"In the end we
will conserve only what we love.
We will love only what we understand.
We will understand only what we are taught."
-Baba Dioum, Senegalese ecologist
In a world bent on
ecological destruction, the ability to think holistically and
compassionately-to perceive the hidden connections between phenomena
and their ethical implications- is critical for sustainability and
survival. The development of critical thinking skills is also
essential in an age suffused with propaganda and the false need for
conformity.- Lowell Greenberg. See also:
"Rain forests cover less than two percent of the Earth's surface, yet they are
home to some 50 to 70 percent of all life forms on our planet. The rain forests are quite
simply, the richest, oldest, most productive and most complex ecosystems on Earth."
This Unit Lesson is inspired by the following facts :
||Brazil contains 30% of the world's tropical forests |
||5.4 million acres (estimate averaged for period 1979-1990) of Brazilian rainforest are
destroyed each year. |
||If deforestation continues at current rates, scientists estimate nearly 80-90 percent of
tropical rainforest ecosystems will be destroyed by the year 2020. |
||According to projections by James Alcock, a professor of
environmental sciences at the Abington campus of Penn State, Amazonian
rain forests could reach a "point of no return" by 2011-2016 if
deforestation continues at the present rate of about one percent a
year. The model further shows that rain forest in Brazil could be
wiped out entirely within 40 to 50 years.(3) |
||Forest destruction from 1995 to 2000
averaged almost two million hectares a year, equivalent to seven
football field a minute, and is comparable to the 1970s and 1980s,
when forest loss in the Amazon was catastrophic.
"Smithsonian Researchers Show Amazonian Deforestation
||6-9 million indigenous people inhabited the Brazilian rainforest in 1500. In 1992, less
than 200,000 remain. |
||In a four mile by four mile square of Brazilian tropical forest there are over 750
species of trees, 125 species of mammals, 400 species of birds and 100 species of
reptiles. Most of these species are found nowhere else in the world. There are as
many species of ants in a single Peruvian tree than in the entire British Isles (43). |
||Distinguished scientists estimate an average of 137 species of life forms are driven
into extinction every day, or 50,000 each year. |
||Projected Economic Value of One Hectare in the Peruvian Amazon: $6,820 per year if
intact forest is sustainably harvested for fruits, latex, and timber; $1,000 if clear-cut
for commercial timber (not sustainably harvested); or $148 if used as cattle pasture. One
can therefore see the unnecessary and tragic implications of deforestation to the effected
||"A $40 billion onslaught of
highways, railroads, hydroelectric projects and burgeoning
population is overwhelming current efforts to promote
conservation in the Amazon Forest of Brazil. If left
unchecked, it will soon destroy the greatest tropical rainforest
on Earth." - From a 1/24/01 Oregon State University
news release/report published in Science Daily entitled,
Battle Faces Long Odds In Brazilian Amazon." |
||The World Wide Web is or will become the greatest vehicle in the history of
mankind for planetary sharing of information and mobilization for trans-border planetary
renewal and change. |
"While you were reading the above statistics, approximately 150 acres of
rainforest were destroyed. Within the next hour approximately six species will become
extinct. While extinction is a natural process, the alarming rate of extinction today, comparable
only to the extinction of the dinosaurs, is specifically human-induced and
unprecedented. Experts agree that the number-one cause of extinction is habitat
destruction. Quite simply, when habitat is reduced, species disappear. In the rainforests,
logging, cattle ranching, mining, oil extraction, hydroelectric dams and subsistence
farming are the leading causes of habitat destruction. Indirectly, the leading threats to
rainforest ecosystems are unbridled development, funded by international aid-lending
institutions such as the World Bank, and the voracious consumer appetites of
industrialized nations. If deforestation continues at current rates, scientists estimate
nearly 80-90 percent of tropical rainforest ecosystems will be destroyed by the year
Recognizing the significance of the above, the unit will focus, though not exclusively,
on the deforestation and destruction of the Amazon rain forest. As Roger D. Stone
noted in "Dreams of Amazonia,"
"If the Amazon forest disappears, it is likely that all other
tropical forests of the planet will have preceded it over the
horizon. If any tropical forest in the world is redeemable, on the
other hand, it is the Amazonian forest- the world's largest and
least ravaged and most important."
