|Environmental Activities - For People Who Use English as a Foreign Language (Peace Corps, 1994)|
Many important decisions about the environment will be made in the coming years. Politics, power, religion and money will often determine people's actions. Therefore, these decisions may not be in the best interest of the environment. Environmental awareness must grow so that pressure will be placed on the decision-makers to carefully evaluate their actions. However, this process often starts at the grass roots (the general public). Values and ethics relating to the environment must be discussed. Below are activities relating to this area.
Rationale - To take reponsibility for decision-making.
1. With your group discuss the meaning of the word "dilemma." This is a choice between alternatives. In other words, what to do in a situation where there is more than one choice and it may be of equal importance. In this case, the group will be involved with environmental dilemmas.
Give to everyone a copy of two, brief environmental dilemmas (AT THE END OF THIS ACTIVITY). With each dilemma there should be four to five choices of actions or solutions to the problem. Ask for two volunteers. Each volunteer should read one to the group and any new words should be explained in English. It may take more than one reading for each dilemma and its solutions to be fully understood. The volunteer should decide which alternative to choose and why. Then, the group should have an opportunity to offer any differing opinions and their reasons. The discussions should not be any longer than five minutes.
Have the group separate into pairs and make up their own environmental dilemma, using the same format as the two examples just discussed. Ask them to print the final draft so others can read them. Some suggestions for topics can be printed on a piece of paper and hung up so everyone can see them. Here are a few suggestions: use of pesticides, using live Christmas trees instead of artifial trees. picking wildflowers and fruit in protected areas, feeding wildlife near your home, acid rain problems, buying an auto, using computers, world population problems, etc. Some of these may not be appropriate for your country so think of other suggestions. However, the bottom line is that pairs should preferably think of their own ideas for environmental dilemmas. When the members of the group are finished, collect the written dilemmas and randomly hand them out, one to each person. Make sure that individuals in the pair who wrote it, do not get their own. Since you will not have enough for everyone (because the situations were written in pairs), have extra environmental dilemmas with their alternative solutions available for the remaining group members (SEE END OF ACTIVITY).
Each person and leader follows the above procedures. Someone reads the dilemma that s/he receives. The reader picks one of the alternative solutions and explains his/her choice. The leader asks the pair who wrote it (if it is one that the group members wrote), if they chose the same alternative and their reasons. Open the discussion to the group but limit it to no more than five minutes.
The following were DILEMMAS created by members of one group.
You are the Minister of Energy and also a member of a "Green Party.'' More energy is necessary for your country. You have the following choices:
- Buy energy from abroad
- Start a campaign to lower the consumption of energy
- Build a new coal power station
- Build a nuclear power station
You own a large factory. You believe in pollution control. Your smokestack is emitting more toxic substances than allowed by law. You need a new filter/scrubber system in the chimney. If you spend the money you will need to fire 50 employees, because it will cost so much to reduce the pollution from the smokestack.
- Add the equipment and fire the employees
- Not add the equipment
- Wait a few years to see if the cost of the equipment will be cheaper
You use pesticides on your farm. You prefer not to use toxic substances but the government will not subsidize your farm for the five years that it takes for the crops to be considered organic by federal law. It is very expensive to make this switch from pesticide use to an organic farm and financially you may loose your farm.
- Don't use pesticides at all for the five years and "hope" to
- Use pesticides on only specific plants or at specific times
- Use biological pest controls
- Discuss this problem with experts
Your family lives in a village about 30 kilometers from the city where you work. There are bus connections only every other hour. You want to promote public transportation because you do not want more pollution from extra cars.
- Wait for the bus everyday
- Borrow some money and buy a new car with a catalytic converter and only use unleaded gas
- Try to find work closer to the village but the pay is much less Carpool (Join neighbors in their cars for a ride to work but you must pay the gas for this privilege)
You are hunting for deer. You are allowed by law only two bucks (male deer) for the season. You have already shot your two deer during this season. Your family needs the deer meat for food during the winter months. The two deer that you shot were quite small. It is not enough for the family's needs. It is the last day of the hunting season and you are carrying your gun. You see a large buck.
