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Looking globally: the future of education
Looking globally: the future of education

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1 Do we need to respond to environmental changes?

We will now consider some contemporary global environmental issues.

An episode of the BBC World Service programme Fragile Planet entitled ‘Sustainability’ was broadcast in 1999 and took a ‘pilgrimage into the future’. The extract used here provides an overview of the issues which scientists and society at large were noticing in the environment at the time. It raises questions that are still being addressed, such as how concerned people should be about the development and implications of climate change and whether they should ‘maybe even be scared’?

Activity 1 Contemporary environmental issues

Part A: Reflecting on your views

Timing: Allow approximately 45 minutes.
  1. Listen to the following five-minute extract from the programme.
Download this audio clip.Audio player: ee830_2017j_aug002.mp3
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  1. Next, find out which global climate records (related to levels of rainfall, carbon dioxide, air and ocean temperature, flooding and sea level rise) were broken in 2016 by accessing this press release issued by the World Meteorological Organisation: Climate breaks multiple records in 2016, with global impacts [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] . Scroll down to the bottom of the report to familiarise yourself with the infographic ‘Statement of the Status of the Global Climate 2016’.
  2. Think about:
    • If you were making the programme today, would you focus on the same environmental issues? If not, why not?
    • Do you agree with the conclusion that the two biggest challenges to the planet are to stabilise both population and the environment to avoid loss of ecosystems and repercussions to human civilisation? If so, what tensions does this place on a) society globally and b) local communities? If not, what do you see as the biggest challenge we face related to sustainable living?

Part B: Exploring current environmental issues

Timing: Allow approximately 45 minutes.

Find a news item which reflects a key environmental issue affecting the area in which you live. Post this item on the course forum, starting your post with a description of the kind of issue in the news item; for example: air pollution, deforestation, soil erosion, water pollution, flooding, climate change. Ideally, you should add a hyperlink to the news item in your post on the course forum, or you might prefer to take or find an image and upload this with a short description. You can find guidance on how to search for creative commons in Finding copyright-cleared images. Remember to make clear the name of the country and/or area to which the item relates.

Note: In this forum post you may want to use an image, for advice on how to upload images to forum review our advice page.

Remember that you need to add at least three posts to the forum in order to gain your badge.

Think about:

  • In response to the key environmental issue(s) you have identified locally, how could your local education system respond?
  • How might you expect your local education system to respond given your awareness of constraints on it?
  • How can local education systems respond to the wider, global environmental challenges?
  • How do your responses to these questions connect with any of the three models for education introduced last week?

Please note: we may wish to reuse your forum contributions, anonymously, in future sessions of this course. If you wish to opt out of this, email