Academic journal article Science Scope

How Our Daily Lives Affect Biodiversity

Academic journal article Science Scope

How Our Daily Lives Affect Biodiversity

Article excerpt

Even though numerous species are experiencing habitat degradation and loss, decreased genetic diversity, population declines, and extinction, people often overlook the effects that their daily lives have on the environment and on Earth's biodiversity. This article describes a 9- to 12-day unit that helps students understand the impact of human activities on Earth's resources and also inspires students to find solutions to reduce negative anthropogenic effects in order to conserve Earth's biodiversity.

Engage: What are my daily activities?

Students are first asked to think about their daily schedule, from waking up in the morning to going to bed at night. Then they make a list of their daily habits, such as the products they use, the foods they eat, the clothes they wear, their energy consumption habits, and how they use water (see Figure 1, p. 14). Students then choose one habit, product, or action to focus on and write down where they think their product or activity comes from or what part of the world is most affected by the production or use of the activity or product. For example, hamburger patties are made from beef. Raising cattle requires massive amounts of land, water, food, and energy and produces methane gas, a potent type of greenhouse gas. This results in global warming and is mainly affecting developing regions of Asia, Africa, and Latin America, all of which are home to large some of the largest concentrations of biodiversity in the world. The teacher can have students can share their initial thoughts with the class.

Explore: How do my daily activities affect Earth's biodiversity?

Next, students research the source of their chosen habit, product, or action. For example, where does the wheat, beef, and produce come from in their hamburger? Or, where does the cotton in their favorite shirt come from? What country is the shirt manufactured in? This portion of the lesson is very adaptable to meet the needs of their students. The teacher can choose to include as many topics and as much of the supply chain as he or she desires, such as the obtaining or mining of materials, transportation of products, packaging and merchandising, and marketing or selling. In addition, the list of products or activities can be condensed so that the teacher can provide websites for students to do their research. In doing so, the teacher can preview the information to gain background knowledge and to ensure that the research comes from reliable resources.

Through their research, students begin to understand what part of the world is affected by their chosen activity and the environmental implications of their habit or product. Students can compare what they are learning with their initial thoughts, making note of how their knowledge and understanding has changed. Next, students place a pin on a shared Google Map to show what part of the world is most affected by their chosen product or action. On their pin, students include a brief description of the product or action and the area and type of species that are being affected (see Figure 2). This map is visible to all students so that everyone can see what parts of the world are most affected by our daily actions. As students discover how their chosen habit or product affects the Earth's biodiversity they document their findings in a Google Doc, or worksheet (see Figure 3, p. 16).

Students next brainstorm and research alternative ways of performing their chosen habit or an alternative to their product that would be less harmful to Earth's environment. Many students did not fully understand how much of an impact that something as simple as a hamburger has on the environment. For instance, the production of one quarter-pounder hamburger requires 660 gallons of water, and meat production does more damage to the atmosphere than all transportation combined (Machado 2016). Students also found out how easy it can be to choose an alternative way of eating that is more eco-friendly. …

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