Vote on Rio+20 Priorities

The Rio+20 Dialogues have reached the stage where citizens of the world get to vote for the top priorities in the sustainable development agenda. The popular votes will inform the recommendations for sustainable development that are presented to the heads of state at the Rio+20 Conference in Rio de Janeiro at the end of June.
Among the top 100 recommendations, there are several education-related recommendations that you can support with your vote. See below for our suggestions of the recommendations to vote for, and feel free to vote for others as you wish. It’s as easy as clicking a few buttons on the Rio+20 Dialogues site.
Be quick, voting closes June 15th 2012.
Sustainable Cities and Innovation
  • Promote opportunities for direct dialogues among government, citizens, enterprises, NGOs, and schools.
  • Cities and schools should develop networks to learn and work together toward sustainable development.
Water
  • Improve water and sanitation facilities to ensure the education of children
Unemployment, Decent Work, and Migrations
  • Create a strategy for jobs and employment leveraging the green economy for investment, training, and retraining for employability.
  • Put education in the core of the Sustainable Development Goals agenda.
  • Improve human capital by promoting access to health, including reproductive health, investment in education, and empowerment of women.
Sustainable Development for Fighting Poverty
  • Promote global education to eradicate poverty and to achieve sustainable development.
Sustainable Development as an Answer to the Economic and Financial Crisis
  • Educate future leaders about sustainable development.
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WORLD ENVIRONMENT DAY – 5th June 2012

From the WED website

The 2012 theme for World Environment Day is Green Economy: Does it include you? Evidently, there are two parts to this theme and the first tackles the subject of the Green Economy.

Visit the ‘What is the Green Economy?’ page to read a layman’s narrative of this concept.

The UN Environment Programme defines the Green Economy as one that results in improved human well-being and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities. In its simplest expression, a green economy can be thought of as one which is low carbonresource efficient and socially inclusive.

Practically speaking, a Green Economy is one whose growth in income and employment is driven by public and private investments that reduce carbon emissions and pollution, enhance energy and resource efficiency, and prevent the loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services. These investments need to be catalyzed and supported by targeted public expenditure, policy reforms and regulation changes.

But what does all this mean for you? Well, this essentially what the second part of the theme is all about. If the Green Economy is about social equity and inclusiveness then technically it is all about you! The question therefore asks you to find out more about the Green Economy and assess whether, in your country, you are being included in it.

It takes only a few simple steps to easily green your daily routine and make good eco behavior into a habit!

AAct now. 

Adopt as many eco-friendly lifestyle choices as you can and make them habits for WED! 

Add it up. Our impact is exponential when the global chorus sings together.

B
Buy FSC certified products and decrease the trade of exotic wood from endangered forests.

Bring a cloth bag to do all you’re shopping. But not just for groceries, even on your trips to the mall. A sturdy, reusable bag will last for years, and only needs to be used 5 times to have a lower environmental impact than a plastic bag.

Bring a mug with you whenever you go for take-out beverages, so you avoid using paper cups. 
Most paper cups are made in a way that makes it more difficult for them to degrade, and in some ways more hazardous to the planet than the plastic cup – so why not just bring your own mug for your favorite beverage?

CConsume locally. You will help reduce the demand for cutting down forests in foreign countries to meet export demands.

Choose public transport.

Compost your organic food waste.

Conserve energy. Turn off the lights to brighten our environment.

Create a greenspace wherever you can from the car you drive to the building you live in.

DDon’t run the water when brushing your teeth. You will save as much as 3 gallons every time! Only 2, 5% of the world’s water is drinkable.

Discover an alternative to using traditional wrapping paper for holidays and birthday gifts.

EEngage in an environmental activity like school or neighborhood beautification or tree planting.

Eat organic and locally grown foods and help reduce the clearing of forests for agricultural land.

Educate your friends on how individual actions can have an exponential impact and motivate action for WED.

FFind an unusual insect in your garden. Fewer than 10% of the world’s described species have been assessed to determine their conservation status.

Form a group of peers or colleagues to oversee the greening of your school, neighborhood or workplace with recycling, car pooling, or energy-efficiency.

Form a tree-planting group with family and friends and commit to planting and maintaining these trees together.

GGreen your office: print double-sided, turn off monitors, start an office recycling program.

Grow an organic garden and your own delicious food.

Give memberships to an environmental organization or seedlings as birthday gifts.

Go electronic for bills and payments: at home, in the office, at the bank etc.

HHost a World Environment Day celebration. Clean up your neighborhood, carpool with friends, have a vegan (no animal products) dinner party! And don’t forget to register your activity on the WED website!

