Questions for Discussion:
1. How should the concept of carrying capacity be used to inform public policy debates related to environmental issues?
2. Complex systems like biogeochemical cycles play a key role in the environmental crisis, discuss how this complexity impedes public discussions and what might be done to ameliorate the situation.
3. Should political boundaries between entities like counties and states be redrawn along the lines of watersheds?
4. Is there a true ethical imperative to eat with trophic levels in mind because of the hunger in the world, or don’t you think that would make any difference?
Active Learning Exercises:
1. Go online to the CO2 Now website to look at the current atmospheric CO2 level and then to estimate from the graph what the CO2 level in the atmosphere was when you were born. Now go to the U. S. Census Bureau Population Clock website and gather the same sort of information for global human population levels using the current world population clock values and by using the information on the linked World Population Summary. Now that you have collected the more formal data, choose someone significantly older than you to interview (perhaps a relative, friend, neighbor, or teacher), and ask them specifically to recall aloud changes in the world around them related to population growth over the course of their lifespan from childhood to the present day. Weave these three strands together in a two-page reflection on biogeochemical cycles, human population levels, carrying capacity, and the environment.
2. Find out what Watershed you live in, using the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Surf Your Watershed website. Follow the initial link to see what citizens groups are doing in your watershed, what local environmental websites about your watershed exist, and any assessments of watershed health that exist. Write a two-page reflection on your own watershed, and anything you learned about it.
The Story of Stuff, How Our Obsession with Stuff is Trashing the Planet, our Communities, and our Health – and a Vision for Change, by Annie Leonard (2010, Free Press, New York)
The Ecology of Commerce, by Paul Hawken (1993, HarperCollins Publishers, New York)
Readings in Ecology, edited by Stanley I. Dodson, Timothy F. H. Allen, Stephen R. Carpenter, Kandis Elliot, Anthony R. Ives, Robert L. Jeanne, James F. Kitchell, Nancy E. Langston, and Monica G. Turner (1999, Oxford University Press, Oxford)