The destruction, or the threat of destruction, of the environment in order to intimidate or coerce governments. The term has also been applied to crimes committed against companies or government agencies in order to prevent or interfere with activities allegedly harmful to the environment. Ecoterrorism includes threats to contaminate water supplies or to destroy or disable energy utilities, for example, and practices such as the deployment of anthrax. Another form of ecoterrorism, often referred to as environmental warfare, consists of the deliberate and illegal destruction, exploitation, or modification of the environment as a strategy of war or in times of armed conflict. Examples include the U.S. military's use of the defoliant Agent Orange during the Vietnam War and the destruction of Kuwaiti oil wells by retreating Iraqi military forces during the 1991 Persian Gulf War. The activities of some environmental activists also have been described as ecoterrorism. These activities include criminal trespass on the property of logging companies and other firms and obstruction of their operations through sabotage as well as the environmentally harmless modification of natural resources in order to make them unsuitable for commercial use (a practice known as “monkeywrenching”).
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Art form, developed in the 20th century, that involves or encompasses the spectator. The environmental sculptor can use any medium, from mud and stone to light and sound. Indoor environmental works often incorporate sculptural figures in detailed settings in gallery or museum spaces. Outdoor works in natural or urban settings include “earthworks” (large-scale alterations of the Earth's surface effected by earth-moving equipment) such as Robert Smithson's Spiral Jetty (1970), a rock-and-dirt spiral 1,500 feet long in the Great Salt Lake. The wrapped buildings of Christo are notable urban environmental works.
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Scientific field concerned with applying the findings of geologic research to the problems of land use and civil engineering. It is closely allied with urban geology and deals with the impact of human activities on the physical environment. Other important concerns of environmental geology include reclaiming mined lands; identifying geologically stable sites for constructing buildings, nuclear power plants, and other facilities; and locating sources of building materials, such as sand and gravel.
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Study of the relationships between organisms and their environment. Physiological ecology focuses on the relationships between individual organisms and the physical and chemical features of their environment. Behavioral ecologists study the behaviours of individual organisms as they react to their environment. Population ecology is the study of processes that affect the distribution and abundance of animal and plant populations. Community ecology studies how communities of plant and animal populations function and are organized; it frequently concentrates on particular subsets of organisms such as plant communities or insect communities. Ecosystem ecology examines large-scale ecological issues, ones that often are framed in terms of measures such as biomass, energy flow, and nutrient cycling. Applied ecology applies ecological principles to the management of populations of crops and animals. Theoretical ecologists provide simulations of particular practical problems and develop models of general ecological relevance. Seealso systems ecology.
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U.S. government agency that sets and enforces national pollution-control standards. It was established by Pres. Richard Nixon (1970) to supersede a welter of confusing and ineffective state environmental laws. Its early accomplishments include banning the use of DDT (1972), setting deadlines for the removal of lead from gasoline (1973), establishing health standards for drinking water (1974), and monitoring fuel efficiency in automobiles (1975). The EPA's enforcement was in large part responsible for a decline of one-third to one-half in most air-pollution emissions in the U.S. from 1970 to 1990, and during the 1980s the pollution standards index improved by half in major cities; water quality and waste disposal also improved significantly. The EPA also oversees the cleanup of abandoned waste sites through Superfund. Its existence has resulted in heightened awareness and concern for the environment worldwide.
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