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Posts Tagged ‘environment’

Objective: Create a web diagram that illustrates environmental, social, and economic impacts associated with an everyday item.

Recent class discussion has considered the concept of our “ecological footprints” and the impacts of a given lifestyle on people and societies. Today, with a partner, you are to develop ideas to reduce the ecological footprint and associated impacts related to an everyday item.

impacts of a burger

Starting point for discussion of hamburger; incomplete.

Steps to get you going:

  1. Brainstorm and diagram all the resources, processes, and impacts associated with one everyday object, such as an item of clothing, a favorite meal, or a piece of sports equipment. For example, if you decide to diagram the impacts of a cell phone, you would write and/or draw the resources and processes required to produce each part of the phone and all the impacts you can think of that might be related to both producing it and using it.  The Good Stuff? – A Consumption Manifesto: The Top Ten Principles of Good Consumption may give you some ideas of what to watch out for. You have five minutes for this brainstorming step.
  2. Once you have decided on one item to be the focus of your impact diagram, diagram your impacts on  Prezi. Remember to consider impacts related to transportation of a product, marketing, health issues, and waste disposal. You might also want to organize your thoughts on a chart such as the one below, to help you and your partner keep track. Additional resources for research are given below. This step should take about 20 minutes.

    Brainstorm Chart

    Organize Your Thoughts

  3. Brainstorm and list ways to reduce the ecological footprint and other impacts associated with creating or using the product. This will take 5 – 10 minutes.
  4. Publish your work! You will need to publish both your Prezi and a description and link to it on your blog.
  5. Tomorrow, you and your partner will present your diagrams and proposed ideas for reducing the item’s negative impacts on people and the planet.

Analysis

After presentations have been made you will consider and write about the following:

  1. How is the ecological footprint of a person’s lifestyle connected to social and economic impacts?
  2. Would production, use, and disposal of these everyday items be sustainable if only a small number of people purchased the items?
  3. How would the impacts associated with an item change if everyone in the world purchased or used it?
  4. Does lessening our impacts necessarily mean reducing our quality of life? Why or why not?
  5. How might businesses be encouraged to produce these items in ways that have more positive impact on the environment and on people?
  6. Often negative impacts associated with an item are not paid directly by the people who purchase and use the items. Who might end up payiong for those impacts? Why do you think these impacts are not included in an item’s purchase price?

Resources

The Life Cycle Of A Cell Phone
The Life Cycle of a CD or DVD
The Hidden Life of Paper and Its Impact on the Environment
The hidden cost of your hardwood floor
 Global Exchange Website: Fair Trade Coffee

This lesson for environmental science students is a modification of “Buy, Use, Toss” from Facing The Future.

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Conservation International (CI) has asked for student assistance to develop site-specific conservation plans for biodiversity hotspots worldwide. You will select an identified hotspot, researching key species present, learn about the region and culture, and identify threats to and stakeholder roles in the region. You will then develop plans to conserve the biodiversity of the region.

Unit Essential Questions

  • How do species become threatened or endangered?
  • How does the disappearance of one species affect the larger system?
  • What are some actions that humans might take to slow the current rate of extinction?

Unit Enduring Understandings

  • Species can become threatened or endangered due to habitat loss or changes resulting from human actions or natural forces.
  • The extinction of one species has consequences for the entire system due to essential species’ interactions called symbioses.
  • There are a number of conservation measures that can be taken to slow or prevent the decline of a species.

Procedure

  1. Select a hotspot from the list held by the teacher. Write your name on the list; only one person per hotspot. Read the overview of hotspots at http://www.conservation.org/How/Pages/Hotspots.aspx.
  2. Research key species living within that ecosystem (e.g., kingdom, phylum, habitat, food needs, and so on), using http://www.cepf.net/resources/hotspots/Pages/default.aspx and other teacher-approved sites. Consider ALL organisms, not just Animalia. Count the number of relationships each species has with other species and record it on an organizer for that species.  Answer the following questions in your science journal:
  • Which species are most important to your ecosystem and why (e.g., food, habitat, reproduction factor)?
  • Are the important species animals? plants? fungi?
  • Which species in your ecosystem has the most relationships with other species? Which have the fewest?
  • What role do abiotic elements play in your ecosystem?
  1. Determine and describe a conservation action that can be taken to ensure the future of the hotspot you researched. Consider the needs of the hotspot you are researching and identify one action that could be taken to better conserve the biodiversity of the area.  There are many different conservation approaches that could be taken for avoiding the extinction of a threatened species or protecting areas of key biological activity. Some of these ideas are shown in Table 1 below, but you may have ideas of your own.   Describe your action plan fully, identifying resources needed and timeline for implementation.
  2. Create an online presentation of your research project. Potential online resources include google docs, prezi, glogster, weebly. You may know of others.
  3. Present your research to the class in a formal and professional manner. Include documentation of recorded species and your proposed idea.

Vocabulary

Endemic:           A plant or animal native to or restricted to a certain locality, region, or area.

Biodiversity:    Biological diversity – or biodiversity – is the term given to the variety of life on Earth. It is the variety within and between all species of plants, animals and micro-organisms and the ecosystems within which they live and interact. Biodiversity is explored at three levels: genetic diversity; species diversity; and ecosystem diversity.

Biodiversity hotspots:  To qualify as a hotspot, a region must meet two strict criteria: it must contain at least 1,500 species of vascular plants (> 0.5 percent of the world’s total) as endemics, and it has to have lost at least 70 percent of its original habitat.