Focus on one tropical rainforest will also allow greater depth
of coverage. The skills and knowledge used to understand Amazonia can be used to
understand other tropical and non-tropical rain forests. Further, there are remarkable
similarities in the political, social and economic debates surrounding rainforest use,
whether one is discussing North America's old growth forests or the tropical rainforests
of Brazil and Peru.
The ecological issues effecting the Amazon are planetary in scope (species that
are forever lost from the face of the Earth, forest destruction, the Greenhouse problem,
loss of water sheds, destruction of farm land and top soil, destruction of ancient
cultures and loss of nature's pharmacopoeia). Hence, there is no better tool to learn,
share information and organize than the Internet. Therefore, in the social
democratic context of learning, sharing and taking action, basic Internet browsing and
hypertext skills will be taught. The teacher, at least for this unit, will serve as Web
Site editor/moderator and will maintain a table of contents/site index and regulate
addition of new pages. Eventually projects and questions (see below) might be added from
students or concerned individuals throughout the world. The web site itself may become
part of a larger school-wide project or national effort linked to a museum or archive. The
site itself may at some point require a full time webmaster managing projects, finding
resources, and creating archive pages which link resources and analyze them. Effective
use of the Internet as a research tool will be evidenced in the students work (hypertext
essays, group presentations, resource lists and critiques, etc.) and will be an important
part of the rubric. Finally, the teachers primary role will be as a facilitator and
evaluator of students.
This powerful Unit Lesson Plan will encompass multiple strands from the California K-12
History-Social Science Framework, including: Basic (and Advanced) Study Skills, Critical
Thinking Skills, Participation Skills, Cultural Literacy, Ethical Literacy, Historical
Literacy, Geographic Literacy, Sociopolitical literacy, etc. It is also consistent with
the English-Language Arts Framework, incorporating meaningful reading activities, involves
use of listening, speaking, reading and writing skills, encouraging daily writing, use of
spelling and grammar conventions and portfolio collection. The Unit is reconstructionist
in emphasis, culminating in lessons that ask students to consider ways they can make a
difference either by changing their lifestyle or organizing, writing, etc. The entire
project will be shared by the entire world and will solicit world-wide feedback, hence
helping to transform world consciousness. The unit lesson plan is constructivist in
nature, encouraging students to construct their own meaning and take responsibility for
what they produce, since everything they produce will be available for millions of people
to read and comment on. The unit is integrated, content based and sequentially organized.
It uses varied teaching strategies and is highly relevant to functioning in modern
society. It takes advantages of the bilingual skills of students and encourages bilingual
students to use their bilingual reading and writing skills to contribute to the overall
effort. All students, regardless of English proficiency will be encouraged to make
contributions. The World Wide Web is international in scope and there is a diversity of
resources the students can utilize from countries throughout the world.
Environmental Education, From Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac, (New York: Oxford
University Press, 1966) 222-223
"Conservation is a state of harmony between men and land. Despite nearly a century of
propaganda, conservation still proceeds at a snail's pace; progress still consists largely
of letterhead pieties and convention oratory. On the back forty we still slip two steps
backward for each forward stride.
The usual answer to this dilemma is 'more conservation education.' No one will debate
this, but is it certain that only the volume of education needs stepping up? Is something
lacking in the content as well?
It is difficult to give a fair summary of its content in brief form, but, as I understand
it, the content is substantially this: obey the law, vote right, join some organization,
and practice what conservation is profitable on your own land; the government will do the
Is not this formula too easy to accomplish anything worthwhile? It defines no right or
wrong, assigns no obligation, calls for no sacrifice, implies no change in the current
philosophy of values. In respect to land-use, it urges only enlightened self-interest.
Just how far will such education take us?"
Rain Forest Action Network , "Rates of Rainforest Loss".
Source: Deforestation Rates in Tropical Forests and Their Climatic Implications
2 Miller, Kenton (1991). Trees of Life. Boston: Beacon Press
National Geographic News, "Loss of Amazon Rain Forest May Come
Sooner Than Expected."
Forest Action Network , "Rates of Rainforest Loss". Source: Deforestation
Rates in Tropical Forests and Their Climatic Implications
5 Miller, Kenton (1991). Trees of Life. Boston: Beacon Press p.