In this section educators and students can select from two types of activities. The first section is a list of debate topics and the second section is a collection of hands-on activities to be used in the classroom.

Debate Topics[edit | edit source]


The idea of sustainable development stems from the environmental and conservation movement of the 1970's and was largely centered on the environment. Currently, sustainability includes other questions of how resources are used, where they are taken from, who gets to use the resources, who gets to profit from the resources, and, finally, who decides all of the above. These are issues that now have legal, social, and ethical considerations. There are no easy solutions to these problems, but in the end, someone is going to be making decisions which affect everyone on Earth. Being informed is a must.


Here is a chance for you to see and explore many of these delimmas. The following is a list of debate, research, or discussion questions for you to use to build your knowledge of global sustainable development issues.

See if you can come up with legal, social, and ethical issues and solutions.

1. Should we capture wild animals and place them in a zoo for our enjoyment? For education? To keep species from dying out.

2. According to Environmental Science , there are about 1.28 billion cattle on Earth and each one eats about 900 pounds of vegetation. To make space for growing feed and raising cattle, developing nations are clearing millions of acres of tropical rainforests. Much of the land is cleared in order to meet consumer demands for meat, food crops, and timber. Because tropical rainforest soils are very fragile, ranches cannot maintain as many animals and thus are less efficient American and European ranches. Should rainforests be cleared for pasture for raising cows for exported hamburger? Should the United States and other developed countries tell developing countries how to use their resources? Visit the Rainforest Action Network web site.

3. The Ogallala is the largest aquifer (water-bearing rock) in the United States and supplies water to Texas, Nebraska, Kansas, Colorado, Oklahoma and New Mexico. The aquifer is said to be depleting at a rapid rate due to the droughts. Even though new conservation measures are being developed for irrigation, many farmers do not have the capital or education to install these new irrigation systems and continue to rely on traditional irrigaion methods to raise wheat, cotton, potratoes, onions, sweet potatoes, peaches, and other products for world consumption at the same level as in the 1980's. Who should have the water: the farmers or the people in the cities for lawns, baths, etc.? Who should decide?

4. In June of 1996, the National Parks Service logged 70 acres of heavily forested Angel Island in the San Fransico Bay as part of a program to get rid of nonnative species of trees such as Eucalyptus, walnuts, and cypress. Up to 12,000 trees have been felled. They also removed four groves of Monterey Pines which are native to California and provide a home for the Screech Owl and other rare species. According to the one person who made this decision, there are a lot of reasons to remove the Eucalyptus trees: they are not stable because of their root system, their oily bark creates a fire hazard, they crowd out native species, but mainly he chose to do this to restore biodiversity to the island and bring it back to its natural state. A large number of people use this island as a recreational area. Should the National Park Service be able to make the decision to implement a long range plan to log Angel Island to return it to its natural state of the 1800's? How should it be regulated?

5. According to the Bay Guardian article, "Clinton's Presidio Ploy", Clinton stated that the "public-private management plan for the Presidio will be an example of 'sustainable development' that should serve as a model for other national parks." Clinton believes the parks will be sustainable if their maintenance is turned over to the private sector. Under this new arrangement, the park must make enough money to pay for itself within fifteen years or be sold off to the highest bidder. Should the U.S. government be able to privatize the public's National Park System which include areas such as the Presidio in San Francisco, Yosemite, Yellowstone, or the Washington Monument?

6. Should wolves be reintroduced into areas where farmers, ranchers, and pet owners reside? See Wolves: Friends or Foes for more information.

7. Energy companies have been required to sell a certain percent of renewable energy (solar/wind power). Those using renewable energy sources have also had tax breaks and subsidies to encourage the use of them. Should government deregulate the energy sector and consequently give the nonrenewable energy (fossil fuels) sources a competetive advantage over renewable energy (solar/wind power) sources?

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Hands-On Activities

(Currently under development on the original page)[edit | edit source]

Plan 1: Abstract and Actual Lesson TITLE: CONSTRUCTION OF A BIOFILTER

SUBJECT(S): Microbiology, biology

Author: Idaho National Engineering Laboratory and Matthew Downing



  1. To construct a functioning mode of a biofilter
  2. To observe and document changes in the bacteria associated with the bioremediation process
  3. To research and devise means of quantifying the microbial activity


According to Downing, bioremediation has been developed on a commercial scale by the INEL and EG&G, Idaho into a system called the "Biocube tm Aerobic Biofilter" which can remove industrial fumes and hydrocarbon fumes from underground storage tanks using large compost beds. Because of this project, Downing has developed an activity of construction of a simple biofilter along with making designer compost.


  • "Mason" jar with lid
  • Plastic aquarium tubing
  • Aquarium air stones (2)
  • Silicone cement/duct tape
  • Miscellaneous glass tubing
  • Carbon source (acetic acid)
  • Plastic hose attachments (nipple)
  • Soda bottles
  • Aquarium 2 and 3-way "gang" valves
  • Sand, compost
  • Lab flasks (2)
  • Aquarium pump


CAUTION: Eye damage can result from exposure to UV radiation. Follow manufacturer's safety guidelines.

Another lesson was submitted by Downing called "Methano-Madness" which is also available upon request from Matthew Downing c/o Julene Messick @ 208-526-0318.


Discussion[View | Edit]

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