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Environmental Scientists

History

Environmental science has early roots in the 1800s, when scientists began drawing a correlation between living things and the environment. During this time the English naturalist Charles Darwin developed his controversial theory of natural selection, which states that animals and species that are best adapted to their environments are the ones that survive, while others die out. Geologists unearthed fossils of many prehistoric plants and animals that had once lived on this planet but no longer existed. Research into why these animal and plant species became extinct—such as due to catastrophic climate and environmental changes—continues to this day. 

The 1960s and 1970s kicked off the beginning of global environmental awareness and increasing interest in environmental science. In the United States alone, numerous laws were passed to address such issues as air and water pollution, landfills, hazardous waste, and endangered and threatened species and habitats. People became more knowledgeable about the direct and indirect impact human activity has on the environment, and in reverse, the impact that a damaged environment can have on human health and the health of all living creatures. The Environmental Protection Agency was created at this time to protect the natural environment and human health, and with it followed many new and amended environmental laws enacted to protect land, air, and water, such as the Clean Air Act, the Toxic Substances Control Act, and the Pollution Prevention Act.

The profession of environmental scientist has also grown since the 1970s, in direct relation to the greater need to remedy and repair damaged ecosystems, and the desire to prevent pollution and other hazards before they occur. Today's environmental scientists study topics such as global warming, global climate change, ozone depletion, forest conservation, soil erosion, the effects that energy exploration and extraction techniques such as fracking have on the environment, and changes in the earth's atmosphere.

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