Environmental Problems in the 21st Century

The following is a replica of the first of three units of an Integrated English course presented online via Moodle forums and Zoom meetings, for Science students at Kyushu University during the second semester of 2020, in Fukuoka, Japan. Most of the videos are in English, with Japanese subtitles. I did not create the images or youtube videos, only the text below and arrangement of topics. Anyone who wishes to adapt or use any part of this for educational purposes has my permission, I would only ask that you link to this page, as the source. ~Christopher Chase, 2021

Life on Earth is amazing and beautiful. Unfortunately, we are facing a large number of environmental problems in the 21st Century. Please watch all these videos, read the information and then share your opinion about the 12 topics, 100+ words for each topic.

Topic 1 – Rising Global CO2 Levels – This graph from NASA below shows the rise in carbon-dioxide in the atmosphere over the last 100 years. In 2013 (when this graph was made) the level was about 394ppm. This year, it is at 411ppm, a rise of over 15 ppm in 7 years. The levels go up and down each month, but the trend is rising

If the Earth’s CO2 levels continue to rise the planet will get hotter. In order to protect life on our planet in the 21st Century we need to reduce the amount of CO2 in the air, and not allow a temperature rise above 1.5 or 2.0 degrees.

Unfortunately, most governments and businesses have not taken effective action to do this. The reason is that it will require reducing our energy use and slowing down the global economy. The situation is very similar to the corona virus crisis. In order to flatten the curve of CO2 levels, all human beings must act together. We all must change our life styles and reduce our carbon footprint.

Topic 2 – Severn Suzuki’s Speech in Rio – In 1992, a 12 year old Japanese-Canadian girl named Severn Suzuki made a powerful speech about the world’s environmental crisis to adults in Rio de Janeiro. This video is short, with Japanese subtitles. What is your opinion about Severn’s speech? Do you feel that business and government leaders listened to her and made changes?

Topic 3 – Here are 2 videos from BBC News that provide a lot of information about the Environmental Crisis– A global temperature rise above 1.5 – 2.0 degrees will melt ice sheets, raise ocean water levels, create more forest fires, bring drought (which could damage farming and reduce food supplies) and create water shortages. It could also lead to a sixth mass extinction of animals, insects and plants. What is your opinion about the information in these two videos?

Topic 4 – In 1995, Michael Jackson wrote a song for our Planet Earth and made this music video: Earth Song. You can read the English lyrics here with Japanese translation here. The message of his video is similar to Severn Suzuki’s speech. He shows the destruction modern humans have done to Nature, indigenous peoples, and also with our wars. What is your opinion about his song and video? 

Topic 5 – Michael Jackson’s video included indigenous people from South America and Africa. Please watch this video:  母なる大地、アメリカ先住民族の想. For indigenous peoples, Nature is seen as our Mother and an Intelligent Living Spirit. We are all the children of Nature, so indigenous peoples feel we must love Nature and care for her. They see clean water, food and air as gifts from our Mother Earth. They feel responsible to all future generations and don’t understand why modern people care more about technology, economics and money than our beautiful planet. What is your opinion of their traditional cultures and ideas? Why don’t more modern people in high technology cultures think and feel the same way? Can you think of any films you have seen that share this same message?

Topic 6 – 気候変動の知られざる影響とは? 世界が称賛し国連が泣いた日系マーシャル人スピーチ! This powerful speech was made in 2014, by Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner, at the United Nations. She talked about climate change and how it will effect the future for her children and millions of others.What is your opinion about her speech?

Topic 7 – The Climate Strike Movement Spreads Globally in 2019 – Last year, Climate Strike Demonstrations begun by a 16 year old girl named Greta Thunberg were held all over the world. Here is another video, of a small demonstration of students in Japan: 学生らの気候変動デモ「温暖化は自分たちの問題だ」国会前に20人  – What is your opinion of this youth movement? Why do you think young people around the world are more active than adults?

Topic 8 – Greta vs. Trump! As Greta Thunberg and Climate Strikes became more active, President Trump started to make comments about them. Please watch these two videos. In September, young Greta traveled from Sweden to the United States. She became angry at a UN conference, because the adults appeared to be ignoring both scientists and protesters. CO2 levels keep rising each year, with UN projections for a 3-5 degree rise, which would mean a global disaster. Greta is usually very calm when she speaks, and may have been angered after seeing President Trump, who talked about her on twitter but ignored her that day. What is your opinion about this? Do you think Greta is too angry or can you understand her feelings? 

