capacity of a population to replace itself through natural reproduction.

photic zone: the upper layer of water that can be penetrating by sunlight, allowing photosynthesis to occur.

phytoplankton: microscopic algae living in water that, like terrestrial plants, have chlorophyll to capture sunlight and use photosynthesis to turn it into energy. They are the base of many aquatic food webs, providing nutrients for whales, snails, jellyfish, and many other marine species.

purse seining: a fishing technique that uses a giant net to encircle and capture a large school of fish. Fisherman locate a school of fish, set the net around the school, then close off the bottom and trap the fish – called pursing because it is like pulling the drawstring of an old-fashioned purse.

top predators: species at the top of their “food chain” who, as key predators, play an important role in ecosystem balance.

wetlands: an area of land saturated with water (salt, fresh or in between) for all or parts of the year, such as marshes, estuaries, peatlands, rivers, and flooded forests. Wetlands act as water filters, control floods and erosion, and serve as habitat for a variety of plant and animal species among other essential ecosystem services.

Food and Hunger Unit

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agricultural mismanagement: improper farming techniques that can result in soil degradation, such as overuse of fertilizers, water, and pesticides.

agronomists: plant and soil scientists who develop new farming practices and technologies aimed at improving crop yields, quality, and resilience while protecting the environment and conserving natural resources.

arable: land that can be cultivated for the production of crops.

biofuels: organic material made from plants and animals, containing energy stored from the sun, which is burned or converted to create fuel. Wood, crops (such as corn and sugar cane), vegetable oils, and animal fats are primary examples.

Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD): a phenomenon in which almost all of the adult honeybees disappear from a hive, often leaving behind the queen and immature bees with plenty of food stores and a few nurse bees to take care of them. It is believed to be caused by multiple stressors, including parasites and pathogens, poor nutrition, exposure to pesticides, and habitat loss, among others.

crop diversification: the process of planting multiple different crops each season in order to break disease/insect cycles, reduce weeds, curb erosion, improve soil quality, lessen environmental resource impact, increase farmer profit, strengthen rural community and/or help domestic economy.

crop rotation: the practice of growing a series of different plants or leaving fields bare in successive seasons, in order to replenish nutrients and maintain the field’s productive potential.

deforestation: the loss of forest due to overcutting of trees.

erosion: the loss of soil by wind or rain, often exacerbated by human activities that weaken soil integrity such as deforestation and till farming.

fallow: land left unseeded and unplowed for a season or more, usually to let the soil recover for future farming.

famine: a food crisis where the scarcity of food is so severe and extensive that it causes widespread malnutrition and death from starvation and disease.

food insecurity: a lack of consistent access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food for an active and healthy life.

genetic modification (GM): also called genetic engineering, the process of altering an organism’s genetic material artificially, not by mating or natural recombination. Crops are often modified to increase their nutritional value, resistance to insects or diseases, and tolerance of pesticides.

Green Revolution: the development and diffusion of more productive agricultural methods in the 1970s and 1980s, namely the adoption of higher-yield crops and a greater use of fertilizers.

gross national income (GNI): an economic indicator that measures the approximate total income of all persons in the country by taking the GDP and adding all income from other countries, such as through interest, and subtracting all payments to other countries.

hectare: a metric unit of measurement for area equal to 10,000 square meters, or about 2.47 acres.

irrigation: artificial processes that deliver water to crops.

micronutrient deficiencies: a lack of essential dietary vitamins and minerals the body needs in small amounts for healthy growth and development.

monocultures: in agriculture, the practice of repeatedly growing a single crop or very few genetic variants of a crop on the same land for commercial farming purposes.

neonicotinoids: a group of pesticides that are effective against a wide range of insect species and considered less harmful to humans and other vertebrates. They are systemic pesticides, meaning plants absorb neonicotinoids and distribute them throughout their tissues. There are concerns that these pesticides play a role in recent pollinator declines around the world.