IIdentify the nature that surrounds you – take note of the beautiful plants and animals that you may not always appreciate. Learn about the amazing ecosystem services they provide.

Improve the insulation of your home – it will really help your energy consumption…and your monthly bills!

JJoin a local environmental or conservation group. You can team up with those around you and make a real difference for your community.

Jog outside and save the energy you would have used on the treadmill!

K
Kick the habit! Don’t print unless it’s absolutely necessary. And when you do print – always print double-sided!

Keep your cup! When traveling on airplanes, ask to reuse your plastic cup.

LLearn more about Brazil, this year’s host country.

MMobilize your networks! Message your friends about WED – facebook, twitter, orkut, SMS, text, phone, email – it doesn’t matter how, just get the word out!

NNominate a WED Hero from your world. Notify us about the great environmental work they’re doing and why they should be a WED Hero.

OOptimize the use of your washing machine – use the cold-wash option and significantly save energy and reduce your daily carbon emissions.

Offset your travel whenever possible – most airlines provide an option to offset your travel when you book your tickets.

Opt for public transport whenever possible.

P
Plant a tree this year! 
Why not celebrate by planting a tree with friends or family.

Pile up! Lay the grounds for a compost pile and start sorting your garbage.

QQuantify how much money you could save each cold winter if you lowered the temperature inside your home by 2 degrees Celsius. It could reduce your energy consumption by 14 percent!!!

RReduce. Reuse. Recycle. 

Register a WED activity at www.unep.org/wed!

SSacrifice something small each month – eat locally grown vegetables instead of imported vegetables; do without steak as cattle ranching is high impact!; carpool with co-workers; take your bike to work etc.

Support and motivate companies that use certified materials and operate in ways that are environmentally responsible.

Switch your lightbulbs to energy-efficient LED’s. You will see substantial savings on energy bills!

TThink! How green is your daily routine? Just by making a few small changes, like remembering to turn off the lights, turning down the heat, stop running the water while you brush your teeth – you could cut your daily emissions by more than 60 per cent.

Think again! Before you toss, consider if the item can be reused or recycled?

Think outside of the bottle! Bottled water costs 1900 times more than tap water

UUse your common sense!

Understand your options. Learn about the small ways you, as an individual, can make a positive impact on the environment.

Use rainwater for your indoor plants – they love it, and you’ll save water at the same time.

VVisit the WED website  regularly and see how you can get involved! Book mark website, subscribe to RSS, Twitter or facebook

W
Whenever you feel like buying books, magazines, or newspapers go to your local library or borrow from friends and neighbors.

X
X-plore! Get out into the forest and enjoy what our planet has to offer.

YYOU!
You can make a difference – individual actions, when multiplied, can make an exponential difference to the planet! 

ZZip around town on your bike, on public transport, or your own two feet. 
Avoid your car whenever possible – it’s cheaper! 

“Three weeks after WED, Brazil will host Rio+20 where world leaders and nations will gather in order to design a future that takes sustainable development from theory and patchy success to the locomotive of transformational change-a pathway that can grow economies and generate decent jobs without pushing the globe past planetary boundaries,” he added.

Brazil has had a checkered history on the environment front but it seems that there is some hope and it is worth working with the country as it will be very influential in the future.

With a country of 200 million people, Brazil is the fifth most populous nation in the world and has the fifth largest land mass on the planet with 8.5 million square kilometers

In recent years Brazil has taken enormous steps to tackle issues such as deforestation in the Amazon through enforcement efforts and monitoring initiatives by the Brazilian government.

Indeed by some estimates, Brazil recently realized one of the biggest greenhouse gas emission reductions in the world as a result of its achievements in reducing deforestation rates.

According to UNEP’s Towards a Green Economy: Pathways to Sustainable Development and Poverty Eradication, the country is also at the forefront of building an economy that includes recycling and renewable energy and the generation of green jobs.

    • Brazil’s recycling industry generates returns of US$2 billion a year while cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 10 million tonnes.

Recycling in all its forms already employs 12 million people in three countries alone: Brazil, China and the United States.

Brazil is also the world leader in sustainable ethanol production for fueling vehicles and is expanding into other renewable areas such as wind power and solar heating systems.

    • The recent construction of 500,000 new homes in Brazil with solar heating systems generated 30,000 new jobs.

“We are very pleased to host this global celebration for the environment. The World Environment Day will be a great opportunity in Brazil to showcase the environmental aspects of sustainable development in the warm up to the Rio+20 conference,” said Brazil’s Minister of Environment, Izabella Teixeira, who this week is attending UNEP’s Governing Council meeting in Nairobi, Kenya.

