Environmental Education: Part 2
– Other Environmental Issues and Social Movement
Jack Hiroki Iguchi (Professor, Graduate School of Environmental Sciences, Aomori University, Japan)
WASTING OUR RESOURCES
Every year, each household in Britain creates about one ton of rubbish that has to be thrown away (Bronze L. et al, 1990:20). Literally we are wasting our raw materials. To make matters worse, most of it gets dumped in huge landfill sites and it creates barren fields, including poisonous elements, and emits methane gas. Other rubbish is burned, but sometimes that releases toxic fumes. These problems come not only from throwing away rubbish but also through generating electric power using oil, gas and coal. In order to solve this problem, recycling and alternative energy sources such as wind power, tidal power and solar power can be vital players.
The soil of a significant portion of the world's productive lands has been degraded by human activities. Water and wind erosion, land compaction, loss of nutrients, and chemical contamination cause this problem. About 1.2 billion hectares – an area larger than India and China together representing 11% of the earth's vegetated surface – have been moderately or severely degraded since 1945 (The world Resources Institute, 1992:3). Similarly desertification, owing to intensive farming and other factors, is increasing in especially poor, arid land (Spurgeon R. 1988: 34).
THE NUCLEAR DEBATE
A primitive uranium bomb was exploded on Hiroshima in Japan on 6 August 1945, and three days later a plutonium bomb was exploded on Nagasaki in Japan, which killed over 20,000 people immediately or within four months. After these incidents there have been 1,523 nuclear test explosions. If nuclear war was to occur, all people, animals and plants, which might survive immediately after the explosions would die out because of a nuclear winter – about 200 million tons of soot and ash spewed into the atmosphere and extreme darkness and cold (Carwardine M. 1990: 162, 164, 167, 168).
Similarly, some nuclear power accidents have killed and severely injured people. For example, in 1986 the accident at Chernobyl, a large nuclear power station in the former Soviet Union, killed 30 people on the spot and about 250 people suffered severe radiation injury. In addition, nuclear power produces high-level radioactive waste that can be dangerous for thousands of years (Bronze L. et al, 1990:39).
However, we must bear in mind that there are some opinions that suggest such nuclear developments might be helpful. For example, it is said that nuclear weapons may prevent a Third World War, and that nuclear power does not cause acid rain and greenhouse effects, and that nuclear power stations are relatively safe (Ibid: 38). Indeed, some parts of these ideas are true, but we do know that nuclear developments have killed a lot of people, have caused cancer, and also have destroyed ecosystems of tropical islands in the Pacific Ocean because of bomb experiments.
What is more, growing populations especially in developing countries causes famine and environmental problems which this paper has already described above. The world's total number of people in 2020 will be eight billion, although it was one billion in 1830 and four billion in 1975 (Wright D. 1992: 23).
SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH ON ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES
Environmental protection is a relatively new issue for most developing countries. Their pertinent legislations stem from the late seventies, although developed countries have a longer tradition, especially concerning pollution control (Werner G. 1992: 16).
EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment) is also relatively new. It is "a method of analysis which attempts to predict the likely repercussions of a proposed major development upon the social and physical environment of the surrounding area" (Jones G. et al, 1990: 148). However, there are some problems with EIA in developing countries, including lack of trained human resources; lack of financial resources; lack of information on environmental and social systems; and low status of environmental departments or agencies (Bisset R. 1992: 215, 216). Many argue that one of the most important factors that could significantly improve the EIA process is good education. In fact, currently only very few educational and training courses exist in developing countries (Biswas A.K. 1992: 237).
On the other hand, in developed countries environmental problems have become a major national concern, and there is growing public and political pressure to understand these problems and to find solutions for them. A White Paper titled "This Common Inheritance; Britain's Environmental Strategy, in 1990" asserts, for example, that:
- there needs to be a major and growing scientific effort to understand human impacts on the environment fully, and to identify the most effective and appropriate way of intervening to protect the environment.
- much more research is needed, particularly on global issues such as the effects of human activities on the ocean and on the atmosphere.