organic farming: producing food without the use of synthetic fertilizers or pesticides.

over-farming: growing the same crop on the same land too many years in a row, depleting soil nutrients and eventually losing the ability to grow anything on that land.

overgrazing: grazing livestock beyond the capacity of the land to renew itself through natural reproduction.

overharvesting: harvesting food or natural resources beyond the capacity of the land to renew itself through natural reproduction.

pollination: the act of moving pollen grains within or between flowers by the wind or pollinators like bees, birds, bats, butterflies, and other animals. Pollination is necessary for successful seed and fruit production in plants.

salinization: the process by which salt is deposited on topsoil after evaporating from irrigation water.

sustainable agriculture practices: an integrated system of plant and animal production that satisfies human food and fiber needs; enhances environmental quality and the natural resource base upon which the agricultural economy depends; makes the most efficient use of nonrenewable resources and on-farm resources and integrates, where appropriate, natural biological cycles and controls; sustains the economic viability of farm operations; and enhances the quality of life for farmers and society as a whole.

topsoil: the fertile upper layer of soil that contains the necessary nutrients for many plants to grow.

United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO): a specialized agency of the United Nations, founded in 1945, whose goal is to end hunger, maintain food security for all, and ensure access to high-quality foods so people can lead active, healthy lives.

Solid Waste Unit

Print Unit Glossary

biodegradable: the capability of a material to break down easily and relatively quickly by biological means, returning to the environment.

compost: organic material (such as yard trimmings or food waste) that can be used as a soil amendment or a medium to grow plants.

developing country: a country at a relatively early stage in the process of economic development classified using a range of economic and social criteria such as per capita income and life expectancy.

disposable economy: the production and consumption of goods that are disposable, single-use, or nondurable that force or encourage consumers to buy replacement products rather than repairing and reusing owned products.

energy recovery: any process that converts non-recyclable waste materials into usable electricity, heat, or fuel, including combustion, anaerobic digestion, and landfill gas recovery.

environmental justice: the right of all people and communities to equal treatment and meaningful involvement in the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws and policies.

Environmental Justice Movement: the movement to address environmental impacts on vulnerable communities – often people of color or low-income – that are often disproportionately affected by pollution and contamination, championed primarily by advocates from communities of color.

e-waste: any electrical equipment or electronic device that is near or at the end of its useful life, including electronics that are destined for reuse, recycling, or disposal. Components of e-waste can be harmful to humans and the environment when recycled or disposed of improperly.

greenhouse gas (GHG): a gas which allow sunlight to enter the atmosphere freely, then absorb infrared radiation and trap heat in the atmosphere. Common examples include carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, chlorofluorocarbons, and ozone.

hazardous waste: a waste that is potentially harmful to human health or the environment.

incinerator: a disposal system that burns solid waste or other materials.

landfill: a disposal area where garbage is piled and then covered with dirt and topsoil.

leachate: liquid (such as rainwater) that filters through a landfill and becomes contaminated.

Life cycle analysis (LCA): also known as life cycle assessment, an evaluation of the total environmental impact of a product that accounts for every input and output throughout the product’s life, including design, materials needed, production, use and disposal.

ozone depleting substances (ODSs): human-made chemicals, such as chlorofluorocarbons, that deplete the ozone in the upper atmosphere and are the strongest insulators of greenhouse gases.

planned obsolescence: a strategy for developing products that ensures it will become out-of-date or unusable within a known period of time, guaranteeing future demand for replacement products.

recycling: the act of collecting, sorting, and reprocessing old materials including glass, metals, and some plastics into usable materials.

solid waste: a non-liquid, non-gaseous category of waste from non-toxic household and commercial sources.

source reduction: the process of reducing waste by buying and consuming fewer things.

zoning laws: rules or laws within an urban area that dictate what sort of activities, behaviors, or construction are acceptable and which are not.

