The Global Environment Issues (G

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The Global Environment Issues (G Powered By Docstoc
					The Global Environment Issues (GEI) Course

Study Guide By Sven Åke Bjørke in collaboration with
Adolf F. Makauki (Mzumbe University) S. Subasinghe (Ruhuna University) R. M. Ratnayake (Ruhuna University)

Arendal August 2007

Global Environment Issues (GEI)

Study Guide
The aim of this course is to get an overview of the global environmental situation, analyse the relationship between environmental factors and development issues seen from an environmental perspective, and to develop an understanding of what is meant by a sustainable development. Focus is on the global perspective. In addition, regional overviews on priority issues are offered. Opportunities for reflection on the learning environment and procedures are given, and the student is expected to develop his or her own learning skills. Objectives On completion of the GEI course the students should have the ability to:  Describe, discuss and present main global environmental issues such as the greenhouse effect and climate change, biodiversity, freshwater shortage, ozone depletion and persistent pollutants as short lectures to an audience of non-academics. Analyze and explain some major regional environmental issues to peers in online discussions and essays Discuss and evaluate some environmental assessment processes and present the results to peers using ICT media of communication Compare, analyse and assess different view points on interaction between environment and development in the global context, discuss these viewpoints online with peers and present the results in short lectures and essays. Discuss inter- relatedness of the specific elements of the environment and describe main scenarios applying ecological terms and methods.

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The students will gain / improve skills in:  constructive examination of the major environmental outcomes of policies and practices;  making informed strategic decisions based on development scenarios;  collaborative work on-line and face-to-face with peers by sharing ideas, analyzing problems and finding solutions;  summarizing and evaluating arguments  balancing and integrating different points of view in a decision making process;  writing academic deliverables  environmental information communication;  planning, administrating and implementing own work  reflecting on personal learning processes and improvement of learning skills. The students should have developed or strengthened attitudes on:  Environmental and development values and ethics and be able to express this in structured presentations


Module 1 Module 1: Background. The environment issue: a shift in focus.
A shift in focus from picking trash at the roadside to persistent pollutants, global warming, depletion of the ozone layer, biodiversity and GMOs: Development of the environmental process including a recent history of events, policies and practices. Time frame, module 1: 10 September – 1 October Aims, module 1 On completion of this block, the students should have developed an understanding of how awareness of the environment as an issue has changed and become more urgent to many people. Objectives, module 1
Knowledge: The students should be able to describe and apply in communication media of their choice :  the main events in the recent history of environmentalism and its place in the overall historical context of the world  the development of the major global environmental policies and practices  the ”mainstream” environmental discourse and various differing opinions. Skills: The students should be able to participate efficiently in the e-learning environment, take part in distributed collaborative problem-based learning and computer mediated communication techniques

Task 1 Learn about and understand the shift in perception and awareness of the environment during the last five-six decades.

Activity 1

(6 hours)

Read the synthesis part and chapter 1 in GEO-3 (Set book). Browse the interactive “Timeline” with environment related events from the 1960’s until today. Find the “Timeline” using the web-link below. Try to pick out early highlights, such as “Limits to growth”, Seveso catastrophe etc.


Task 2 Learn about the main global environment issues and how these may be connected to development. Activity 1 (10 hours) Read the UN Millennium Declaration, General Assembly, September 2000 and the Synthesis report of the Millennium Ecosystems Assessment. Browse the resources on the website:

Activity 2 (30 hours) a. In your groups, discuss these global environmental issues. Can you make a comprehensive list of all such issues? Are there other issues beyond those mentioned in the UN sources above? b. Decide for yourself what you consider to be the three most urgent global environment issues. Write an individual paper in which you discuss each of these three issues, and explain why they are more important than any other issues. Check that you have a good reference list, and write an individual essay, in formal academic style, 2000-3000 words. Upload your essay to the hand-in folder. Hand in date: 3rd of October This is an individual hand in that counts 10% of the final grade.


Module 2 Module 2: The State of the Environment
Overview of the global State of the Environment (SOE), reporting processes and the state of the environment in different regions of the world. Main issues pertaining to environmental assessment, and major environmental changes during the last decades. Time frame, module 2: 3rd of October – 21 October Aim, module 2 Obtain basic insight in the state of the environment of the world, understand how a State of the Environment (SoE) report is made and get an overview of where to find and how to use such reports. Objectives, module 2 Knowledge:  Upon completion of this block you should be able to: o list and describe major global environmental issues o describe some regional variations o describe the interconnectedness of major environmental issues o list the main socio-economic factors as driving forces in environmental issues Skills:  Reflect on how the gained knowledge can be used to express a personal opinion on the policies in own region or country

Task 1 Obtain basic insight in the state of the environment of the world, understand how a State of the Environment (SoE) report is made and get an overview of where to find and how to use such reports.

