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Teaching Unit: Materials and the Environment

As of April 2013 the PowerPoint presentations and PDFs have been updated with new statistical information from the U.S. Census Bureau, the Population Reference Bureau, the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the U.S. Geological Survey, the Food and Agriculture Organization, the USDA Forest Service and other reputable sources.

In seeking to address the complex environmental problems faced by society today there is a tendency to seek simple solutions. Leaders focus on specific problems, often neglecting to view potential solutions in a systematic way or from a global perspective. Too often, the result is to simply shift environmental problems from one region or one nation to another, while sometimes actually magnifying the overall environmental impacts.

Specifically, trends in human population growth and growth of consumption, though eschewed, are almost never realistically factored into proposed solutions to environmental problems, perhaps with the belief that if these issues are effectively ignored they will somehow go away. Yet, a failure to use realistic and rational assumptions in planning is quite unlikely to benefit anyone, or the environment upon which everyone depends.

This topical area examines environmental concerns regarding forests in the context of trends in population and economic growth nationally and worldwide. Examination of forest issues in a larger context than is often considered leads students to a broader understanding of the issues involved, and leads to consideration of a wider, and different, set of possible approaches to problem solving. The presentations (available in PowerPoint and PDF formats) contain colorful graphics and statistics about U.S. and global population growth, economic growth, raw material consumption patterns, and information about environmental life cycle analysis. A number of background materials are also provided below to support investigation of the "Materials and the Environment" presentations.

PowerPoint Presentations

Presentation PDFs

Background Materials

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