Biodiversity Unit

Print Unit Glossary

background extinction: without human and environmental stress, the average number of species (including all organisms), per million species, that disappear each year; in the fossil era, the background extinction rate was 10 to 100 species per year.

bioaccumulation: the build-up of harmful chemicals in organisms after uptake from the environment. Bioaccumulated toxins can affect entire ecosystems due to the interconnectedness of food webs.

biodiversity: the variety of life on Earth from the level of genes to ecosystems. It can also include the evolutionary, ecological, and cultural processes that sustain life.

biomes: the Earth’s major ecological communities, classified according to predominant vegetation and animals that have evolved to live there.

chlamydia: a sexually-transmitted bacterial infection that affects humans and other animals such as birds, mammals and reptiles. In all species, the disease can seriously damage the reproductive system, leading to infertility, sterility, abortion, inflammation, and influenza-like symptoms.

Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES): an international agreement between countries to ensure trade in wild animals and plants doesn’t threaten species’ survival. CITES lists species according to the degree of protection they need, and limits international trade accordingly.

clearcutting: cutting and removing all trees from an area of forest.

dead zone: an area of oxygen-depleted water uninhabitable for fish, caused by eutrophication.

deforestation: the loss of forest due to overcutting of trees.

ecosystem: a community of living organisms that interacts with each other and their physical environment.

ecosystem services: the life-sustaining benefits provided by nature that are necessary for environmental and human well-being.

endangered species: a species that is at risk of becoming extinct.

Endangered Species Act: a 1973 law providing broad protection for species of fish, wildlife, and plants that are listed as threatened or endangered in the U.S. or elsewhere. Provisions are made for listing species, as well as for recovery plans and the designation of critical habitat for listed species. Also the enabling legislation for the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

estuary: a body of water where freshwater from rivers and streams mixes with salt water from the ocean. Estuaries are some of the most productive environments on Earth, boasting high levels of plant and animal diversity.

eutrophication: a flourishing of algal blooms that depletes the water’s dissolved oxygen, suffocating marine life and potentially causing human disease.

extinction: the disappearance of a species or population.

H.I.P.P.O.: a mnemonic device for the greatest threats to biodiversity: Habit Loss, Invasive Species, Pollution, Human Population and Overharvesting.

indicator species: a species whose presence or absence reveals a characteristic of its environment, such as soil quality or climate change. These species are generally more sensitive to change and thus can provide early warnings of ecosystem disruptions.

invasive species: a species not originally from an ecosystem, whose introduction adversely affects its new environment.

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: a list that provides a framework to classify species according to their extinction risk. Its primary goal is to identify and document the species most in need of conservation attention and to provide an index of the state of degeneration of biodiversity.

keystone species: a species whose existence plays a large role in the survival of other species although it may have only a small presence in the ecosystem, and whose absence could result in major ecosystem upheaval.

mass extinction: a significant global rise in species extinction rates above background levels in a geologically short time period. There have been five mass extinction events in Earth’s history, and many scientists believe we are witnessing the sixth today.

microhabitat: a smaller part of a larger ecosystem that encompasses the specific biotic and abiotic conditions in an organism’s immediate vicinity.

observed extinction rate: the number of species documented as extinct by scientists over a certain period of time.

poaching: the illegal hunting and killing of wildlife.

predation: the act of one organism (the predator), killing and consuming another (the prey).

salmonella: a group of bacteria that is transmitted to humans from contaminated food. Symptoms include diarrhea, fever, abdominal cramps, and vomiting. Infection is preventable by properly refrigerating and cooking foods, and avoiding unpasteurized milk products.

top predator: a species at the top of their “food chain” who, as a key predator, plays an important role in ecosystem balance.

tropical rainforest: a large, dense forest which grows near the equator, between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Tropic of Cancer, that receives 4-8 meters of rain each year.

umbrella species: a species requiring a large area of habitat, whose preservation helps foster the survival of many other species in the ecosystem.

wetlands: an area of land saturated with water (salt, fresh or in between) for all or parts of the year, such as marshes, estuaries, peatlands, rivers, and flooded forests. Wetlands act as water filters, control floods and erosion, and serve as habitat for a variety of plant and animal species among other essential ecosystem services.

