Ted's teaching tips

12th May 2000 at 01:00
Industrial pollution can kill. This grim picture of life near a car tyre factory underlines the debilitating effect of an unhealthy atmosphere. Most children are interested in environmental issues. Are they uncritically "green", or do they take a balanced view?

Pollution There is a tyre factory nearby, so what do you think is happening in this area (clouds of smoke belch out from chimneys, soot settles on people, animals, plants and fresh washing, air is contaminated)? What effects can industrial pollution have on us (noxious fumes may contain poisonous chemicals, like sulphur or lead, asthma or bronchitis is made worse)? How does pollution affect children (lead poisoning can inhibit development and functioning of the brain, babies may be born with defects)?

Environment The word "environment" is used a lot, but what does it mean (our surroundings, the landscape, plants, animals, housing, the air we breathe)? How has the environment changed in the last few centuries (growth of cities as people moved away from the land and into factories, development of train tracks, roads and other means of transport, spread of housing on to hillsides, down rivers, along main roads, into green fields - hence the "brown field" policy of turning disused industrial sites into housing areas instead of using up more pastures)? Why do people worry about the environment (as more fossil fuels are burned and aerosol sprays are used, the "greenhouse effect" may cause the planet to warm up, leading to amelting of the polar ice caps and a rise in sea levels)?

Eastern Europe Until about 10 years ago, many countries in eastern Europe, including Romania, were known collectively as the Eastern Bloc. Can you name some of them (Russia, Poland, East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, Hungary)? What has happened since (Germany has reunited; the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia have split into smaller states; more trading and tourism is taking place between East and West)?

Ted's talking points

Do we pollute the environment too much, and should we be held in check, or is there a great deal of fuss about nothing in particular?

For Left to their own devices, people would soon be extinct. Over the centuries, forests have been hacked down, producing desert and wilderness; factories and lorries have belched out lethal fumes; rivers have been polluted, killing off fish and wildlife. Unless governments take action to curb atmospheric and other types of pollution, we will blight our own future. Once sea levels have risen, as predicted, it will be too late to try to reverse the damage.

Against The dangers of pollution are exaggerated. People know much more about possible risks nowadays, so there is no need for governments to restrict us further. Pollution affects a relatively tiny part of the planet, mainly big cities such as Los Angeles. If the Ice Age had taken place today, people would have blamed pollution, yet it happened thousands of years before industrialisation.

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