- Continue to walk
- Shoot the buck
- Get rid of one of the other deer and keep this big one
- Give this buck to a friend
There is a family living in a big city. You are one of the parents. You have a problem - whether to buy a live or artificial Christmas tree. You know that an artificial tree is very expensive but useable for several years. A live tree is cheaper. Your family always buys live trees.
- Buy no tree and go to your mother's for Christmas
- Go to the mountains and there decorate a tree in the forest
- Buy an artificial Christmas tree and spray it with forest perfume
- Buy a live Christmas tree from a tree farm
- Plant a small fir tree in a pot
You are walking in the woods and you see a young animal. There is no sign of its parents.
- Leave it where it is
- Move it to a "safe" place
-Take it home
You find a wounded wild animal. You bring it home and nurse it to good health. It is against the law to keep this animal.
- Offer it to a local zoo
- Keep it as a pet
- Call the authorities and ask their advice
- Try and release it back into nature
Your friend picks some endangered wildflowers. You tell your friend that this is against the law. Your friend drops them on the ground. Ten minutes later, after you are quickly walking away in a different direction a state wildlife officer tells both of you that she saw a huge amount of picked, endangered wildflowers in the woods, and it is against the law to pick them. She asks you if you know anything about it.
- Deny any knowledge of the situation
- Toll the officer that it was your friend
- Make up a story that you saw someone else doing it
- Say nothing, but call the authorities later and tell them who did it - don't leave your name
You have a close friend. Your friend is walking with you and eating some food from a plastic bag. When she finishes eating she drops the bag on the ground. You ask her to pick it up and she refuses. She says that this is a public area and so she doesn't care about it.
- Ask her again to please pick up her trash even though it is a
- Pick up the trash yourself
- Do nothing
You are the Director of Parks and Wildlife. A deer herd is growing larger in the forest. It is eating all the young trees. There is a hunting season but there are still too many deer. The foresters keep logging and restoring the area with native oak trees, which the deer like to eat and this just increases the size of the herd.
- Open hunting season for a longer time period
- Stop planting oak trees and plant a tree that deer do not like to eat
- Try to put a fence around young trees
- Bring into the area coyote, who are predators of deer
There are endangered species growing in a large area in the nearby countryside. The area is becoming heavily developed. The area is economically poor and needs development. The rare species of several plants need to be immediately saved but there is no money for this activity.
- Get volunteer groups to dig up these species and try to plant
them in another area
- Try to get a law passed as soon as possible to protect these plants
- Demonstrate against the development of these areas
- Try to raise funds for the plant's preservation
Rationale - To give participants experience in "putting their money where their environmental values are" by holding an environmental values auction.
People in Central and Eastern European countries have had little experience with a free-market economy. The idea of trying to sell something to someone, being talked into buying something or having to act monetarily on their values, eg. to buy shaving cream in a tube or aerosol spray can, may be a new experience. In this activity participants are asked to choose an environmental problem and "sell" that problem to others in the group who have limited money to spend on trying to solve important environmental problems. The participant will also be confronted with the reality of whether or not s/he actually does support the environmental problems that s/he thinks are most important.
Begin the activity by giving each participant a small piece of paper and asking them to write down what each considers the three most important environmental problems in the world. They are to do this quietly, without discussion and then put their names on the paper and the leader collects the papers. (The leader will NOT refer to these papers or what the participants put on their "little papers" until the end of the activity).
Next put a list of environmental problems up on the wall. Explain each and ask the participants to add other" which they think are important. Accept all suggestions. Be careful not to have the same problem twice but in different forms.(SEE BELOW FOR SUGGESTIONS).
indifference (people not caring about the environment)
At this point explain the "game": Each participant will select one problem. Then s/he will have time to prepare a five minute "sales pitch" to try to get the other participants to give money to her or him which will be used FOR HELPING TO FIND A SOLUTION to this particular problem. Each participant will not only try to get other" to support his or her problem, but will also have money to spend on the problems of the other participants. Each participant will receive 120 "eco"s to be spent on trying to solve the environmental problems of the world. (When discussing the list of environmental problems AVOID ALL ASSOCIATION TO THE LIST OF THE THREE THAT THEY MADE AT THE BEGINNING OF THE ACTIVITY! The ones you collected.) Hold up a sheet of "money" in order for participants to see what you are talking about. The "money" will be called "ecos." Eco is used like the word "dollar." (SEE END OF UNIT). Explain that the idea of the activity is to get as much money as possible to be used to help solve your problem. You will probably have to explain these instructions, and the ones that follow, several times to the group, since some will find these ideas quite new. A good technique is to have one of the participants who understand explain it to the others.