“The history of Brazil, the complexion of its diverse and dynamic economy with its natural and nature-based resources allied to its industries and its current and future role in international relations, offer a lens and a unique perspective through which a broad-based, transformational outcome is possible at Rio+20,” said Mr Steiner.

“Brazil’s commitment to social and equity issues nationally and regionally and its responsibilities towards developing and least developed economies can also guide and shape the debates,” he added.

And from Cultural Survival

To honor this year’s World Environment Day, take action!:     

1. Learn about the impacts of oil palm plantations on the environment.  Watch The Sustainability Lie.

2. Stop Oil Palm plantations from destroying Cameroon’s ancient rainforests.

In 2011, the government of Cameroon granted a vast land concession to Herkales Farms in the southwest region of the country. What the government overlooked, was that this concession occurred on the homelands of the Oroko, Bakossi, and Upper Bayang peoples. Herakles Farms plans to clear and replace 300 square miles of rainforest with mono-culture trees to establish an oil palm plantation. Take Action to stop this destruction. 

3.  Learn about the 2012 theme for World Environment Day. “Green Economy: Does it include you?” The UN Environment Programme defines the Green Economy as one that results in improved human well-being and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities. Simply, a green economy can be thought of as one which is low carbon, resource efficient and socially inclusive.

take action now

Earth Day or International Mother Earth Day? April 22nd 2012

“I speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues…Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”

–Dr. Seuss, The Lorax
As a primary school teacher, working with 6 /7  year olds, I remember working on The Lorax with the children in the hope of raising a variety of environmental concerns,some in their own back yard and some global.
A couple of decades on and I can only hope that some of those seeds have grown into saplings and small trees and that some of those young people may be taking action on Earth Day and everyday after…

Earth Day is a day early each year on which events are held worldwide to increase awareness and appreciation of the Earth’s natural environment. Earth Day is now coordinated globally by the Earth Day Network.

Earth Day draws on astronomical phenomena in a new way – which is also the most ancient way – by using the vernal Equinox, the time when the Sun crosses the equator making the length of night and day equal in all parts of the Earth. To this point in the annual calendar, EARTH DAY attaches no local or divisive set of symbols, no statement of the truth or superiority of one way of life over another. But the selection of the March/April Equinox makes planetary observance of a shared event possible, and a flag which shows the Earth, as seen from space, appropriate.”

International Mother Earth Day was established in 2009 by the General Assembly under Resolution A/RES/63/278. The Resolution was introduced by the  State of Bolivia and endorsed by over 50 member states.It recognizes that “the Earth and its ecosystems are our home” and that “it is necessary to promote harmony with nature and the Earth.” The term Mother Earth is used because it “reflects the interdependence that exists among human beings, other living species and the planet we all inhabit”. It is decided to designate April 22 as International Mother Earth Day.

Education is the key component of any environmental initiative, as it provides for sustainability and prepares future generations of global citizens. The Earth Day Network  is helping teachers incorporate those elements into their classroom through online resources, curriculum and activities that engage the entire community.

For the teachers out there:

Reading For The Earth

Earth Day Network has provided you with an online toolkit that will provide the resources to help guide you with informing and organizing activities for young readers in your community. Earth Day Network has identified a number of steps that you can follow to effectively engage your students in the environmental  movement.

Encourage Reading

To encourage reading amongst young readers in grades K-8, Earth Day Network suggests you follow the steps identified below:

Step #1 – Advertise

Find locations in your library that are highly viable to young readers and their parents  and post fliers and announcements about the campaign.  Create your own original posters or use on of Earth Day Network’s Reading for the Earth™ posters located below:

Poster Design #1      Poster Design  #2      Poster Design #3      Poster Design #4

Step #2 – Create Display/Showcase

Build a display or showcase that has information about Reading for the Earth including posters and suggested reading lists. Gather a few books to highlight in your display and to help you find environmentally themed books, Earth Day Network has created suggested reading lists for young readers in both grades K-3 and grades 4-8. Some of the selections from the lists are highlighted below and to view a more complete reading list click the link after each section.

Grades K– 3 Reading list

Squish! A Wetland Walk; Nancy Luenn

A feast for the senses, Squish! provides young children with an introduction to the sights, sounds, and smells of a wetland as experienced by a young boy. Luenn uses simple language to explain some of the many ways wetlands are beneficial, and Himler’s quiet watercolors beautifully capture the unusual, wondrous atmosphere.

The Curious Garden; Peter Brown

The Curious Garden, by Peter Brown, is an excellent book about the benefits of greening up our own small corner of the urban world, as told through the story of a young boy who begins to “guerilla garden” in a desolate corner of the city.

