assignmnt and essay

Essay #3

The optimist says the glass is half-full. The pessimist says it’s half-empty. The fatalist says he wasn’t that thirsty anyway, so it’ll do. The activist says bring me the pitcher and we’ll sort this out.

of looking at how the evolution of humanity has been shaped by the environment over thousands (and even millions) of years, and how in turn humans have shaped the environment (often, and increasingly, in dramatic ways), what are your thoughts and feelings on how this inter-relationship will continue over the next 50-100 years? Which are you — optimist, pessimist, fatalist, activist — and why?

What, in the words of Greg Craven (‘Most Terrifying Video you’ll Ever See’ — see above link), is the worst that could happen? In other words, what do you think is the worst case scenario for the global environment by 2100?

Write a brief (300-500 words) essay in response to these questions,



. Throughout this course, we have looked at a number of turning points or thresholds in the historical development of humanity. These include (a) our emergence as a separate species of hominid 400,000-250,000 years ago; (b) our departure from Africa and subsequent migration across the world c. 50,000-10,000 years ago; (c) the shift from a nomadic, hunter-gatherer form of subsistence to a more sedentary, agricultural base 10,000 years ago; (d) the rise of larger, more complex agrarian civilizations 5000 years ago; (e) the global impact of the so-called Columbian Exchange 500 years ago; and (f) the process of industrialization that began c. 250 years ago.

Over the past four weeks, I have argued that the 20th century marked a similar threshold or turning point in the evolution of humanity, possibly the most important yet. With specific and detailed reference to at least FIVE of the following terms or concepts, explain why the 20th century should be regarded as
(a) an age like no other, in which the dominant environmental concerns and challenges were unprecedented or (b) a continuation and extension of problems that have been evident over the past 250 years.

1. Population 6. Pollution

2. Urbanization 7. Fossil fuel

3. Disease 8. Climate change

4. Inequality of wealth 9. Energy consumption

5. Longevity (lifespan) 10. Slums


2. What do you understand by the phrase ‘tipping point’? Give THREE examples of possible environmental tipping points that are likely to occur in the 21st century. Finally, briefly giving reasons, in what THREE ways is the global environment of 2100 likely to be different to that of 2000?


3. Read carefully Jeffrey Sachs, ‘Our Crowded Planet.’ In this chapter taken from his book, Common Wealth: Economics for a Crowded Planet, he makes the following six claims:

· The gap, in terms of average income per person, between the developed world and developing world is narrowing, and fast.

· The world’s population will continue to grow, adding to global economic growth.

· This rise (in income) will be greatest in Asia (e.g. India and China).

· This is being matched by a shift from rural to urban existence around the world.

· The human impact on the environment is increasing, producing multiple crises.

· Although AVERAGE income is rising, the gap between the world’s richest and poorest is widening dramatically, at unprecedented levels.

With this in mind, and after reading Sach’s chapter, the article on the dying oceans taken from Maclean’s that I gave you this week, and on viewing the film — Addicted to Plastic — that we saw in class
, please answer the following questions.

1. I suggested in class that the amount of pollution produced by humans at any given time in history might be derived from the equation (a) Process (i.e. the manner in which we produce goods, etc.) x (b) Product (the nature and volume of goods being produced) x (c) Population (the number of people demanding goods at any given time) x (d) Time (the duration under consideration). With that in mind, to what extent and in what ways was it inevitable that the 20th would result in record levels of pollution?

2. What, in your opinion, is the single greatest threat of human-made pollution facing us in the 21st century?

3. If global population growth and economic growth are set to continue at least until 2050,  what — in your opinion — is one way that overall pollution levels might still be reduced, even taking into account Sach’s six conditions?

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