Bees The issue: About ⅓ of all food consumed relies on pollination from honeybees. Yet honeybees are dying at an alarming rate. Define the problem: What is causing the death of the honeybees? What is Europe, who is also experiencing a die off, doing to protect the honey bees? What steps has the US taken to protect the honeybees? Action: What steps can a kid do? What steps can our community do? Who in the community and/or Agricultural community can I contact to gain a deeper understanding of this issue?
Biking Culture The issue: Majority of people drive or commute to work. However, many European cultures bike on a daily basis rain or shine. With more cars on the road, this leads to more pollution from cars which has a ripple effect in our environment. Define the problem: Why don’t people bike? What cultures or places in the US have a much higher percentage of bicyclists? What are they doing differently? How did they change things to shift the culture to a biking culture? Action: What steps can a kid do? What steps can our community do? How do we create a culture of cyclists rather than drivers?
Carbon Footprint The issue: The use of fossil (carbon-based) fuels are the foundation of our society since the industrial revolution. This has led to a type of fuel that can sometimes “cost” less but may have a greater societal and environmental cost. Almost everything we do in modern society has a “carbon footprint”, a certain amount of fossil fuels that are required to produce and transport the goods. Define the problem: How big is someone’s carbon footprint? How can people find out? How can people lower their carbon footprint? What would the daily impact of our lives be if we were to lower our own carbon footprint? What are the pros and cons of changing our lives to a carbon-free or carbon-reduced lifestyle? Can technology and renewables be able to let us live at our current level of consumption? Why or why not? Action: What steps can a kid do? What steps can our community do? How can we educate our community on the complex issues and possible solutions that we can all do to minimize our carbon footprint?
Clothing The issue: In the past, most people had only two sets of clothes. These were often worn until thread bare and would be patched and mended if needed. Now we have an entire wardrobe. The amount of clothes that an individual owns has changed over time, but also the materials that make up those clothes has changed as well as the amount of time that we keep an item. Define the problem: Why are folks able to have so many more clothes than in the past? What are some of the different materials that make up clothes? What are the raw materials that make up these clothes? Why do we dispose of clothes now and in the past? What happens to our clothes when we are done with them? How do our clothing choices impact the environment? Are there alternatives? Action: What steps can a kid do? What steps can our community do?
Delta The issue: Water is a big issue in California. There are plans to build a tunnel from the Delta to southern California. The plan to build the tunnel will double the water to Southern California, yet the water where that water will come from will stay the same. How will this impact agriculture and Southern California. Define the problem: Why do some folks think a tunnel will be a good idea? Who is opposed to the tunnel? What is their reasoning? Is the current plan to build a tunnel or to repair the current aqueduct a better plan? How will both plans impact agriculture and environmental ecosystems in the state? Do you think the tunnel should be built or not? Why? Action: What steps can a kid do? What steps can our community do?
Dyes The issue: In the past clothes were made with natural dyes and folks only had a few outfits. In modern society, folks have an entire wardrobe of clothes and many of the dyes are synthetic. Synthetic is something that is made of chemical properties to imitate and replace the original dyes in clothes. Much of our clothes are produced in other countries where there are few regulations on labor conditions and the environment. In China there is an expression that says that you can tell what colors are in fashion in the US by looking at the rivers. Define the problem: What impact does using synthetic dyes have on our environment globally? Locally (where the factories are and locally here in Marin county?) How are those people and communities affected? What can be done to make sure everyone has access to safe water? Action: What steps can a kid do? What steps can our community do? How can we as students better inform our community on the impact of these dyes have on our world? Is there an alternative that can be both cost effective and environmentally safe?
Fracking The issue: Every aspect of modern life is dependent on cheap fossil fuels. Yet we are running out of cheap oil; however some big reserves of natural gas have recently been found in the US. The process of removing the natural gas is called hydraulic fracturing or fracking. Proponents of fracking say it will help the economy by providing necessary jobs and also help us become less dependent on foreign sources of energy. Opponents of fracking say that it risks contaminating groundwater for millions and our agriculture. Define the problem: How many jobs will fracking create? What are the risks of fracking? Is there a balance between creating jobs and the environment? Is there an alternative to fracking that would create jobs and not impact the environment? Action: What steps can a kid do? What steps can our community do?