The Great Kapok Tree; Lynne Cherry

Author and illustrator Lynne Cherry tells the tale of a man who is sent into the Amazon rain forest one day under instructions to chop down a great kapok tree. As he sleeps, animals emerge from the jungle canopy to plead with the sleeping ax-man to spare their home, and this unique  perspective from the wildlife provides an intriguing scientific argument for preserving nature’s gifts.

Complete Grades K-3 Suggested Reading List (PDF File)

Grades 4-8 Reading List

The Weirdos, Theodore Taylor

Chip Clewt, known simply as the weirdo, lives like a hermit in the Powhatan Swamp, a National Wildlife Refuge that is at the center of a heated controversy between local hunters and  environmentalists.

What  the Parrot told Alice, Dale Smith

What the Parrot Told Alice is a remarkable story, founded on fact. It is destined to awaken the conscience of young people to crucial issues of our time, such as habitat destruction and exploitation of wildlife.

My Side of the Mountain, Jean Craighead George

Jean Craighead George tells the story of a boy who really wants to get away from it all. So, he leaves home to live in the mountains, where he learns to live off the land and gains a sense of independence and adventure before he finally reunites with his family.

Complete Grades 4-8 Suggested Reading List (PDF File)

Suggested Reading List- Grades 9-12                         Suggested Reading List- Australian Authors

Step #3 – Sign-Up Young Readers

Allow young readers to pledge to read environmentally themed books  throughout  the month of April in honor of Earth Day. At the end of April, Earth Day Network will ask participating libraries to count, record, and report the number of pledges made at their libraries.  All participating libraries will receive Certificates of Participation which will be emailed to you using the email that you provide during registration.   Download and to print the official Reading  for the Earth™ pledge sheet click here.

Each pledge will count as an act of green in our A  Billion Acts of Green®  campaign,. The purpose of this campaign is to mobilize one billion acts of environmental service around the world.  The campaign calls for people of all nationalities to commit to an act that helps reduce carbon emissions and promote sustainability.  Collectively, these acts will also demonstrate the power of small every-day individual acts of green. For more information on A Billion Acts of Green® visit: http://act.earthday.org/.

Certificate to award to students who have pledged to read an environmental book

Earth Day Network – India

India has emerged as a decisive environmental, social, economic and political power. Earth Day Network is engaging with partners to build and enhance the region’s civic mobilization and leadership in the environmental movement.It is unfortunate that the government still pursues military strengthening as part of its political power base -we can hope for more peaceful pursuits so that the environment does not suffer any more through destructive power plays.

Building on the success of its 40th Anniversary Earth Day campaign, Earth Day Network has launched a permanent India Program, head- quartered in Kolkata, India. Projects in India focus on :

• Environmental Education
Women & The Green Economy (WAGETM)
• Capacity Building & Training
• Earth Day — India

Check out Hesperian

April 22 is Earth Day!  Hesperian is celebrating by releasing A Community Guide to Environmental Health. Also there is a new HealthWiki! This digital format makes it easy to access, edit and adapt the material for local needs.

And how big is your environmental footprint? Calculate the impact you are having on the planet.

Understanding 350 -Climate change – what can we do?

Blog Action Day.Understanding 350 -Climate change – what  can we do?


UNDERSTANDING 350

As educators, trainers and facilitators we have an obligation to provide young people with the skills  not only to survive well in the world but to have the choice to make  an active contribution to reduce the heavy impact we are making on the health of the planet.

acclaim_images-0350-0910-0705-1120

Awareness is not enough -so teaching young people the ‘facts’ may not be enough, they also need to develop the skills of :

  1. self awareness leading to personal action, initially on behalf of self
  2. confidence in expressing own views
  3. being assertive without being aggressive
  4. assessing media reporting – distinguishing fact from bias
  5. problem solving
  6. empathy and understanding a range of perspectives on the same issue
  7. taking action on behalf of others

Of course, this does not happen in one classroom but approaches to learning have to be community wide so that adults affirm and support young people’s actions.

There is plenty of information around but just to reiterate :

About 350…

350 parts per million is what many scientists, climate experts, and progressive national governments are now saying is the safe upper limit for CO2 in our atmosphere.

350-chart_0

Accelerating arctic warming and other early climate impacts have led scientists to conclude that we are already above the safe zone at our current 390ppm, and that unless we are able to rapidly return to 350 ppm this century, we risk reaching tipping points and irreversible impacts such as the melting of the Greenland ice sheet and major methane releases from increased permafrost melt.

arcticmelt

and a little bit more about global warming:

Top Ten Things You Need to Know about Global Warming

There are a number of widely held misconceptions about climate change, and unfortunately, these are reflected in some of the educational materials available on the web. It is therefore crucial for teachers to educate themselves and their students with accurate information and be careful not to reinforce common but incorrect notions.

