Thursday, March 6, 2014

16 Trends: # 10 threats or opportunities?

Recently our Grade 3 students engaged in a Project Based Learning unit to try to answer the question will Mumbai run out of water?  Access to clean water is a huge issue here - in many apartments the water tanks are filled up once a day and people have access to water for a limited number of hours.  As I've thought about water, it reminded me of a presentation I went to at an ECIS conference many years ago where an Swedish water expert (whose name I unfortunately can't remember) spoke to us about how future wars may well be fought over water.  At the time I thought she was exaggerating - now I'm not so sure!  It occurs to me that access to water is a very important issue for students to study - after all these students will be the politicians of the future, or maybe the scientists who will be working on solving some of these issues - they need to have some understanding of these global problems that may threaten our quality of life and even our survival in the not too distant future.

As discussed in Trends 1 and 2, population is increasing.  In the first half of this century (2000 - 2050) the population of the world will increase from around 6 billion to 9 billion - an increase of 50%.  All of these people will have needs and wants - and current trends show that the gap between the haves and have nots will increase.  More people will put more pressure on food production, global warming, access to water, the spread of diseases and so on, and at the same time more and more people and governments will have access to weapons that could wipe out the planet.  The generation of students in our schools today will be the ones making the decisions about destroying or saving our world - so it's important to consider what education they are getting to help them deal with these issues in the future - are they seeing these issues as threats or as opportunities?

Here's one example:  when I was in school most of the oil we used in the UK came from the Middle East.  During the 1970s, however, the price of oil increased so much that expensive and previously uneconomic sources, such as beneath the North Sea, became practical for drilling, and with more supply of oil the price dropped.  Since then wars have been fought over oil and countries invaded or corrupt regimes propped up to maintain access to oil.  It seems we can't do without it, and yet 200 years ago we didn't even know it existed or what we could do with it.  Now we hear the oil is rapidly running out - scientists are going to have to come up with news forms of energy.  This could be a problem when looked at one way, or it could be an opportunity when looked at from another perspective.  One thing is sure - we need to educate students to be creative and innovative, to be problem solvers and critical thinkers - one of today's students could well be the person who discovers a new source of energy that will become to the next generation what oil is to us today.  Are we encouraging such thinkers?

Photo Credit: w4nd3rl0st (InspiredinDesMoines) via Compfight cc

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