Garbage Patch The issue: There are several large patches of garbage floating in the different oceans. The one closest to us the North Pacific Gyre, which is sometimes called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Define the problem: How big is the problem? What’s causing it? How can we stop it from growing? How is the problem affecting the ecosystem? Action: What steps can a kid do? What steps can our community do? Many people have already informed communities about this issue, how we impact our school and local community to minimize our impact?
Keystone XL Pipeline The issue: Our modern society runs on fossil fuels. Tar sands can be dug up and processed to help meet our demand for fuel. It will create jobs and stimulate the economy too. Yet NASA’s former leading climatologist, James Hansen, says that extracting tar sands will be “game over for climate.” Define the problem: How do we as a society balance between the economy and the environment? Are there alternatives to the Keystone XL Pipeline? How does/will the Keystone XL pipeline affect job creation in an economy where unemployment is high? Action: What steps can a kid do? What steps can our community do? How do we educate our community on the benefits and the environmental impact of the Keystone Pipeline so that people can make an educated decision on the project?
Loss of Varieties The issue: In the last 100 years, about 94% of the varieties of vegetables have disappeared. It took thousands of years to develop that much biodiversity. Different crops were suited to different climates and soils and important to different cultures and communities. Define the problem: Why have the varieties disappeared? Can we get those varieties back? What can be done to protect the remaining diversity? How has genetic engineering improved production of our crops and is continually genetic engineering of our fruits and vegetables cause a healthy society? Action: What steps can a kid do? What steps can our community do?
Peak Oil The issue: In the 1940s American Geologist M. King Hubbert predicted that the American oil fields would be at half capacity, or peak, in the 1970s. People didn't believe that the world's largest producer would be in a decline that quickly. Oil is formed from plants and animals living long ago and the carbon they possess from heat and pressure in the earth. According to some predictions, the worldwide peak was around 2010. Since Hubbert's predictions, there have been advancements in technology that allow for greater access to oil around the earth. Are we as a society gathering oil at a greater rate than the earth can produce it? Are we on a path of energy independence? What does energy independence mean and look like in our society? Define the problem: How will the decline of fossil fuels and oil impact society? What are fossil fuels used for? Are there alternatives? How do we transition as a society to be energy independent? Action: What steps can a kid do? What steps can our community do?
6th Mass Extinction The issue: We are losing species at a rate 100-1000 times the normal extinction rate. There have been 5 mass extinctions, but this is the first time it has been caused by a species, humans. Define the problem: What are we doing that is causing so many species to become extinct? How does the loss of species impact us and other organisms? Are there particular things that are dying more than others? Is there a tipping point when the number of extinct species makes the ecosystem likely to collapse? Will humans be the next mass extinction? Action: What steps can a kid do? What steps can our community do?
Stuff The issue: We’ve all got stuff… and lots of it. We also have an out of sight out of mind culture so when we throw it away, we don’t think about it. Define the problem: Where does the stuff come from? What materials go into making the things we use? What happens to the stuff when we’re done? Does everything decompose? What do the terms cradle to grave mean? What about cradle to cradle? How does the materialistic nature of our society affect sustainable living? Action: What steps can a kid do? What steps can our community do?
Zero Waste The issue: The average US citizen produces over 4 lbs of garbage a day. In nature there is no such thing as garbage. In 1970s there were about 60,000 landfills but they are filling up and now there are less than 10,000. Define the problem: What types of waste are folks producing? How do we get in synch with nature and produce zero waste? What about lunches at school? How can we start with something like that and make it zero waste? Then take it into different aspects of your life? How can we mimic nature in our lives to have minimal impact on our environment and is that possible? Action: What steps can a kid do? What steps can our community do?
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