350_FactoryCO2_0.jpg

#1 Global warming is caused primarily by carbon dioxide from burning coal, oil and gas.

Certain gases that trap heat are building up in Earth’s atmosphere. The primary culprit is carbon dioxide, released from burning coal, oil and natural gas in power plants, cars, factories, etc. (and to a lesser extent when forests are cleared). The second is methane, released from rice paddies, both ends of cows, rotting garbage in landfills, mining operations, and gas pipelines. Third are chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and similar chemicals, which are also implicated in the separate problem of ozone depletion (see #5 below). Nitrous oxide (from fertilizers and other chemicals) is fourth.

#2 Earth’s average temperature has risen about 1 degree F in the past 100 years and is projected to rise another 3 to 10 degrees F in the next 100 years.
While Earth’s climate has changed naturally throughout time, the current rate of change due to human activity is unprecedented during at least the last 10,000 years. The projected range of temperature rise is wide because it includes a variety of possible future conditions, such as whether or not we control greenhouse gas emissions and different ways the climate system might respond. Temperatures over the US are expected to rise more than over the globe as a whole because land areas closer to the poles are projected to warm faster than those nearer the equator.

#3 There is scientific consensus that global warming is real, is caused by human activities, and presents serious challenges.
Scientists working on this issue report that the observed global warming cannot be explained by natural variations such as changes in the sun’s output or volcanic eruptions. The most authoritative source of information is the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) which draws upon the collective wisdom of many hundreds of scientists from around the world. The IPCC projects global temperature increases of 3 to 10 degrees F in the next 100 years and says that human activity is the cause of most of the observed and projected warming.

#4 There’s a difference between weather and climate.
Weather refers to the conditions at one particular time and place, and can change from hour to hour, day to day, and season to season. Climate, on the other hand, refers to the long-term average pattern of weather in a place. Long-term data are needed to determine changes in climate, and such data indicate that Earth’s climate has been warming at a rapid rate since the start of intensive use of coal and oil in the late 1800s.

global-warmingnix

#5 The ozone hole does not cause global warming.
Ozone depletion is a different problem, caused mainly by CFCs (like Freon) once used in refrigerators and air conditioners. In the past, CFCs were also used in aerosol spray cans, but that use was banned in the US in 1978. CFCs deplete the stratospheric ozone layer that protects life on Earth from excess ultraviolet light that can cause skin cancer and cataracts in humans and other damage to plants and animals. An international agreement has phased out most uses of CFCs but the ozone layer is only just beginning to recover, partly because these chemicals remain in the atmosphere for a long time. (Although ozone depletion is not the cause of global warming, there are a number of connections between the two. For example, many ozone-depleting compounds are also greenhouse gases. Some of the compounds now replacing CFCs in order to protect ozone are also greenhouse gases. And ozone itself is a greenhouse gas. In addition, while greenhouse gas build-up causes temperatures close to Earth’s surface to rise, it cause temperatures higher up, in the stratosphere, to fall. This stratospheric cooling speeds ozone depletion, delaying the recovery of the ozone hole.)

#6 Global warming will have significant impacts on people and nature.
As temperatures continue to rise, precipitation is projected to come more frequently in the form of heavy downpours. We can probably expect more extreme wet and dry conditions. In the western US, where snowpack provides free storage of most of the water supply, reduced snowpack will make less water available in summer. Coastal areas will become more vulnerable to storm surges as sea level rises. Plant and animal species will migrate or disappear in response to changes in climate; New England may lose its lobsters and maple trees as they move north into Canada. Natural ecosystems such as coral reefs, mangrove swamps, arctic tundra, and alpine meadows are especially vulnerable and may disappear entirely in some areas. While global warming will have impacts on natural and human systems all around the world, the largest impacts will be on many natural ecosystems and on people who live in developing countries and have few resources and little ability to adapt. On the positive side, warmer winters will reduce cold-related stresses and growing seasons will lengthen. And there will be tradeoffs in some areas, such as less skiing but more hiking; and fewer killing frosts but more bugs.

350_ClimateRefugees_0.jpg

#7 Sea level has already risen due to warming and is projected to rise much more.
Many people are under the mistaken impression that only if the polar ice caps melt will sea level rise. In fact, average sea level around the world has already risen 4 to 8 inches in the past 100 years due to global warming and is expected to rise another 4 to 35 inches (with a best guess of around 19 inches) by 2100. The primary reason for this rise is that water expands as it warms. The second reason is that glaciers all over the world are melting, and when land-based ice melts, the water runs to the sea and increases its level. Thousands of small islands are threatened by the projected sea-level rise for the 21st century, as are low-lying coastal areas such as southern Florida. Of course, if there is any significant melting of the polar ice sheets, the additional rise in sea level would be enormous (measured in feet not inches). This is projected to occur on a time scale of millennia rather than centuries.


