<%@LANGUAGE="JAVASCRIPT" CODEPAGE="1252"%> PFI Distance Learning Workshop

Energy FlowBiological DiversitySustainable ForestryOur Growing Species



The direct correlation between the size of human populations and the pressures to provide food, water and shelter, which are the minimal major requirements for survival, is obvious. While there may be sufficient food produced in a country to feed its people, many nations lack the capacity to harvest, store, and distribute those resources. For example, India is self-sufficient in terms of its ability to produce grain. However, more than 40 percent of its inhabitants suffer from malnutrition. A fair amount of the crops rot or are consumed by insects, bacteria and/or fungi in the fields or warehouses. As a result the life expectancy in that country is 59 years and the infant mortality rate is 72 deaths per 1,000 births.

Efforts to produce food or other resources without attention to sustainability can result in major problems. About half of India’s croplands are degraded as a result of soil erosion, waterlogging, salinization, overgrazing and deforestation. In many Northern African nations, the natives have harvested trees for fuel, which was needed immediately for shelter and cooking, rather than use those renewable resources to make the furniture, artworks and other items that had been the backbone of their exports. Without that income, these countries have had to reduce their import of the food which they could not produce. The end result has been massive famines.

Another major problem that adversely impacts sustainability is the rapid increase in the standard of living among increasingly larger percentages of the world population. Increased standard of living may not sound like such a bad thing, but when that standard of living is based upon a country’s ability to consume resources, a high standard of living can result in overuse of non-renewable resources. For example in China, a developing nation, new foreign and locally owned factories are paying higher wages. With smaller families and larger incomes, individuals are better able to afford cars, appliances, clothing and other goods that use and/or are produced with petroleum. In less than ten years the Peoples Republic has become one of the largest importers of oil. Similar demands for that non-renewable resource is increasing in other parts of Asia, including India.

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This strain on resources, of course, is not only affected by developing nations. The US, a developed nation with one of the highest standards of living in the world, has a population of about 295 million. These 295 million consume around 19.65 million barrels of petroleum per day. Per capita, such a standard of living has a much higher impact than China’s. China, with a population of 1.3 billion, consumes 4.96 million barrels of oil per day. These geographical figures and more can be found in the CIA’s World Factbook (http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/index.html). You can use this site to gain valuable geographical statistics with which you can create word problems for your students. For example: can you calculate how many barrels of oil per day China would consume at its current population if its standard of living was as high as that of the US? Clearly, if every nation’s standard of living was as high as that of the US, the world petroleum supplies would become incredibly stressed. There is a growing concern that demands for petroleum could result in armed conflicts involving nations that have or posses the capability to produce or buy nuclear weapons.

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popgrowth If the world is going to avoid such conflicts, more countries are going to have to adopt sustainable practices involving use of renewable resources, conservation, and recycling on a much larger scale than is presently being done. At the same time more utilization will have to be made of renewable sources of energy. Worldwide media has created a demand for goods and services. That vehicle must be employed to promote the necessity for the adoption of sustainable development practices and the consequences for not doing so. More effective education at every level is needed to help people understand and help adopt a sustainable lifestyle.

The basic fact to remember when considering our growing population is that our natural resources are limited: they are either non-renewable, or they are limited by the amount of time it takes to renew them. A larger population means higher demand for these resources, which then means fewer resources per person. To get an idea of your personal impact on our planet’s resources, go to http://myfootprint.org/ and take the ecological footprint quiz. It’s simple, and it may offer you ideas on how to make your life more environmentally sustainable.

QUIZ TIME! Click here to see what you’ve learned about our growing species.


Natural Awareness: An Exercise in Observing & Experiencing Earth #4

1) Go outside with a pen/pencil and paper or journal and find a spot to sit where you can observe an organism in its natural environment (this could be a lively mammal, but it could also be an insect, a plants, a mushroom, or any other type of organism.

2) Observe the organism's interaction with its surroundings. Does it move or is it stationary? What other animals and plants are in the surrounding area? Where does the organism get its food? Where does it get its water? Does anything in the area use the organism for food?

3) Draw a food web, starting with your organism. See if you can trace your organism's energy source back to the sun, and trace your organism to any other organisms that may derive energy from your organism.

4) How might the organism be affected if some of the other elements in its environment were removed? How might the rest of the environment be affected if the organism was removed? Think of specific examples.

5) Go to the Message Board and share the experience you had drawing a food web.


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