If you are primarily a Language Teacher who needs to find topics around which to structure the content of your course or project, there can be little doubt that talking about the environment will be near the top of your list. Why? Because it’s relevant to all of us, because it should be relevant enough and emotive enough to students to engage them personally and be authentic to them, and of course mainly because it’s just a very important topic in its own right.
Recently I was asked to teach a course on Discussion and Contemporary Issues at Sophia University. I have been working on a body of lessons which attempt to approach important subjects facing young generations in Japan. One very useful resource I came across is The Japan Research Institute. This is fantastic because it is very relevant to Japan, of course, and has both English and Japanese reports and pages. As they explain on their website, the JRI
[Is] active in research of both domestic and foreign economic issues and formation of policy recommendation, as well as consulting in a wide range of fields such as corporate strategies and public administrative reform. In addition, we provide analyses and surveys for incubation activities in the creation of new markets and industries. Through these operations we offer a clear vision to our customers towards changes in the economic and social environment as well as developments in the IT area.
They have a lot of good information on both environmental issues and issues from economics. Perhaps not enough people realise how closely linked these two subjects are, but of course our exponential growth as a world economy who, 50 years ago, supported half the number of people on a higher availability of resources. As we run lower on natural resources such as fossil fuels and as other so called ‘resources’ as the rainforest are diminished, so too the population expands and increases our demands for these diminishing resources. It’s what we call a vicious circle, or a snake eating its own tail. As educators, we have a lot of opportunities to raise awareness of these problems and class projects could even become pro-active campaigns in which students get involved with writing letters or other peaceful demonstrations in order to ensure a brighter future.
Below are a few other good links for you to use with students, and also a WebQuest which I developed designed to teach students about alternative energy supplies – a hot topic here in Japan ever since the Great North Eastern Earthquake of March 11th 2011 in which the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant was badly damaged.
And below is the WebQuest