#8 Saving energy and developing alternative energy sources would help.
Each of us can reduce our contribution to global warming by using less greenhouse-gas-producing energy: driving less, choosing fuel efficient cars and appliances (like refrigerators and water heaters), and using solar energy where feasible for water and space heat. We can encourage our political and business leaders to institute policies that will save energy and develop alternative energy sources that do not release carbon dioxide. We can preserve existing forests and plant new ones. But even if we take aggressive action now, we cannot completely prevent climate change because once carbon dioxide is in the atmosphere, it remains there for about a century, and the climate system takes a long time to respond to changes. But our actions now and in the coming decades will have enormous implications for future generations.

#9 An international agreement known as the Kyoto Protocol has been negotiated to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but the US is not participating in it.
Because of its high energy consumption, the US has long emitted more carbon dioxide than any other country. Because carbon dioxide remains in the atmosphere for about 120 years, it accumulates, becomes equally distributed around the world, and has global effects. Thus, while using large amounts of energy to achieve economic growth, the US and other wealthy nations have unintentionally burdened the rest of the world with a long-term problem. And many negative impacts of climate change are likely to be more severe for poorer countries that lack the resources to adapt.

#10 Protecting the world’s climate by stabilizing atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases will require enormous reductions in current emissions.
Even if ratified, the Kyoto Protocol in its present form is only a start and would not be nearly enough to stabilize climate. It is estimated that greenhouse gas emissions would have to be reduced to less than one third of current levels to stabilize atmospheric concentrations. This would require a major transformation of the energy sector. A mix of new and existing energy technologies will be needed to achieve this, including large increases in energy efficiency and renewable energy. Researchers are also developing technology to capture and bury carbon dioxide thousands of feet underground. Major increases in public and private research and development are needed to make the necessary technologies available as rapidly and economically as possible.

But the most significant reason for the controversy is that some special interests have mounted an active campaign to raise doubts and create confusion about this issue. For legitimate and other reasons, a very small number of scientists raise questions about whether warming has or will occur. When they do, special interests work hard to amplify and distribute the views of these “contrarians” in order to create confusion among the press, policymakers and public and give the impression that there is still a major scientific debate about the reality and causes of climate change. (Note: not all fossil fuel companies are implicated in this disinformation campaign. Some, in fact, have acknowledged the scientific realities and are taking steps to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions [see a list of such companies at the Pew Centre on Global Climate Change]).

EPA GLOBAL WARMING SITE


You can get up to speed on climate change issues quickly and efficiently at this site from the US Environmental Protection Agency. “Frequently Asked Questions” (FAQ) is a good place to begin. Another good section, “In the News,” offers brief summaries of the latest developments in climate science and policy and provides links for further details. “Publications” provides links to authoritative reports from the top sources. “Outreach” offers a variety of very useful fact sheets (basic to advanced) to get you and your students started, as well as brochures that deal with particular aspects of the subject, such as “Climate Change and Birds” and “Climate Change and Public Lands.” One fact sheet, “Straight Talk on Global Warming,” deals with some of the most common misunderstandings and misrepresentations about the issue.

The “Outreach” section also includes publications that deal with policies and technological strategies for reducing human-induced climate change. Links to online tools are provided for calculating emissions reductions from various strategies. These tools can easily form the basis of classroom activities such as calculating carbon dioxide emissions reductions from walking to school instead of being driven, thus helping students relate personally to this global scale issue. The glossary is quite extensive and fairly technical and is a great resource for teachers and more advanced high school students.

A much simpler and far less comprehensive glossary for younger students can be found at EPA’s Global Warming Kids Page. Elementary and Middle School students will find this page an accessible place to begin. It includes simple explanations of the issues and characterizes scientists as “climate detectives” searching for clues in ice cores, tree rings and satellite data. It also provides links and games to appeal to younger students.

UN CLIMATE INFORMATION KIT


This is an excellent resource for information on climate change from the United Nations, World Meteorological Organization, and five other international agencies. The 63-page guide (downloads in pdf) is clearly written in plain English, and offers comprehensive information on the science of global climate change, potential impacts, adaptation and mitigation strategies, and policies. This policy emphasis – what the world is doing about climate change – sets this material apart. Data charts, including greenhouse gas emissions and their sources, are another useful feature. This thorough guide was updated in the summer of 2001 with information from the latest reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the leading authority on the subject. Note: International units are used in this guide, so take this opportunity to familiarize your students with converting degrees Celsius to Fahrenheit and metric measurements to English ones (e.g., meters to feet).

