By Heidi Ainsworth
University of Idaho
Video: PEOPLE'S CENTURY SERIES ENDANGERED PLANET
In the second half of the century, economic growth boosts economies, brings jobs, and promises to improve the quality of life in developing and industrialized countries. It also brings disease and destruction to land, air, water, and living things - spurring the environmental movement. This lesson focuses on a program segment about mercury poisoning in Minamata Bay, Japan; the discovery of the toxic effects of DDT on pelicans; and the 1962 publication of Silent Spring by Rachel Carson, which called public attention in the United States to the environmental costs of progress. In this program, environmental activists, former industry employees and Minamata Bay citizens describe how their lives were changed by these events.
Through the use of this program, students will reflect upon their own regional and national environments. They will analyze the causes of environmental problems as well as their implications during this 5-day unit. Students will learn the effects of population growth as they participate in "The Popcorn Game," which illustrates what happens when exponential growth is limited by finite resources.
At the completion of the unit, students will investigate their own community's environmental quality and assign a rating to it. For their final assessment, students will work in groups to research one environmental issue of their choice and prepare a videotaped newscast, which will be broadcast throughout the entire school.
A preview of the dangers of progression is necessary. At the beginning of this unit, students will be assigned to watch a news program, on their own time that highlights some sort of environmental problem. Hand out worksheet #1 before they watch the program. As they watch the program, students will be required to write down (on Worksheet #1) the environmental problem that is being discussed, its causes, its implications for the future, and what is being done to prevent the problem from escalating. You may choose to Have students do further research on their topic.
The next day, students will be divided into groups of five. In these groups, students will work together for thirty minutes. Each student will share their research with the other members. Students will then collaborate their ideas and create a poster, which will be headed "What We Know about Environmental Problems." This poster will include sentences, phrases, drawings, or sketches that the students feel illustrate their environmental issues. During this time, ask students to choose one member for their group to be a spokesperson. This appointed member will present the group's poster to the entire class.
After thirty minutes, invite the presenters to come forward one at a time and present their ideas. As they are doing this, record all of the students' ideas onto a larger poster. Students should be encouraged to discuss these environmental issues at this time.
WHAT SHOULD WE DO?
What Should We Do?
If there was no choice, which of the following measures would you consider implementing (be sure to discuss what each would achieve and possible problems related to implementation)?
a. limiting family size, number of children
b. limiting life extending measures for the terminally ill
c. limiting immigration (people coming into the U.S.)
d. others that come to mind
|Focus for Viewing
During the video, students will be responsible for keeping track of key points and ideas. To give the students specific responsibilities while viewing the program, hand out Worksheet #3. This will serve as a viewing guide as it highlights the major concepts of environmental issues.
BEGIN THE VIDEO at the beginning as it describes the economic problems in Japan, specifically, the mercury poisoning in Minamata Bay, Japan.
PAUSE THE VIDEO after Tomiji Matsuda says, "I think people must be very careful about progress. It doesn't just bring benefits; it brings danger as well". Ask students to respond to the first question on Worksheet #3 in their daily journals. This question calls for examples of local, regional, and global environmental issues. Lead a discussion, which asks students why the Chisso Corporation and the Japanese government were slow to respond to the poisoning of Minamata Bay? Have students give other examples of how businesses and governments responded to environmental problems and what strategies people used to force them to take action (this question is also found on Worksheet #3 and students should write this information in their journals as well as discuss it in class).
FAST FORWARD THE VIDEO to the segment, which discusses the 1962 publication of Silent Spring by Rachel Carson.
RESUME THE VIDEO. Students will view this segment because Silent Spring was very significant in that it called public attention in the United States to the environmental costs of progress.
PAUSE THE VIDEO after the Silent Spring segment. Students will then form groups of five and share some of the activities they perform every day. They will also discuss how these activities help or harm the environment. (These questions can be found on Worksheet #3 and students are required to write their group responses in their daily journals as well). RESUME THE VIDEO.
STOP THE VIDEO after Astronaut Gene Kranz describes how
seeing Earth from outer space changed his view of the environment. Lead students in a
class discussion about the many different examples of harmful human activity. Students
will then finish Worksheet #3 on their
- The advantages and disadvantages of a changed diet.
- How such a change could be implemented within our society.
- Problems that might be encountered in implementing such a change.
- Your present diet: would you be willing to change it, if you are not already eating vegetarian-like meals, why or why not?