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Developed by Ecowise with the grateful assistance of the

National Committee for Curriculum Development and FAS


Biological Diversity

Population

Industry and the Environment

Environmental Law

Agriculture

Waste Management

Nuclear Power

Smog

Sewage

Teachers Notes on:

Global Warming

Acid Rain

Water

Industry and the Environment

Waste Management

Smog

Sewage

 


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Introduction

 

Today, every time you turn on your TV or open a newspaper it would be unusual not to come across a story concerning some form of environmental degradation or disaster. The message is becoming increasingly clear.

Things are not well on our lonely planet

In reality Planet Earth is not in any immediate danger. Earth has about another 5 billion years before the sun becomes hotter, expands and then dies out leaving Earth as a cold dark and dead planet just like the moon.

Earth has slowly evolved, over the past 4.6 billion years, from a whirling cloud of gas and dust to it’s present form, with it’s attendant ecosystems which sustain all life. In the context of this massive time scale and slow evolution, environmental disasters and degradation barely impact on the prospects for the survival of planet earth, but are of vital import for the survival of mankind. In relative terms mankind has just arrived on the planet. This is best illustrated by representing Earth’s 4.6 billion year history on a twenty four hour clock.

On such a clock one hour would equal 190,000,000, years.

About 19 hours ago rocks began to form.

About 20 minutes ago dinosaurs became extinct.

About 8 seconds ago early man made his appearance.

Less than half a second ago the Bronze Age began.

In the remaining milliseconds Christ was born. The industrial revolution happened. Two World Wars were fought and now in the last few micro-seconds before midnight we have begun to seriously poison our earth’s life supporting ecosystems.

 

In this present instant of history we seem to have forgotten that we live on a finite planet. With ever increasing sophistication and expertise we squander our dwindling stocks of non-renewable resources as though there were no tomorrow. Societies worship the newer and newer technologies with which we turn these precious resources into transient benefits and in turn transform them, in many instances, into deadly pollutants which we "dispose" of by dumping in our water, air and land.

Such profligacy has given rise to a staggering litany of problems -Smog, Acid Rain, , Holes in the Layer, Shortages, Deforestation, Soil Erosion, Toxic Wastes, Landfill Crises, etc.

Human health is suffering too. Cancers have increased four-fold over the last 50 years in the developed world, as has asthma.

Many of us may dodge our responsibilities by pointing to the long list of environmental disasters regularly reported in the media, but the reality is that all these calamities are of little consequence when placed alongside the drip, drip effect we each have individually on our environment by the choices we make in how we live our daily lives.

But it is not all bad news. There is a growing awareness among many people of the problems being brought about by the way in which we have chosen to live. As in any situation, recognizing the problem is always the first step in bringing about a solution.

 

The aim of this project/book is to show you what the problems are and ways in which you can contribute to being part of the solution.

 

Every single thing you do - from the way you travel to school, to the way you heat your home - from the way you wash your clothes to the very food you buy, either makes the world a better or a worse place to live in.

Humankind is unique among the 1.5 million life forms with whom we share this planet in that we have an intellect, an ability to reason and think. Surely with such an advantage it should not be too difficult to live in harmony with our world. Saving the precious ecosystem on which all our survival depends is simple, as easy as switching off an unnecessary light.

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