AREAS OF KNOWLEDGE: HUMAN SCIENCES

The Indian Ocean, just east of the island of Madagascar, as seen from the Gemini-6 spacecraft. Photo: NASA

The Indian Ocean, just east of the island of Madagascar, as seen from the Gemini-6 spacecraft. Photo: NASA

CLASS ACTIVITY:  the 10 most pressing problems 

Jump right into this progressive activity without preliminary discussion.

1. Working alone (8 minutes) 
Think very carefully; then list the 10 most pressing problems in the world.

2. Working in pairs (5 minutes)
[If there is an odd number of students make a triad.]
Students collaborate on combining their lists. There can only be 10 problems on the final collaborative list.  To save time students should simply make edits to what they mutually decide is the stronger of the two lists.

3. Keeping pairs intact, working in groups of four (4 minutes)
[If there is an odd number of pairs form a sextet.]
Again students collaborate on combining their lists. There can only be 10 problems on the final list. Again make edits on the strongest list. A spokesperson should be appointed for each group.

4. Working in two large groups (3 minutes)
[Combine intact fours and sextets to make roughly evenly sized groups.]
Again students argue and collaborate on combining their lists. There can only be 10 problems on the final collaborative list. Again make edits on the stronger lists. A spokesperson should be appointed for each group. Only the spokespersons can speak at this stage.

5. Whole class initial consolidation. (3 minutes)
For the last time, the same spokespersons collaborate on combining the lists. Again, there can only be 10 problems on this final, whole class list. Non-spokespersons are silent witnesses at this stage. They will have a chance speak later.


6. Whole class holistic discussion
Spokespersons become the silent witnesses for this stage of the activity. Appoint a student to lead this discussion. When the class is settled; write the final list of 10 problems on an erasable whiteboard (or digitally on a Smart Board).  The leader should ask if the class is broadly comfortable with the collaborative list. Then he/she should solicit any “runners up” that were eliminated during the earlier stages of the activity but did not make the list.  Allow 3 “runners up” only. Write them down below the main list. The leader should facilitate ordered discussion to determine whether or not a “runner up” should replace a problem in the main list.


GENERATIVE QUESTIONS

  • What were the constraints for this activity? Did the constraints enhance or detract from getting to a satisfactory final product?
     
  • How many of the ten problems on the list were environmental problems?
     
  • Did any aspect of Religious Knowledge Systems make the list?
     
  • In your view what is the single most pressing problem in the world today?
     
  • How did our class results compare to Jared Diamond’s list below?

 

DID WE AGREE WITH JARED DIAMOND?

According to UCLA Geography professor, Jared Diamond the most serious environmental problems facing past and present societies fall into a dozen groups: 

  • Destroying natural habitats or converting them for human activity
  • Decimating wild food supplies, especially fish
  • Reduction of biodiversity—both the number of species and sizes of populations
  • Eroding and salinizing soils
  • Serious depletion of finite fossil fuel energy reserves
  • Over exploitation and overall reduction of world’s freshwater supply
  • Approaching the ceiling of photosynthetic production available for human use
  • Polluting with toxic chemicals
  • Introducing destructive, non-native species
  • Producing gases that cause ozone depletion and global warming
  • Rampant increase of human population
  • Per-capita environmental impact increasing with prosperity

Diamond, Jared (2005: 486-496) Collapse. Viking, New York

Jared Diamond in Papua New Guinea: Photo: National Geographic

Jared Diamond in Papua New Guinea: Photo: National Geographic