Sustainability is based on a simple principle: Everything that we need for our survival and well-being depends, either directly or indirectly, on our natural environment.  Sustainability creates and maintains the conditions under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony, that permit fulfilling the social, economic and other requirements of present and future generations.  Sustainability is important to making sure that we have and will continue to have the water, materials, and resources to protect human health and our environment. — Environmental Protection Agency

Sustainability is an enormous subject, encompassing social studies, science, and many other areas.

What follows is a brief outline highlighting some of the issues pertaining to sustainability.

Needs (for Survival)

Resources (Needed for Survival)


Factors Sustaining Resources

renewable energy (wind, solar)

Factors Un-Sustaining Resources

nonrenewable energy – fossil fuels (coal, oil, natural gas)
climate change

Practice – Questions

The following pictorial line graph from the Environmental Protection Agency shows the growth (or lack of growth) of various aspects of the United States over time.cleanairact
1.  Based on the line graph, which of the following air pollutants increased?
A.  Aggregate Emissions
B.  Flatulent Emissions
C.  Premature Emissions
D.  CO2 Emissions 

2.  Based on the line graph, which of the following air pollutants decreased?
A.  Aggregate Emissions
B.  Flatulent Emissions
C.  Premature Emissions
D.  CO2 Emissions

The following bar chart from shows various substances in the Ashley/Cooper River Basin (South Carolina) waterways.cleanwateract
3.  Based on the bar chart, if you were in charge of providing clean drinking water for residents served by these waterways, which substance would require the most removal?
A.  dissolved oxygen
B.  mercury
C.  copper
D.  fecal coliforms

4.  Based on the bar chart, which substance sounds as if it could enter the waterways from bodily functions?
A.  dissolved oxygen
B.  mercury
C.  copper
D.  fecal coliforms

The following map from the U.S. Department of Agriculture shows the distribution of soil erosion from farmland in 1997.soilerosion
5.  Based on the map, which area of the country had the greatest amount of soil erosion?
A.  Northeast
B.  South
C.  West
D.  Midwest

6.  Based on the map, which river was probably the main receptacle of the soil erosion?
A.  Colorado
B.  Rio Grande
C.  Mississippi
D.  Potomac

The following two line graphs from the Environmental Protection Agency show trends in U.S. municipal solid waste (MSW) generation and recycling, respectively.mswgeneration
7. Based on the top line graph, from which year did MSW generation appear to level off?
A.  1965
B.  1970
C.  1985
D.  2005

8. Based on both line graphs, what might account for MSW generation leveling off?
A.  increased recycling
B.  increased internet surfing
C.  increased distracted driving
D.  increased binge televisioning

The following bar chart from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency shows recycling rates for various materials.recyclingrates
9.  Based on the bar chart, which material had the highest recycling yield?
A.  white translucent bottles
B.  lead-acid batteries
C.  tires
D.  aluminum cans

10.  Based on the bar chart, which material had slightly under a 50% recycling yield?
A.  white translucent bottles
B.  lead-acid batteries
C.  tires
D.  aluminum cans

Practice – Answers

1.  D.  CO2 Emissions

2.  A.  Aggregate Emissions

3.  D.  fecal coliforms

4.  D.  fecal coliforms

5.  D.  Midwest

6.  C.  Mississippi

7.  D.  2005

8.  A.  increased recycling

9.  B.  lead-acid batteries

10.  C.  tires

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