Energy Unit

Print Unit Glossary

biofuels: organic material made from plants and animals, containing energy stored from the sun, which is burned or converted to create fuel. Wood, crops (such as corn and sugar cane), vegetable oils, and animal fats are primary examples.

biomass: organic material made from plants and animals that can be burned as a renewable and carbon dioxide neutral source of energy.

carbon dioxide (CO2): a naturally occurring greenhouse gas in the atmosphere, concentrations of which have increased mostly due to human activities, such as the combustion of fossil fuels.

climate change: the regional and global changes in weather patterns and natural phenomena primarily caused by the human use of fossil fuels that releases carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into Earth’s atmosphere. These changes include increased temperature trends on Earth’s surface, sea level rise, sea and glacier ice melting, and extreme weather events.

developing countries: countries at a relatively early stage in the process of economic development classified using a range of economic and social criteria such as per capita income and life expectancy.

energy efficiency: technologies and measures that reduce the amount of electricity and/or fuel required to do work, such as powering homes, offices, and industries.

energy poverty: a lack of access to consistent energy services such as household electricity and clean cooking facilities.

fossil fuels: energy resources from the remains of plants and animals; most commonly used are oil, coal, and natural gas. When burned for energy, they create byproducts, such as carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide (greenhouse gases).

geothermal energy: energy obtained from the heat within the Earth.

greenhouse gases (GHGs): gases which allow sunlight to enter the atmosphere freely, then absorb infrared radiation and trap heat in the atmosphere. Common examples include carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, chlorofluorocarbons, and ozone.

hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”): the process of injecting fluids at high volume and pressure, producing fractures in underground rock formations which stimulates the flow of natural gas or oil. Hydraulic fracturing can create environmental problems including water pollution, air pollution, and strong seismic activity.

hydroelectric power: power generated using falling or fast-flowing water to produce renewable, emissions-free electricity. Most hydroelectric power generation requires blocking waterways with dams, which can negatively affect water quality and freshwater ecosystems as well as displace local human communities.

indoor air pollution: air pollution in and around buildings and structures, often produced by cooking and heating using solid fuels like wood, charcoal, coal, and crop wastes. These practices can produce high levels of smoke containing a variety of health-damaging pollutants such as fine particles and carbon monoxide.

Industrial Revolution: a period in the 18th and 19th centuries during which human society transitioned from an agrarian and handicraft economy to one dominated by industry and machine manufacturing. This process began in Britain and from there spread to other parts of the world. The Industrial Revolution marks a major historical turning point, influencing many aspects of daily life for people around the world and contributing to unprecedented and sustained human population growth.

nonrenewable energy: energy resources that will be depleted or will not be replenished in a short period of time.

nuclear energy: energy or power produced by nuclear reactions (fusion or fission).

OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development): an international forum of 35 member countries whose mission is to promote policies that increase economic and social well-being for people around the world. OECD studies economic and social developments, recommends policy decisions, and then governments implement those recommendations.

Paris Agreement: adopted in 2016, an international agreement that aims to respond to climate change by keeping global temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. The agreement also focuses on strengthening countries’ abilities to deal with climate change impacts. Nations that signed on develop a country-specific action plan outlining their best efforts to achieve the aims of the agreement.

petroleum: also called crude oil, a liquid fossil fuel extracted from underground deposits that is processed into gasoline and many consumer products. This is a nonrenewable energy resource.

renewable energy: an energy resource such as wind power or solar energy that can keep producing indefinitely without being depleted.

solar photovoltaic (PV) energy: energy produced by converting sunlight directly into electricity.