Topic 9 – Please watch these videos about the 2019 & 2020 wildfires in Australia and the United States: “まるで火星”焼失拡大続く カリフォルニア州山火事 & オーストラリアの希少動物が危機. As the planet gets hotter some places are experiencing more or less rain. In Japan and East Asia we are having more floods, but in Australia, Africa and the West Coast of America they are having terrible wildfires. This year and last year some places experienced the worst wildfires in human history. Did you know about these fires? What is your opinion about this?

Topic 10 – Sustainable Development Goals, Planetary Boundaries & Climate Tipping Points. In 2015, the United Nations adopted 17 SDGs (17 持続可能な開発目標) for the world to reach by 2030. In 2018, Swedish scientist Johan Rockström explained we may have difficulty reaching these goals (持続可能な世界を築 – please watch first 4 minutes) because many countries focus more on Goal 8 (Economic Growth).

Recently, Prime Minister Suga announced that Japan plans to become carbon neutral by 2050, but do we have that much time?Many scientists believe world government and business leaders are moving dangerously slow, because they worry too much about the economy.

Japan plans to become carbon neutral by 2050

In his new TED Talk, Johan Rockström explains that 2030 must be our deadline, that we only have 10 years to reverse Earth’s Climate Tipping PointsA planetary tipping point is like a threshold or turning point. If we pass these thresholds the climate system will collapse into chaos. 「プラネタリー・バウンダリーは、人類の活動がある閾値または転換点を通過してしまった後には取り返しがつかない」You can read more about Planetary Boundaries in Japanese here.

After you have discussed together and understand these issues, please share your opinion about the SDGs, Planetary Boundaries and Tipping Points.

Topic 11 (Solutions) – The Power of Consumer Consciousness & Education – Many of these problems are really really serious, so what can we do? The first step is to educate ourselves and our friends. Please watch these videos. Most of these problems are caused by our global economic system that has poorer nations produce things cheaply to sell to people in the wealthiest nations. What is your opinion about this?

Topic 12 (Solutions) – The POWER of Global Action in 2020. This year, every person and country on earth took strong action together to try and “flatten the curve” and stop the corona virus. Nothing like this has ever happened before in human history!!! Unfortunately, with environmental problems, for over 30 years human action has been too slow and very limited. I think a big reason is most modern people don’t know how much destruction wealthy nations cause for indigenous peoples, poor nations and Nature. Johan Rockström shares some of his ideas about how we can influence big changes and take action.What do you think of his suggestions? Do you think after the corona virus crisis humans may change and become more organized and active about the environmental crisis? What can we do to help?

Topic 13 (Solutions) – Creating a New Economic System for the Earth & People: From Globalization to Localization.  In order to reverse climate change, save Nature & help future generations, our global economy may need to become much more localized, where the value of human well-being and local community is the focus, instead of valuing large corporate profits, manufactured goods and money. In Japan this is called 地産地消 (chi san chi shou), local production for local consumption. Please watch these two videos, they explain these ideas well: 幸せの経済学(短縮版)ヴァンダナ・シヴァの いのちの種を抱きしめて– What do you think about these ideas? 


About Christopher Chase

Co-creator and Admin of the Facebook pages "Tao & Zen" "Art of Learning" & "Creative Systems Thinking." Majored in Studio Art at SUNY, Oneonta. Graduated in 1993 from the Child & Adolescent Development program at Stanford University's School of Education. Since 1994, have been teaching at Seinan Gakuin University, in Fukuoka, Japan.
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3 Responses to Environmental Problems in the 21st Century

  1. jaki golesworthy says:

    Ooh thank you for this! 🙏👍🧡

    On Thu, 18 Feb 2021 at 10:56, Creative by Nature wrote:

    > Christopher Chase posted: ” The following is a replica of the first of > three units of an Integrated English course presented online via Moodle > forums and Zoom meetings, for Science students at Kyushu University during > the second semester of 2020, in Fukuoka, Japan. Most of the vide” >

  2. Pingback: Creativity, Imagination & Systems Thinking | Creative by Nature

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