(ACOST – Advisory Council on Science and Technology, 1991: 5).
In addition, in Britain in 1981, for example, the new " Wildlife and Countryside Act" prohibited certain methods of killing or taking wild animals, and amended the law relating to protection of certain mammals and endangered species (import and export), (London Her Majesty's Stationery Office, 1989: 1). Furthermore, the number of wildlife and plants under threat in many countries is being researched so as to protect their future (The World Resources Institute, 1992: 304-308).
SUPPORT OF NONGOVERNMENTAL ORGANISATIONS (NGOs) TO SOLVE ENVIRONMNETAL PROBLEMS
In the industrialized countries many of these "Nongovernmental Organisations" (NGOs) are small and work at the community level, and in the developing world most of these groups are community-based as well and are often very small or temporary. In spite of occasional difficulties in managing them, NGOs are now growing both in numbers and in influence, especially in developing countries. The reasons for this growth are complex. For example, local groups often form in response to specific needs such as the need to improve water supplies and national groups may form to fulfill a specific need such as environmental protection (The World Resources Institute, 1992: 215). It is estimated that in excess of 12,000 NGOs now operate, ranging in size from small natural history societies to internationally active groups (Jones G. et al, 1990: 301).
NGOs are relatively new organisations. Almost all environmental NGOs and most NGO networks and umbrella groups were started in the 1980s. In the UK, The Oxford Committee for Famine Relief (Oxfam) was started in 1942 to aid starving civilians in Nazi-occupied Greece (The World Resources Institute, 1992: 216, 217).
"The increase in links between northern and southern NGOs has been paralleled by similar growth between NGOs and the United Nation system. The United Nation Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) is accelerating that process" (Ibid: 219).
In addition, some successful, huge NGOs, for example, are as follows:
WORLD WIDE FUND FOR NATURE (WWF)
Established in 1961. It works in conjunction with the "International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources" and has been responsible for the implementation of key international laws and agreements on conservation such as "Conservation on International Trade in Endangered Species" for the creation of National Parks, and for saving nearly 30 endangered animal species such as the giant panda.
Founded in 1971, it has continuously made world headlines through the activity of its members who have often placed themselves in direct confrontation with governments and with industrial corporations. It has constantly argued for a ban on sealing and whaling, for the prevention of above-ground testing of nuclear devices, and for a ban on dumping nuclear waste into the oceans.
FRIENDS OF THE EARTH (FoE)
Operating in 28 different countries, the organisation lobbies governments and politicians, provides information for inclusion in EIA (Environmental Impact Assessments) and disseminates information through videos, lectures, and books. In recent years, it has been particularly active in resisting the construction of new nuclear plants.
(Jones G. et al, 1990: 182,204,469)
All of this fundamental knowledge of environmental issues can be indispensable to set up a plan for environmental education. The next section will discuss environmental education in general.
ACOST (Advisory Council on Science and Technology), 1991.Environmental Research Programmes, HMSO: 5.
Bisset R., 1992. Devising an Effective Environmental Impact Assessment System for a Developing Country, Environmental Impact Assessment for Developing Countries, BH: 215, 216.
Biswas A.K., 1992. Summary and Recommendations, Environmental Impact Assessment for Developing Countries, BH: 237.
Bronze L., Heathcote N. & Brown P., 1990. The Blue Peter Green Book, BBC Sainsbury's: 20,38,39.
Carwardine M., 1990. The WWF Environment Handbook, W.WF: 162-164,167,168
Jones G. et al, 1990. Dictionary of Environmental Science, Collins: 148,182,204,301,469.
London Her Majesty's Office, 1989. Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981: 1.
Spurgeon R., 1988. Ecology, Usborne: 34.
Werner G., 1992. Environmental Impact Assessment in Asia, Environmental Impact Assessment for Developing Countries, BH: 16.
The World Resources Institute, 1992. World Resources 1992-93, Oxford University Press: 3,215-217,219,304-308.
Wright D., 1992. Environment Atlas, WWF: 23.