Reflection: Relevance What's Your Ecological Footprint? - Section 4: Discussion


Although the footprint of every student in my class was below the U.S. average, some members of class were actually below the world per capita Carbon emissions.  This is a wake up call and a reminder of the inequality within our own nation. 


In this example of student work, my student mentions that her ecological footprint is below the global average.  This really is stunning considering that some metrics estimate that homeless Americans have footprints that far exceed the global average:

The fact is that many of my students live with their entire family (and in some cases even an extended family) in a studio or 1 bedroom apartment, do not own or travel by car, and have never traveled anywhere by plane.  Sometimes these reminders help me to understand that there are always social and environmental justice issues that intersect my planned curriculum. 

In this student's case, while I did not engage her directly to inquire which circumstances brought her own footprint below the global average, she was clear in her reflection that she would probably not be able to reduce her footprint because she aspires to have a car someday. 

I think this brings up an interesting point that you might want to touch on in the discussion: "Where is the 'sweet spot' between a low footprint and a decent quality of life?"  For many of my students, this is more than a theoretical question... it truly asks them to consider their own circumstances and if they are satisfied with the lifestyle they currently lead.  Again, considering that the "American Dream" comes with a heavy environmental cost, the highly personal nature of this lesson makes a good conclusion to the populations unit from a problem-solving point of view.  In other words, if a higher quality of life necessitates a heavier footprint (at least with current technologies), then what does this imply about the need to curb our exponential growth?


  Relevance: Inner City vs. Third World
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What's Your Ecological Footprint?

Unit 4: Populations
Lesson 9 of 10

Objective: Students will be able to articulate how the choices they make determine their impact on the environment.

Big Idea: The "American Dream" lifestyle comes with a heavy environmental cost.

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