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A New View of The Earth


    1.    Describe how scientists view the Earth today.

    2.    Compare an open an closed system.

    3.    Explain the significance of Earth as an essentially closed system.


Why study the Earth?  The Earth is a living breathing organism.  It produces life, generates and recycles energy, and must properly dispose of its waste.  It is sometimes referred to as "Mother Earth" because it protects and provides for us.  The study of the Earth is important because our lives depend on her health, if she stops producing we starve, if she stops recycling energy our comforts are no more, and if she does not deal with her waste we become poisoned.

In the past Earth was studied 1 part at a time. (land, water, atmosphere)  The error in this early thinking was that each part functioned as part of a larger system.

The error in the past system of thinking became evident when scientists began to study the problem of global warming.  This new way of thinking brought about the systems approach to studying the Earth.  A system is simply a model that is assumed to be part of larger system (the universe).  It can be studied separately or comparatively to the other systems around it.

Closed system - Energy is free to come and go but matter is contained
Open system - Energy and matter are freely exchanged with the system's surroundings.
Planetary system - An open system of celestial bodies that contains the closed system of Earth.







Last modified: August 16, 2003