Environmental Science: Definition, Scope and Importance


The term environment comes from the French word “environment” and means everything around us. ”. The meaning of the French word is somewhat related to “encompass” “encircle” etc(It is believed to have been introduced into the subject by biologist Jacob Van Erkul in the early 1900s). It can be living or non-living things, that constantly interact with each other and adopt themselves to conditions in their environment. In the environment, there are different interactions between animals, plants, insects, soil, water, and other living and non-living things.

Living elements that an organism interacts with are known as Biotic elements: animal, plants, etc., Abiotic elements are non-living which include air, water, sunlight, etc.

Definitions of the environment: Some important definitions of the environment are as under;

  •  The environment “is the sum of total of elements, factors, and conditions in the surroundings which may have an impact on development, action or survival of organisms, such as, we human beings.”
  • It can also be defined as “External surroundings and conditions which directly or indirectly affect the living organisms.

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  • ” Boring: ‘A person’s environment consists of the sum total of the stimulation which he receives from his conception until his death.’
    It can be concluded from the above definition that Environment comprises various types of forces such as physical, intellectual, economic, political, cultural, social, moral, and emotional. The environment is the sum total of all the external forces, influences, and conditions, which affect the life, nature, behavior, and the growth, development, and maturation of living organisms.

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  • Douglas and Holland: ‘The term environment is used to describe, in the Aggregate, all the external forces, influences, and conditions, which affect the life, nature, behavior and the growth, development, and maturity of living organisms.’

The environment can also be defined as the whole physical and biological system surrounding the man and other organisms along with various factors influencing them; biotic and abiotic factors. Man is thus an inseparable part of the environment. Man and the environment have very close relationships with each other. The social life of man is affected by the environment. This is the reason for various types of social and cultural activities around the world. The hilly people have different lifestyles than people in plain areas. Similarly, people around the world differ in their food, cloth, and festivals, etc. The environment has three important constitutions, these are:

  1. Physical
  2. Biological
  3. Social

Physical Constituent

The physical constituent of the environment includes soil, water, air, climate, temperature, light, etc. This part of the environment mainly determines the type of habitat or living conditions of the human population. This physical constituent of the environment is again divided into three parts. These are

  1. Atmosphere (gas)
  2. The hydrosphere (liquid)
  3.  Lithosphere (solid)

These three parts represent the three important states of matter constituting the environment. This physical component of the environment only consists of non-living things like air, water, soil. All these non-living things influence much to all living organisms including man. Now discussing atmosphere, hydrosphere, lithosphere.


The earth atmosphere, a complex fluid system of gases and suspended particles, did not have its origin in the beginning of the planet, the atmosphere as of today has been derived from the earth itself by chemical and biochemical reactions. The fluid system forms a gaseous envelope around the earth, its boundaries are not easily defined. They can be arbitrarily defined as earth atmosphere interface and space interface. The gases like nitrogen, oxygen, argon, carbon dioxide, and water vapor, etc together make up the volume of the atmosphere, and suspended particulates, dust, soot constitute the gaseous turbidity.
Atmosphere further constitutes the four segments

  1. Troposphere; troposphere extends from the surface of the earth up to 11 kilometers, this constitutes about 10% of the atmosphere height but contains 80% of its mass. The temperature in this sphere ranges from 15.00C to -15C.
  2. Stratosphere; this part extends from 11-15 km, temperature ranges from -56C to -2C. The important chemical species that exist in this sphere is Ozone O3.
  3. Mesosphere; this part extends from 50-85 km.
  4. Thermosphere; this part extends from 85-500 km. Earth’s surface where shortwave UV radiations are absorbed by many oxygen molecules present at this height is referred to as the thermosphere. Within this layer, ionization occurs which produces charged ions and free electrons. Beyond the thermosphere lies the exosphere.


It includes surface water and its surrounding interface. Water possesses a number of physical and chemical properties that help the molecule to act as the best-suited medium for life activities. The movement of water from the earth’s surface to the atmosphere is maintained by the hydrological cycle. Hydrosphere constitutes all types of water resources. So 97% of the earth’s water supply is in oceans,2% of water is locked on polar ice caps and glaciers, only 1% is fit for human usage.


The lithosphere is the outer boundary layer of solid earth . The outer boundary forms a complex interface with atmosphere and hydrosphere and also the environment in which life has evolved.

Biological constituents

It is called the biotic component of environment, consist of all living things like plants, animals, and small micro-organisms like bacteria. This component interacts with an abiotic component of the environment, These interactions of two components forms various ecosystems like pond ecosystem marine ecosystem, desert ecosystem, etc. The self-sufficient large ecosystem of the earth is called biosphere.

Social constituents

The social constituents of the environment mainly consist of various groups of populations of different living organisms like birds, animals etc. Man is most intelligent living organism, like other living creatures man builds house, prepares food and release waste materials to the environment. Man is a social animal, he makes laws, policies for the proper functioning of society.

The three components of the environment give rise to four important zones, these are Atmosphere, Hydrosphere, Lithosphere and Biosphere. There is a continuous interaction among these four zones. The biosphere indicates the realm of living organisms and their interactions with the environment, viz atmosphere, hydrosphere, and lithosphere.

Scope of Environment

The subject of environmental science covers a very broad field of numerous different subjects like human health, global economies, and the impact of technology on the environment. Environmental science is an interdisciplinary science. Because of this, it covers numerous different fields of science, including biology, chemistry, and the Earth sciences.

Environmental science is also very concerned with studying bodies and sources of water. Economics is also a very significant aspect of topics within environmental science. Legislation, too, is another interesting dimension to how environmental scientists study the changes happening in the world. People who work in environmental science commonly have to analyze the market forces and political changes that push industries and nations to use certain chemicals and technologies and how those decisions will come to affect the environment. Environmental science is oftentimes focused on analyzing the impact of a particular technology on the environment, and how that impact can be either positive or negative.

Students and academics who work in the field of environmental science oftentimes focus on a specific area of study within this field, like studying the ecological changes of the environment, examining water quality throughout the world, investigating the kinds of toxins released into the environment as well as the chemistry of how the world changes in response to human technological development and urbanization. Environmental science can even dive into a zoological framework, looking at how the populations of living things are affected by changes in the environment.

The short scope of environmental studies is broad-based and it encompasses a large number of areas and aspects, broadly listed below:

  • Natural Resources- their conservation and management
  • Ecology and biodiversity
  • Environmental pollution and control
  • Social issues in relation to development and environment
  • Human population and the environment

Cite this page

Environmental Science: Definition, Scope and Importance. (2020, Oct 31). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/environmental-science-definition-scope-and-importance-essay

Environmental Science: Definition, Scope and Importance

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