Have participants choose one problem s/he would like to sell to the others. A good way to reduce chaos in the selection process is to use a lottery system. Number small pieces of paper from one to as many people who are participating. Then hold them face down and have each participant pick one. That will be the order in which the participants pick their choice of problem. The number does not indicate the particular problem. It is most important that the people are able to freely pick what they want. Once everyone has a particular problem give them time to prepare their "sales pitch" (their advertisement).
While the group is working on their "talks", the leader will assign to each problem selected on the list the letter A, B or C. They represent the value of that particular environmental problem. A = 60 ecos, B = 50 ecos, C = 40 ecos. The leader can assign these values arbitrarily or randomly.
The leader will need to help participants develop their talks, since this kind of assignment will be new to some of them.
When participants have finished preparing their talks give each a sheet of money and have them tear off each 10 eco bill by folding and creasing the paper first.
Now explain the A, B and C next to each problem. Tell them that each problem is worth so much money (so many ecos). If you wish to support a particular problem you must pay that much money to do so .
Next distribute the "share" (coupons) sheet (SEE END OF UNIT). Explain that each time a person gives ecos in support of a particular problem, s/he receives a "share" of that problem. Each time a person sells a share of his/her problem to someone, a paper share must be filled in and given to that supporter, AND that person's name must be written down on the appropriate list. This is to help people keep track of how many shares they sell and how much money they are making, as well as what shares they have bought.
Give each person a sheet of paper, and fold it in thirds. In the middle section write the name of the person's environmental problem. Then fold this sheet into a triangle to create a name plate. Spread out all the participants around the room. Have each put their name plate on the table in front of them.
Ask once again if there are any questions, because the game is About to begin.
Now, have each participant give their "sales pitch." (It is a good idea to have the "weaker" speakers go first in order to avoid feelings of inadequacy that might result following a "dynamite" presentation.)
When everyone has completed their talks, announce that the game has started, and each of the participants are free to go to any other person, talk to anyone and buy whatever shares they want. Point out that half a share can not be sold. People can only buy a share if they have the required amount of money. At this point some will be timid to get up and "spend" their money, But soon most will be quite active.
When everyone has finished "spending their money," ask everyone to tally up how much money each person made. Find out which were the top three problems in which people wanted to invest their money in order to help solve that problem. Discuss these results with the group, as well as in which problems did people show little interest. Discuss what the group thinks about this.
Ask for comments in general as to what went on in this activity. What were their thoughts and feelings about what they did and what was happening.
Now distribute to each person the little pieces of paper on which they wrote what each thought was the three most important problems in the world. Ask the following questions, but explain to the group NOT TO RESPOND OUT LOUD. Only think to themselves about each question and its answer:
Look at your list of three problems. Did you support or ''sell´' those problems that were on your original list?
Did you buy shares of those problems? If so, good. You act on your beliefs. If not, why not?? Is it possible that you really don't care that much about the problems you did not support? You must really think about what you think is really important in the environment!
Look at what shares you bought - what environmental problems you supported. Are these the problems that you really consider most important?
Why did you buy them?
Did someone talk you into something you didn't want? Beware, that is what advertisements are all about!
Did you buy something because you saw someone else buying it or had bought it? If you did, think about why you followed.
Did you end up with money you did not spend? Why was this? Since you only had so much money and you knew the price of each problem, did you plan ahead to see what you could buy with "all" the money you had? Having leftover money at the end is valueless.
Discuss the question, "Were the problems properly valued?" This should lead to an interesting discussion.
Finally, discuss whether money is the only solution to environmental problems? Or is money the solution to environmental problems? If not, what are some alternatives?
Selected references (Some from which materials have been adapted):
Klippel, Friederike, Keep Talking: Communicative Fluency Activities for Language Teaching, New York: Cambridge University Press, 1984.
"Project Wild: Secondary Activity Guide," Western Regional Environmental Education Council, 1986.