Wednesday, November 18, 2009

"Planetary Boundaries"

Nature has recently published a study describing the limits on a healthy planet. Exceeding any of these limits, such as using too much fresh water, changing too much land to farm, and too much air pollution could cause Earth to be unable to support her inhabitants. Human activities can simply cause the collapse of civilizations, as has happened in the past. Once we have "crossed a boundary," we may never be able to turn back. We may have "broken the camel's back." We may have literally "driven off a cliff."

The climate is now changing much more rapidly than in the past. New extinctions are being reported. The climate is changing into and out of ice ages more quickly. Recently a hole in the Antarctic ozone layer was the 10th largest found since satellite measurement began in 1979. The hole was the slightly smaller than all of North America.

Strategy: In this day and age, it is difficult for young people to really understand what is happening to our environment. I remember camping with some 8th graders and getting after one girl for not picking up her trash. A year later as a freshman, she accompanied a new group of 8th grade campers. She was after all of them to pick up their trash. She told me she was much more aware of the problem and the impact each of us can make to help take care of our environment. Presenting students with opportunities to become aware of our environmental issues, should be a priority in all classes. I would have students discuss this article, brainstorm ideas about what individuals can do, and create posters to make others aware of these issues.
I would also take the time to discuss the adages, "the straw that broke the camel's back," and "we are driving off the cliff." Student could diagram the literal and figurative meanings of these sayings.

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