PEW CENTER ON GLOBAL CLIMATE CHANGE


The Pew Center on Global Climate Change is an independent, non-partisan organization dedicated to providing credible information and innovative solutions to addressing climate change. Funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts and other sources, the Center produces reports by leading experts on climate change science, economics, policies, and solutions. It has also enlisted dozens of major companies in an effort to use the power of the marketplace to address climate change. The website offers an excellent set of resources that are useful for teachers and more advanced students, from the full text of the Center’s reports, to current articles and editorials, to lists of sites for more information.

UNION OF CONCERNED SCIENTISTS (UCS) CURRICULUM GUIDE


The UCS has produced a set of teaching materials designed to accompany “Global Warming: Early Warning Signs”- a science-based world map depicting local and regional consequences of global climate change. The map can be found at http://www.climatehotmap.org/. While UCS and the other organizations that produced the map are advocacy groups that call for policy actions on climate change, the lesson plans in the UCS Curriculum Guide are scientifically accurate, pedagogically sound, and do not reflect a bias. Rather, they encourage students to collect and analyze data and draw their own conclusions.

The 30-page Curriculum Guide is geared towards grades 9-12, but individual exercises are adaptable to other grade levels. Each activity is structured to include an initial “Engagement” exercise, one or more steps of a student “Exploration” project, and ideas for extended study. The activities align with National Learning Standards for Science, Geography, Social Studies, Language Arts, Environmental Education, and Technology, and the specific standards addressed by each activity are identified.

The web resources suggested for teacher and student use are authoritative and first rate.

Four activities are presented:
Climate Change in My City: Students use an historical climate index to analyze climate change at local, regional, and global scales. 
Oral History Project: Students interview older residents in the community about climate changes during their lifetime and compare the results to a climate change index that is based on historical temperature measurements. 
Climate Change and Disease: Students research the relationship between hosts, parasites, and vectors for common vector-borne diseases and evaluate how climate change could affect the spread of disease. 
Climate Change and Ecosystems: Students research the interdependencies among plants and animals in an ecosystem and explore how climate change might affect those interdependencies and the ecosystem as a whole.

Some information from the Global Environmental Facility GEF:

Climate Change Risks could cost Developing countries up to 19% of GDP by 2030

14 September 2009 | A report from the Economics of Climate Adaptation Working Group released today indicates that climate risks could cost nations up to 19% of their GDP by 2030, with developing countries most vulnerable. The report concludes, however, that cost effective adaptation measures already exist that can prevent between 40 and 68 percent of the expected economic loss with even higher levels of prevention possible in highly target geographies.

GEF projects in climate change help developing countries and economies in transition to contribute to the overall objective of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) “to achieve […] stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system. Such a level should be achieved within a time frame sufficient to allow ecosystems to adapt naturally to climate change, to ensure that food production is not threatened and to enable economic development to proceed in a sustainable manner” (from the text of the UNFCCC, Art.2).

What Can I Do About It?

After learning about climate change, some students may want to know what they as individuals can do about it. This site from Environmental Defense offers 20 simple steps to reduce an individual’s contribution to global warming and gives the approximate carbon dioxide reduction attained by taking each step. While Environmental Defense is an advocacy group that supports strong measures to mitigate climate change, the suggested actions are simply those that are widely recommended to reduce energy use and its environmental impacts.

sunclimate_1

Climate change is a human issue. It isn’t just about saving the planet and communities around the world face serious threats from the climate crisis. The TckTckTck campaign has created a great tool for learning the stories behind the human face of climate change. It’s called the Climate Orb and it is an animated interactive tool housing first-hand stories searchable by country, keyword and timeframe. Explore the Climate Orb.

Finally, don’t forget that people all around the world are getting involved and taking action. Next week, on October 24, 350.org is organizing the International Day of Climate Action. You can visit their site and see what people all around the world are planning to do next week to demonstrate their commitment to stopping climate change.

World Environment Day – a war of the worlds?

World Environment Day  – 5th June 2009

Which world do you inhabit -a ‘tree -hugging’ world or a ‘fight you’ world? Read on….

tree hugger
tree hugger

World Environment Day (WED) was established by the UN General Assembly in 1972 to mark the opening of the Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment.