United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): 17 interconnected goals that provide individualized guidelines and targets to help every nation develop sustainably, protecting the planet and ensuring all people enjoy peace and prosperity. The SDGs are meant to build on the Millennium Development Goals (2000 – 2015) and also focus attention on addressing new problems such as climate change, economic inequality, and sustainable consumption among other priorities.

wind energy: power or energy derived from the wind.

Rich and Poor Unit

Print Unit Glossary

demographic transition: population change over time, in the three-part pattern: high birth and death rates, to high birth and low death rates, to low birth and low death rates.

Demographic Transition Model (DTM): a theory that explains how a country’s total population growth rate shifts through stages as that country develops economically. It predicts that the population will eventually stabilize as the country trends toward lower birth and death rates.

developing country: a country at a relatively early stage in the process of economic development classified using a range of economic and social criteria such as per capita income and life expectancy.

family planning: the practice of attaining a desired number of children and determining the spacing of pregnancies, achieved by providing access to contraceptives, reproductive health services as well as education.

Gini coefficient: also called a Gini index, a measurement of the degree of inequality in family income distributions in a country. A value of 0 represents perfect equality, and a value of 100 represents perfect inequality.

globalization: the global integration of trade, investment, information technology and cultures among people, companies and governments of different countries.

gross domestic product (GDP): an economic indicator which measures the total market value of all goods and services produced by a nation’s economy over a given period of time (usually a year).

gross national income (GNI): an economic indicator that measures the approximate total income of all persons in the country by taking the GDP and adding all income from other countries, such as through interest, and subtracting all payments to other countries.

human capital: the economic value of a worker’s skill set, which accounts for education, training, experience, skills and abilities among other resources.

Industrial Revolution: a period in the 18th and 19th centuries during which human society transitioned from an agrarian and handicraft economy to one dominated by industry and machine manufacturing. This process began in Britain and from there spread to other parts of the world. The Industrial Revolution marks a major historical turning point, influencing many aspects of daily life for people around the world and contributing to unprecedented and sustained human population growth.

least developed countries: nations that have primarily agricultural economies and lower standards of living relative to most other countries, and face serious structural challenges to their sustainable development.

less developed countries: nations that generally have a less industrialized, more agricultural economy with lower standards of living relative to more developed countrires.

life expectancy: the average number of years someone is expected to live based on current health trends.

Millennium Development Goals (MDGs): 8 goals which “form a blueprint agreed to by all the world’s countries and all the world’s leading development institutions.” The goals are: 1) eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, 2) achieve universal primary education, 3) promote gender equality and empower women, 4) reduce child mortality, 5) improve maternal health, 6) combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases, 7) ensure environmental sustainability, and 8) develop a global partnership for development.

more developed countries: nations that generally have a more industrialized economy that is strong and diverse, and higher standards of living relative to less developed countries.

poverty: an economic state which, according to the World Bank, is defined as “income level below which people are defined as poor, based on the income level people require to buy life’s basic necessities – food, clothing, housing – and satisfy their most important sociocultural needs.” The poverty line changes over time and varies by region; the official national poverty line is determined by a country’s government.

Purchasing Power Parity (PPP): a theory that uses the exchange rates of countries to measure how many goods and services an amount of currency can provide in different nations. It is often used to compare the quality of life in various areas.

quality of life: a measurement of the well-being of an individual or group that includes physical elements such as health, shelter, and safety as well as psychological aspects such as stress, joy, and worry.

slums: informal settlements in urban areas that are densely populated and may be characterized by poor housing and a lack of reliable services such as sanitation, electricity, clean water and law enforcement.

United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): 17 interconnected goals that provide individualized guidelines and targets to help every nation develop sustainably, protecting the planet and ensuring all people enjoy peace and prosperity. The SDGs are meant to build on the Millennium Development Goals (2000 – 2015) and also focus attention on addressing new problems such as climate change, economic inequality, and sustainable consumption among other priorities.