Activity 1 (12 hours) Read p. 30-31 in GEO3 Use the GEO matrix to compare issues (p. 31) Read about environmental indicators, the reporting systems of Pressure-StateResponse (PSR) and Driving Forces – Pressure – State – Impact – Response (DPSIR) The first SoE report on the Internet was the State of the Environment Norway 1995. Have a look at the report:, (a reporting system that has been copied in 40 countries). You will see that there are 4

11 environmental issues in this report. Each of these issues is subdivided in “Trend”, “Pressure”, “State”, “Response” and “Background information”. This is a typical PSR–report. Click on the “Toxic Contamination” chapter. Choose “Pressure”. There you will find two indicators, both are heavy metals; Cadmium and Lead. As you will notice, the maps are fairly similar. The point with those two maps is simply to explain how an indicator functions: the second map is actually superfluous and can be removed. Using indicators, we only give a small part of the truth, but nevertheless so much of the truth that decision-makers can react on it: you get an understanding of where the problem is, from where it comes if you know about precipitation and wind patterns, and you can see the trend. With the PSR/DPSIR reporting systems, less-than-a-page information, but read-more-functions if needed, you are now looking at an information system that probably has impact on decision-makers. Have a look at another (animated) indicator from the same report:

Go to: Print out the SoE Cookbook, which gives you a practical guide and overview on how to make a SoE report on the Internet. Discuss in your group: 1. Why should “indicators” be used? 2. How reliable are these types of reports? Weaknesses and strengths?

Suggested Resources: See URL: (Careful – don’t get lost!) Read about environment indicators URL: See in particular: which gives you examples of indicators for each group in the DPSIR system

Activity 2 (15 hours) The Socio-economic Issue Browse or speed read p. 32-61 in GEO3 Browse through the resources given Read about the Human Development reports. URL: and find the definition of the Human Development Index (HDI). Familiarize yourself with the Globalis tool. URL: Familiarise yourself with the concept “Ecological footprint” Read these articles:


The ecological footprint
< erview> <>

Managing Ecological Investment Risks Article on limited biocapacity

Activity 3 (30 hours) The Ecological Issues Browse or speed-read the pages 62-269 in the GEO3 Each group now selects one major ecological issue and makes an outline of a chapter in an SoE report. The SoE report can be global or regional. Use the DPSIR system. Select a moderator, make a timetable and distribute work in the group. Make a group document and use text, graphics, and pictures where possible and relevant. The product should be designed for publication on a website. Group hand in date for the draft: 19th of October. The weaver uploads the outline to the Archive. This hand in counts towards your participation grade.

Mid-Term Reflections (1 hour) Go to the folder named Course Evaluations in the Archive under UT-403 and write your reflections before Module 3 begins.


Module 3 Module 3: Vulnerability, risk assessment and adaptation
Human vulnerability to changes in the environment: how people are affected and possible ways of assessing risks, adaptation and vulnerability reduction. Time frame: 22 October – 17 November
Aims of module 3 On completion of this module the students should understand how at least one global environment issue may threaten ecosystems, development in general and vulnerable human settlements in more concrete cases. The students should also have developed an understanding for abatement and adapting strategies. Objectives of module 3 Knowledge: The students should be able to describe  the issue of vulnerability to environmental threats, including people and places that are particularly vulnerable and how they are affected.  the concept of responding to vulnerability with the aim of reducing vulnerability and exploring adaptation to threats. Skills: The students should be able to  formulate ideas on appropriate responses to human vulnerability  use of early warning systems as a means by which to communicate early warning indicators and decide on an appropriate action  critically assess information on the internet

Task 1 Learn about and develop an understanding of why a majority of the world’s scientists believe the greenhouse effect and climate change to be the main environmental threat to further development during this century. Activity 1 (30 hours) Take the online course "Climate Change: Science, Scenarios and Possible Impacts". Read some of the articles to the HDR report 2007 and browse through the Stern report:


Task 2 Learn about human vulnerability to environmental change. Activity 1. (5 hour) Read p. 301-317 in GEO3

Activity 2 (40 hours) Arrange an online, asynchronous structured debate . Topic: “Natural disasters: tsunamis, tropical cyclones, hurricanes, drought, floods, earthquakes, global warming, are often called “force majeure”, i.e. beyond human control. Another -- maybe misleading -- term is “Acts of God”. These events are claimed to be impossible to predict, and it is neither economically feasible nor practical to prevent nor prepare for such rare and extreme events!” All students participate in the same asynchronous threaded discussion. The group must select people for four functions:    One “promoter” of the topic, arguing in favour of the statement. One “opposer” arguing against the statement. One moderator – who organises the discussion. S/he encourages all to participate, see to that participants stick to the topic, see to that contributors express themselves in brief, when necessary organises side discussions in new folders. A weaver putting together a final document that the group can agree on


All participants work as “documentalists”, searching for arguments with support in reliable and relevant sources. Remember referencing! As a rule, stick to one argument per thread. Remember proper referencing! You should refer to sources in your set book, from the GVU resource library and from resources of your own choice. Group hand in date: 16th of November. This assignment (max 4000 words) counts 30% of the final grade. The weaver uploads the assignment to the hand in folder.