Table 1.  Potential Actions

Create incentives and legislation to reduce hunting pressure.
Control of invasive species.
Captive breeding programs, propagation, and re-introduction of threatened species.
More effective management of protected areas.
Adding new parks and reserves in the highest priority portions of unprotected intact habitat.
Restoring degraded habitats to provide increased connectivity (to decrease fragmentation).
Establishment, expansion and management of protected areas
Implementation of innovative economic alternatives such as ecotourism and conservation concessions.
Influence the behavior of people at the local level, through education, and at the national level, through policy work and awareness campaigns
Working with international corporations to ensure that their business practices do not contribute to further biodiversity loss.
Collaborating with a single expert to protect a threatened species to avoid its extinction
Working with the government of the country to facilitate national conservation initiatives.
Leveraging other organizations to protect biodiversity in the hotspot.

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Assignment To Students:

Todays question is “What do you do to contribute to a sustainable environment?” Write a 300-word blog post on your environmental ethics.  Previously you have written in your journal about “what is an environmentalist”; you have also learned some new terms such as “sustainability”, “environmental footprint”, and “tragedy of the commons“. Finally, you have your own personal reason for being in this class. Combine all of these things with your class learning and tell us what are your environmental ethics. You might also think about things you want to do in the future that you have not done before; for ideas on these, go to What Can You Do?

My 300 (or more) Words:

I am deeply connected to our planet Earth and I think I always have been. My parents raised me to respect the planet, take care of her, and to know the names of her New England inhabitants. My mother would take my little sister and me on walks in the woods and name the trees and flowers and wild herbs. My father used organic gardening methods for our food (and all of our vegetables came from our garden) and was disgusted by builders who clear-cut a lot to put in a house; he knew they could have left some of the trees and still built the home, he felt the builder was just being lazy. This background is the structural foundation for the environmentalist in me.

When it comes to environmental ethics, every individual can make a difference and everyone should do their part. I do what I can. Here are my principles, and how I try to keep them:

  • I respect and care for Earth and life in all its diversity.  Everything in the universe is connected to everything else and has value regardless of its worth to human beings.  In addition, with the right to own, manage, and use natural resources comes the duty to prevent environmental harm and to protect these resources for the future.
  • We should protect and restore the integrity of Earth’s ecological systems, with special concern for biological diversity and the natural processes that sustain life. In my yard I have converted an acre of invasive species (bittersweet, Norway maple, Alianthus) into an acre of native trees and shrubs that provide food sources for birds. With the exception of poison ivy killer, I use no chemicals on my yard. The birds, bats, and dragonflies help control mosquitoes in my yard.
  • I promote the recovery of endangered species and ecosystems. This can be seen in my lessons and teaching of science to high school students.
  • We must manage the use of renewable resources such as water, soil, forest products, and marine life in ways that do not exceed rates of regeneration and that protect the health of the ecosystems.
  • The goal of my life has been life-long learning of the knowledge, values, and skills needed for a sustainable way of life. In this regard, I have tried to provide others, particularly children and youth, with knowledge to empower them to contribute actively to sustainable development.
  • It is my belief that every individual has the right to potable water, clean air, food security, uncontaminated soil, shelter, and safe sanitation. As a consumer I make a sincere and definite effort to buy products that are either manufactured in the U.S. or are certified as Fair Trade. Rather than shopping at Walmart, where products are cheap and poorly made and 91% are made in China, I spend the extra money to make purchases from local shops and small online boutiques. If at all possible (which is impossible for some electronics) I do NOT buy “made in China” products; China has an atrocious human rights (non-rights?) record and is the greatest polluter of the planet. As much as I am financially able to, I buy organically grown foods, including free-range chicken eggs and grass-fed beef. I also look for where the product has been grown and choose the one that has traveled the shortest distance, thus has a lower carbon (via transport) footprint.
  • My daily intent is to treat all living beings with respect and consideration, and to promote a culture of nonviolence and peace.  “Peace” is the wholesomeness created by right relationships with oneself, other persons, other cultures, other life, Earth, and the larger whole of which all are a part. I do not always succeed, but it is always my intent and when I falter I just try again.

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 What is more important: the economy or the environment? Unfortunately in today’s modern society, the economy tends to take priority. As you can see in the graph above, the belief that economic growth should be the priority has grown over the past years and continues to increase. However, if we want to see the world continue to flourish and survive, we must realize that the environment needs to be our main concern. In the long run, this is the best choice. Only if our environment and world around us is healthy can we continue to develop our ever growing economy.

We must preserve our coastal systems rather than develop them to increase economic growth. The life in our ocean planets is just as important as the people in our communities. It is difficult to preserve our coasts because of the growing attraction to living along coastal zones. Should we focus on the economic health of our community or the environmental concerns? In Florida, for example, the coasts are in constant threat from hurricanes and other storms. Even so, society continues to develop along the coasts, increasing the threat of coastal erosion. There are plenty of other places where our economy can flourish- lets not make coastal zones one of them.
Which street will you choose to walk on?


For my project, I developed an economically advanced island while preserving the coastal zones and keeping them healthy. Using Loggerhead Barrier Island as a blank slate, I was able to see the difficulties of maintaining both economy and environment. While there was a resort, a golf course, two restaurants, a subdivision of homes, a boardwalk, and much more, I was able to keep the nesting sea turtles, mangroves, and Scrub Jay Habitat safe. To create the least amount of environmental impact, I placed the tourist resorts and homes right in the middle of the island and left the environmental aspects of the island safe. The board walk was placed far from the sea turtles and other organisms. Because Loggerhead Barrier Island is home to one of the only sea turtle nesting sites, it was crucial that I kept them safe and away from the harmful societal issues. It is not worth it to eliminate and destroy the amazing aspects of our enviornment just to grow our economy. It may take some time, but our goal should be to change that graph and make society’s main concern the enviornment.

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