Urbanization Unit

Print Unit Glossary

aquifer: an underground source of water; a permeable layer of sand, gravel, or rock where water collects.

climate refugees: people forced to leave their homes or communities because of the effects of climate change, including sea level rise, drought and desertification.

developed countries: countries that have a generally more industrialized economy that is strong and diverse, and higher standards of living relative to developing countries.

developing countries: countries at a relatively early stage in the process of economic development classified using a range of economic and social criteria such as per capita income and life expectancy.

gross domestic product (GDP): an economic indicator which measures the total market value of all goods and services produced by a nation’s economy over a given period of time (usually a year).

impervious surfaces: land that does not permit water and precipitation to infiltrate to ground water, such as roads, buildings, and parking lots. As impervious surfaces replace natural landscapes, more runoff occurs which, in turn, affects water quality, streamflow and flooding.

informal settlements: residential areas where inihabitants live in unauthorized, unplanned or illegal housing that is often cut off from basic services and infrastructure.

land subsidence: the gradual settling or sudden sinking of the Earth’s surface because of the movement of underground material. Subsidence is often caused by removing water, oil, natural gas, or mineral resources out of the ground.

megalopolis: a clustered network of heavily populated cities or urban areas.

megacity: cities or urban areas with a population of 10 million residents or more.

slum: an informal settlement in an urban area that is densely populated and may be characterized by poor housing and a lack of reliable services such as sanitation, electricity, clean water and law enforcement.

smart growth: an alternate form of development that combats urban sprawl by revitalizing city centers and existing suburbs, planning for pedestrians, building mixed-use residential and commercial spaces, and taking into account environmental considerations.

suburb: an area characterized by low density housing spread over a city’s surrounding countryside.

sustainability: the ability to satisfy the needs of the world’s present population without compromising the Earth’s ability to meet the needs of future generations.

urban agglomerations: an integrated urban area that encompasses a core city and its contiguous suburbs.

urban heat islands: a metropolitan area that experiences significantly higher temperatures than the surrounding rural areas due to the high densities of people, buildings, and activity.

urban runoff: water polluted by traffic exhaust, residue, gasoline, garbage, and/or other contaminants that washes into rivers, streams, and oceans.

urban sprawl: also called suburban sprawl, the outward development of cities from the city center, that varies in levels of organization, planning, and structure.

urbanization: the process in which an increasing proportion of a population inhabits cities and their suburbs.

zoning laws: rules or laws within an urban area that dictate what sort of activities, behaviors, or construction are acceptable and which are not.

United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): 17 interconnected goals that provide individualized guidelines and targets to help every nation develop sustainably, protecting the planet and ensuring all people enjoy peace and prosperity. The SDGs are meant to build on the Millennium Development Goals (2000 – 2015) and also focus attention on addressing new problems such as climate change, economic inequality, and sustainable consumption among other priorities.

The World’s Women Unit

Print Unit Glossary

contraception: also called birth control, methods used by sexually active people to prevent pregnancy.

developing country: a country at a relatively early stage in the process of economic development classified using a range of economic and social criteria such as per capita income and life expectancy.

dowry: a cultural practice where money, property or goods are given to the husband or his family from the bride or her family.

family planning: the practice of attaining a desired number of children and determining the spacing of pregnancies, achieved by providing access to contraceptives, reproductive health services as well as education.

fertility rate: the average number of live births per woman during her reproductive years, among a given set of people.

gender-biased sex selection: the selective termination of pregnancies when the fetus is known or predicted to be a female because male children are valued over female children in a particular family or society.

illiteracy: the inability of an individual to use reading, writing, and computational skills in everyday life.

infant mortality rate: the annual number of deaths to infants under one year of age per 1,000 live births.

malnutrition: the condition that occurs when a person’s body does not receive enough nutrients, often caused by an inadequate or unbalanced diet.

maternal mortality: the death of a woman from pregnancy-related causes.

prenatal care: the healthcare a woman receives during pregnancy, including dietary and lifestyle counseling, physical exams and the regular monitoring of the expectant mother and developing fetus.

replacement level fertility: the level of fertility at which a couple has only enough children to replace themselves; usually estimated to be 2.1 children per woman.

wage gap: also called the gender pay gap, the phenomenon of females earning less pay than males, on average, as well as in the same jobs or professions.

