Fossil Fuels

Coal, petroleum, and natural gas are referred to as fossil fuels. Their common origin is as living matter, plants, and, in particular, microorganisms that have accumulated in large quantities under favorable conditions during the earth's long history.

Fuel Cell

Fuel cells convert chemical energy to electrical energy by combining hydrogen from fuel with oxygen from the air. Hydrogen fuel can be supplied in two ways—either directly as pure hydrogen gas or through a "fuel reformer" that converts hydrocarbon fuels such as methanol, natural gas, or gasoline into hydrogen-rich gas.

Fuel Economy

The fuel economy of an automobile, measured in miles per gallon (MPG), is the distance it can move using one gallon of fuel. In 1975, in the midst of concerns about oil consumption, the U.S.

Gauley Bridge, West Virginia

Gauley Bridge, West Virginia, was the scene of a landmark case of environmental racism—one involving a conflict between the powerful and the powerless, between African-Americans and whites in 1930 to 1931. A contracting company, Rinehart and Dennis, recruited nonunion workers from the Deep South to drill the three-mile Hawk's Nest Tunnel through Gauley Mountain.

Gibbs, Lois Grassroots Environmental Activist and The "Mother of Superfund" (1951–)

Lois Gibbs is a leading activist in defending the public from the dangers of toxic waste. In 1978, she discovered that her neighborhood of Love Canal in Niagara Falls, New York, was built on top of 21,000 tons of hazardous chemical waste.

Global Warming

Global warming is the gradual rise of the earth's near-surface temperature over approximately the last hundred years. The best available scientific evidence—based on continuous satellite monitoring and data from about 2,000 meteorological stations around the world—indicates that globally averaged surface temperatures have warmed by about 0.3 to 0.6°C since the late nineteenth century.


Government is the set of formal institutions used by a society to organize itself; government sets rules for general conduct by citizens. These rules are usually based on customs that have evolved in that society.

Green Chemistry

The term green chemistry, coined in 1991, is defined as "the design of chemical products and processes that reduce or eliminate the use and generation of hazardous substances." This approach to the protection of human health and the environment represents a significant departure from the traditional methods previously used. Although historically societies have tried to minimize exposure to chemicals, green chemistry emphasizes the design and creation of chemicals that are not hazardous to people or the environment.

Green Marketing

Green marketing is a way to use the environmental benefits of a product or service to promote sales. Many consumers will choose products that do not damage the environment over less environmentally friendly products, even if they cost more.

Green Party

The Green Party movement is rooted in sustainable environmental democracy, which derives historically from the early confederacy of five Native-American nations in New York state called the Iroquois Confederacy. The confederacy was matriarchal, cooperative, tribal, and regionally based.

Green Revolution

The "green revolution" refers to the widespread introduction of industrial agriculture into developing countries that began in the 1940s. As seen in Norman Borlaug's work on world hunger, its early promoters—led by the Rockefeller Foundation—assumed that increased food production would alleviate hunger in poor countries and thereby help prevent "red" (i.e., communist) revolutions.

Greenhouse Gases

Greenhouse gases are trace gases in the atmosphere that absorb outgoing infrared radiation from Earth and thereby, like a greenhouse, warm the planet. Naturally occurring greenhouse gases (primarily water vapor and carbon dioxide) make the planet habitable for life as we know it.


Greenpeace is the largest environmental organization in the world with 2.8 million supporters worldwide and national as well as regional offices in forty-one countries across Europe, the Americas, Asia, and the Pacific. It is a nonprofit organization founded in 1971 and based in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.


Groundwater is the water that exists below the land surface and fills the spaces between sediment grains and fractures in rocks. A geologic formation saturated with groundwater is considered to be an aquifer if it is sufficiently permeable as to allow the groundwater to be economically extracted.


Halons and other halocarbons (carbon- and halogen-containing compounds), such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), are responsible for the breakdown of stratospheric ozone and the creation of the Antarctic ozone hole. Halons are a subset of a more general class of compounds known as halocarbons.

Hamilton, Alice Workers' Advocate (1869–1970)

During the Progressive Era, Alice Hamilton became part of the revolution of thought about the causative factors of disease, explicitly linking environmental From left to right: Mrs. F.

Hayes, Denis American Environmentalist; Organizer of First Earth Day (1944–)

Denis Hayes, at the time a twenty-five-year-old Harvard law student, organized the first Earth Day celebration on April 22, 1970. Earth Day inspired the grassroots participation of twenty million people in the United States and marked the coming-of-age of the environmental movement.

Hazardous Waste

The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), enacted in 1976, defines hazardous waste as a liquid, solid, sludge, or containerized gas waste substance that due to its quantity, concentration, or chemical properties may cause significant threats to human health or the environment if managed improperly. U.S.

Health, Human

Human health—and human disease—have always been intimately connected to the environment. The environment contains the positive, in the form of air, water, and nutrients, and the negative, in the form of bacteria, viruses, and toxins.

Heavy Metals

The heavy metals, which include copper (Cu), zinc (Zn), lead (Pb), mercury (Hg), nickel (Ni), cobalt (Co), and chromium (Cr), are common trace constituents in the earth crust. Their concentrations in the ambient environment have increased dramatically since the Industrial Revolution, as have lead and copper since Roman times.


Pollution is not a new phenomenon. In fact, it is older than most people realize.