Commemorated yearly on 5 June, WED is one of the principal vehicles through which the United Nations stimulates worldwide awareness of the environment and enhances political attention and action. The day’s agenda is to:

  1. Give a human face to environmental issues;
  2. Empower people to become active agents of sustainable and equitable development;
  3. Promote an understanding that communities are pivotal to changing attitudes towards environmental issues;
  4. Advocate partnership which will ensure all nations and peoples enjoy a safer and more prosperous future.
increasing surface temperatures
increasing surface temperatures

The theme for WED 2009 is ‘Your Planet Needs You-UNite to Combat Climate Change’. It reflects the urgency for nations to agree on a new deal at the crucial climate convention meeting in Copenhagen some 180 days later in the year, and the links with overcoming poverty and improved management of forests.

climate change-can you control it?
climate change-can you control it?

While the United Nations tries to alert people about the potential environmental crisis looming ahead  -the ‘Nations’  part of the UN prefers to spend their money on arms production and use, than pay their dues to the UN.

Global military expenditure now stands at over $1.2 trillion in annual expenditure and has been rising in recent years.

Global arms spending
Global arms spending

Indeed, compare the military spending with the entire budget of the United Nations:

The United Nations and all its agencies and funds spend about $20 billion each year, or about $3 for each of the world’s inhabitants. This is a very small sum compared to most government budgets and it is just a tiny fraction of the world’s military spending. Yet for nearly two decades, the UN has faced  financial difficulties and it has been forced to cut back on important programs in all areas. Many member states have not paid their full dues and have cut their donations to the UN’s voluntary funds. As of August 31, 2008, members’ arrears to the Regular Budget topped $919 million, of which the United States alone owed $846 million (92% of the regular budget arrears) and of course is the world’s biggest spenders on arms.

Summarizing some key details from chapter 5 of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI)’s 2008 Year Book on Armaments, Disarmament and International Security for 2007:

  • World Military Expenditure in 2007 is estimated to have reached $1.339 trillion in current dollars (just over $1.2 trillion in 2005 constant dollars, as per above graph);
  • This represents a 6 per cent increase in real terms since 2006 and a 45 per cent increase over the 10-year period since 1998;
  • This corresponds to 2.5 per cent of world gross domestic product (GDP), or $202 for each person in the world;

Of course with a billion people living in poverty, living on $365 per year or less, they may prefer  their governments spend their tax dollars in a different way. What about spending more on education and health?

UNESCO stated that governments of the world invested the equivalent of PPP$ 2.46 trillion in education in 2004 (or 1.97 trillion if converted into U.S. dollars on the basis of market exchange rates). This figure represents 4.4% of global GDP in PPP$. PPPs (purchasing power parities) are rates of currency conversion which eliminate differences in price levels among countries.

Total global expenditure for health US$ 4.1 trillion + Total global expenditure for health per person per year: US$ 639

So back to WED -what about spending on the environment?Guardian headlined in 2008

“Huge increase in spending on water urged to avert global catastrophe”

HEP Dam Chile.EPA
HEP Dam Chile.EPA

Countries across the world will have to dramatically increase investment in dams, pipes and other water infrastructure to avoid widespread flooding, drought and disease even before climate change accelerates these problems, experts have warned.

Global sea level rise?
Global sea level rise?

Investment needs to be at least doubled from the current level of $80bn (£45.5bn) a year, an international congress was told this week, and one leading authority said spending needed to rise to 1.5% of gross domestic product just “to be able to cope with the current climate” – one thousand times the current level.

The warnings follow a summer of dramatic events, from hurricane flooding in the Caribbean and the east coast of America to desperate measures in drought-stricken Mediterranean countries, including importing water by ship.

Rich nations suffer huge under-investment, but the threat of poor infrastructure to populations in developing countries is even greater, said Dr Olcay Unver, director of the United Nations’ Global Water Assessment Unit.

So serious is the problem that next year the UN’s World Water Assessment Report will make one of its main messages the need for investment to “accelerate substantially”, said Unver.

“You can’t justify the deaths of so many children because of lack of infrastructure or lost productive time of people [who are] intellectually or physically incapacitated because of simple lack of access to safe water or sanitation,” he added.

Dr Glen Daigger, senior vice-president of the International Water Association, said there was growing evidence that spending on clean water and sanitation was the single greatest contribution to reducing disease and death. The UN has identified dams for hydropower and irrigation as leading drivers of sustainable economic growth in developing countries. “Water and sanitation is clearly a better investment than medical intervention, but it’s not sexy,” added Daigger.

So on WED Governments could do some thinking -where do we get the money to attempt to start solving some of the big questions about the environment -and the step before that is to raise enough awareness so that action can be taken to pressurise Governments to act on your behalf…and the penguins!

Antarctic penguins
Antarctic penguins