Health Unit

Print Unit Glossary

anthropogenic: caused or influenced by humans, often referring to human impacts on the environment or pollution produced by our activities.

common source epidemic: an illness in which all affected people acquired the pathogen immediately from the same source, such as Lyme disease.

contraception: also called birth control, methods used by sexually active people to prevent pregnancy.

density dependent: describes a parameter that varies causally with population density, such as the rate of a disease spreading within a population.

developing countries: countries at a relatively early stage in the process of economic development classified using a range of economic and social criteria such as per capita income and life expectancy.

disease vectors: organisms or contaminated objects that transmit infectious diseases between humans or from animals to humans.

ecosystem: a community of living organisms that interacts with each other and their physical environment.

epidemiologist: a scientist concentrating on the diffusion of illness, including the source, mode of transmission, and methods of control.

family planning: the practice of attaining a desired number of children and determining the spacing of pregnancies, achieved by providing access to contraceptives, reproductive health services as well as education.

gross domestic product (GDP): an economic indicator which measures the total market value of all goods and services produced by a nation’s economy over a given period of time (usually a year).

indicators: measurements or values that inform you about the condition or state of a population or country.

life expectancy: the average number of years someone is expected to live based on current health trends.

malnutrition: the condition that occurs when a person’s body does not receive enough nutrients, often caused by an inadequate or unbalanced diet.

maternal mortality: the death of a woman from pregnancy-related causes.

particulate matter (PM): suspended particles of soot, ash, dust, acids, metals, and chemicals. Once inhaled, these particles can affect the heart and lungs and cause serious health risks.

propagated epidemic: an illness with many points of transmission, such as chicken pox.

risk transition: the changing pattern of environmental health hazards and associated health risks with time and economic development.

urbanization: the process in which an increasing proportion of a population inhabits cities and their suburbs.

World Health Organization (WHO): an international organization that collaborates with governments and other partners to “build a better, healthier future for people all over the world.” WHO directs and coordinates international health in the United Nations’ system.

Personal Consumption Unit

Print Unit Glossary

Better Life Index: a visualization of 11 key factors that facilitate clear comparisons of well-being among OECD countries.

biocapacity: the capacity of ecosystems to produce useful biological materials and to absorb waste materials generated by humans, using current management schemes and extraction technologies.

carrying capacity: the maximum number of people a given area can support without degrading the natural, social, cultural, and economic environment for present and future generations.

collaborative consumption: also called the sharing economy, the shared use of a good or service by a group that utilizes underused assets by matching needs with haves.

ecological economics: a transdisciplinary field that aims to describe and analyze an integrated system of ecology, economics, and human well-being.

ecological footprint: a resource management tool that measures how much land and water area a human population requires to produce the resources it consumes and to absorb its wastes under prevailing technology.

gross domestic product (GDP): an economic indicator which measures the total market value of all goods and services produced by a nation’s economy over a given period of time (usually a year).

hectare: a metric unit of measurement for area equal to 10,000 square meters, or about 2.47 acres.

Human Development Index (HDI): a measure of average achievement in key dimensions of human development: life expectancy, education, and standard of living. The HDI was developed by the United Nations Development Program.

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs: a theory of human motivation that describes five sets of needs (physiological, safety, social, esteem, and self-actualization) that need to be fulfilled in a specific order starting with the most basic for survival.

material footprints (MF): the amount and types of natural resources required to sustain nations’ economies.

natural capital: the natural assets and ecosystem services that makes human life and civilization possible.

overproduction: manufacturing more of a product, commodity, or material than is needed or desired.

physical capital: manmade technology and goods that enable efficient production, including cash, computers, equipment, and buildings.