Module 4 Module 4: Driving forces and scenarios
Introduction to scenario analysis as a means by which to reflect on how decisions, including policy changes, impact the future. Major driving forces behind environment change. Time frame: 19 November – 3 December Aims of module 4 On completion of this module the participants should have developed a deeper understanding of how various driving forces can have impact on political decisions which again influence development and increase or decrease vulnerability. Objectives of module 4 Knowledge Students should be able to describe the basics in:  scenario analysis, including both its strength and weaknesses  how policy making has an impact on development  the driving forces behind environmental change  how the impact of our decisions today can affect the future  the significant delays that can occur between human actions and associated impacts on the environment Skills Students will upgrade skills and gain experience in:  their ability to think strategically to plan for and reach a long term goal  working with scenarios and using them as part of informed decision making

Task 1, module 4 Learn about how to develop scenarios several decades into the future. Develop an understanding of how today’s decisions can have impact far into the future.

Activity 1 (8 hours) Read p. 320-400 in GEO3

Activity 2. (35 hours) a. Structured group discussion Organise your group. Distribute a fair workload to all the participants.


Map appropriate resources, using the set book, resources from the GVU library and resources of your own choice. Remember to make correct references. The holiday resort of Xanadu A holiday resort: “Xanadu inc.” is being planned for the area of “Bluewood forest”, known for its outstanding natural beauty and biodiversity importance. The local people use this area to gather wood and to hold religious ceremonies. It is also an important habitat for migratory species. There is chronic unemployment and widespread poverty in the neighbouring town. How would you approach this situation? Would you allow the development to go ahead? What conditions or restrictions would you enforce? How would you make your decisions and which groups or individuals would you consult for advice? Each group selects one of the following development path scenarios: a) Government regulation: Development is highly regulated by government, which sets development priorities and either directly carries out activities itself, or tightly controls activities through regulations and laws. b) Corporate social responsibility: Development is controlled by market forces, industry is self-regulated, and companies pursue development projects without external interference. Based on your choice of development paths, discuss in your group what you think the long-term outcomes are likely to be. How will the area look 40 years from now? What will the outcomes depend on? Compare results between the groups and discuss the reliability of such projections. Discuss the policy implications arising from this analysis. Each group makes a report on their findings, not more than 2500 words. Group hand in date: 3rd of December. The weaver uploads the task to the Archive. This hand in counts towards your participation grade.


Module 5 Module 5: Achieving sustainable development?
Tools for strengthening and promoting sustainable environmental development. Policy performance monitoring, international policy framework, the use of trade and technology in sustainable development. Predictions and scenarios. Time frame: 3 December – 15 December Aims On completion of this module the participants should have developed an understanding of the main adjustments and changes necessary to steer the development in a more sustainable direction. The participants should be able to critically discuss various options for action; locally and nationally, and how to further develop international cooperation. Objectives Knowledge Students will be able to present the main issues in:  the role of information in making informed decisions and identifying/implementing appropriate actions for sustainable development  the importance of policy decisions in addressing environmental change GEO-3’s suggestions for action Skills Students will upgrade their skills in:  Critical analysis of options for actions  Verbalizing and communicating personal views on appropriate options for action  Develop ideas for appropriate course of action within a specific context

Task 1 Develop an understanding for how environment, economy, world trade and development are connected, and formulate long-term priorities, possible decisions and actions to achieve prosperity, health and well-being for all without jeopardizing the environment. Activity 1. (8 hours) Read p. 402- 410 in GEO3 And New Lessons from the Old World. The European Model for Falling in Love with Your Hometown And Dasgupta, P. (2005) : 'Discounting Ecosystem Losses', in Our Planet, Volume 16 #2, "Nature's Capital and The Millennium Development Goals"


Activity 2 (35 hours) Group discussion Group assignment. Choose moderator, weaver and arrange an online asynchronous, threaded discussion. Based on the discussions, write an individual essay with the discussion topic as title. Use as resources: the set book, the GVU resource library and other resources of your own choice. In addition you may refer to or quote from your group discussions that you have published this semester. Remember to reference properly and clearly distinguish quotations. In the text you refer to the last name of the author, year of publication and page number in parenthesis. Make a reference list at the end. The essay, abstract, table of content and reference list not included, should not exceed 2000 words. Upload your essay to the archive. Topic: “Environment and development: The difficult choices ahead for achieving sustainable development. Priorities and reasons” Individual hand in date: 14th of December. This hand in counts towards your participation grade. End reflections Go to the folder named Course Evaluations in the Archive under UT-403 and write your reflections before the end of Module 5.

Timeframe: 17 December - 20 December. (25 hours) Online home exam. Word limit: 3000. Further instructions for this online exam will be provided.