Passage 2 | Environmental Science
The Planet’s Ecological Crisis
As a result of countries becoming more and more industrialized, pollution has become a serious problem. Unfortunately, efforts to mitigate the planet’s pollution problems are s failing to match the level of environmental contamination generated by human cultures. In response to this increase in ecosystem change, the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA) was launched in 2001 by the United Nations o Secretary-General, Kofi Annan. The aims of this research program are to provide people— both decision-making officials and the general public—with information about the likely future consequences of current human activity is that affects the ecosystem. In March 2005, the MA issued its first report based on four years of research. The conclusions presented in the report emphasize the magnitude of the negative ecological effects caused by societies 20 all over the world.
According to the MA board’s statement summarizing the report, practically two-thirds of the services provided by the ecosystem are currently jeopardized by human activities. Although some of these assets—like erosion control and cultural heritage—are often underappreciated because they cannot be marketed for economic gain, they are nonetheless very valuable resources. In addition to furnishing fundamental resources like food and water, the Earth’s ecosystem offers a host of other benefits that societies depend on every day, such as climate regulation, recreation, tourism, storm protection, aesthetic 35 quality, and spiritual value.
Equating the value of an ecological service solely with its marketability is short¬sighted and hazardous. The benefits provided by forests, for example, are generally measured in terms of the economic value of logging and grazing, two activities that result in the destruction of the forest. Forests provide non-marketable services that not only have significant economic value but are sometimes is even essential to human well-being. Carbon sequestration (the long-term storage of carbon, which slows the buildup of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere) and regulation of air quality are two non-marketable yet economically valuable services provided by forests. According to one study, over the course of a year, trees in Chicago saved the city over nine million dollars in air-quality improvements.
To help people understand the consequences of disrupting the ecosystem, the MA board’s statement associates an economic value with the planet’s natural resources by factoring in both their saleable and unsaleable services. Comparing the latter figure with the net value obtained when natural resources are depleted for their marketable services shows that it is economically advantageous for human societies to be ecologically sensitive. For example, ecologically preserved Canadian wetlands are worth nearly 6,000 US dollars per hectare, but only 2,500 dollars per hectare when intensively farmed.
The MA report makes it evident that humankind has arrived at a point in time where the only way to lessen environmental problems is at an international level, for resolving the planet’s ecological imbalance is an issue too great for single countries or individual people to tackle. [A] Environmental problems have reached such epic proportions that any countermeasure will need to be on the scale of an international environmental movement. [B] At the base of an effective environmental movement, there must be a change in individuals’ attitudes toward preserving the ecosystem. [C] The perception of the environment as an eternally self- renewing service must be shifted, allowing 3! people to recognize the need for conservation —a task that would be accomplished by providing everyone with better education about the world’s increasing pollution crisis and expanding communities’ roles in caring so for local environments. [D] The MA believes that if people feel a sense of ownership of local natural resources, they will be more motivated to take action to protect the environment from decisions that would exploit it. In addition to educating the public about the importance of the ecosystem, a response to the current environmental crisis must influence policymakers by changing their base assumptions about the economic value of natural resources. It is essential to consider all the services a resource provides, not just the saleable products. This will give decision-makers a more accurate estimate of the true value of an undisrupted ecology. It has become the obligation of every individual and society to take an active part in environmental protection.
14. The word mitigate in the passage is closest in meaning to
15. According to paragraph 1, what is the purpose of the Millennium Environmental Assessment?
(A) To research the public’s attitude toward environmental conservation
(B) To inform the United Nations about the global pollution crisis
(C) To ciean up regions that have been contaminated by human activities
(D) To inform people about the effects of human activities on the ecosystem
16. The word fundamental in the passage is closest in meaning to
17. It can be inferred from paragraph 3 that focusing exclusively on the marketability of a natural resource is hazardous because
(A) it encourages people to ignore the sometimes indispensable nonmarketable functions of a natural resource
(B) the pursuit of profit often causes people to take risks they would have otherwise avoided
(C) nonmarketable services often result in the destruction of a natural resource
(D) it causes companies to pursue logging and grazing activities that are harmful to people who live near exploited forests
18. Why does the author mention Chicago in paragraph 3?
(A) To give an example of a harmful side effect of logging and grazing
(B) To explain why people are interested in marketing natural resources
(C) To suggest that ecological services without economic value are important
(D) To support the idea that some nonmarketable resources have economic value
19. All of the following are mentioned in the passage as nonmarketable services provided by the ecosystem EXCEPT
(A) providing timber for logging
(B) managing soil erosion
(C) slowing the rate of carbon dioxide accumulation
(D) purifying and improving the quality of the air
20. It can be inferred from paragraph 4 that the MA believes the general public
(A) is not concerned with the conservation of natural resources
(B) does not appreciate the economic value of nonmarketable services
(C) does not realize that natural resources could be used for profit
(D) will never voluntarily conserve the planet’s natural resources
21. The word epic in the passage is closest in meaning to
22. Which of the sentences below best expresses the essential information in the highlighted sentence in the passage? Incorrect choices change the meaning in important ways or leave out essential information.
(A) Individual people and nations are unwilling to solve the planet’s environmental problems.
(B) The planet’s environmental problems are so large that international cooperation is the only solution.
(C) According to the MA report, there are significant environmental problems currently facing humanity.
(D) Although many countries would like to fix the planet’s ecological crisis, the MA report proves that the task is impossible.
23. What can be inferred from paragraph 5 about the solution to the current pollution crisis?
(A) It will involve developing an organization to research and assess humans’ impact on the planet’s ecology.
(B) It will be managed by an organization like the United Nations.
(C) It will involve reducing pollution produced by specific countries.
(D) It will require environmental activism at both global and individual levels.
24. The word it in the passage refers to
25. The word obligation in the passage is closest in meaning to
26. Look at the four squares u that indicate where the following sentence could be added to the passage.
There are several components to this kind of environmental movement.
Where would the sentence best fit?
Click on a square [I 1 to add the sentence
27. Directions: An introductory sentence for a brief summary of the passage is provided below. Complete the summary by selecting the THREE answer choices that express the most important ideas in the passage. Some sentences do not belong in the summary because they express ideas that are not presented in the passage or are minor ideas in the passage. This question is worth 2 points.
The research presented in the MA report demonstrates that it is essential to protect the planet’s ecology, even though that task will require major efforts.
(A) The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment was founded by an international organization representing many countries.
(B) Although some natural resources cannot be bought or sold, they nonetheless form critical parts of the Earth’s ecology.
(C) Preserving the planet’s ecology has the potential to provide people with significant economic returns.
(D) An environmental movement can only succeed if it occurs at both global and individual levels.
(E) It is hoped that governments around the hazards and how best to protect our world from looming environmental disasters is one of the biggest challenges facing humankind.
(F) Providing education on environmental world will unite to solve environmental problems in the near future.
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