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Activity 12
Transnational Pollution: Why Are You Dumping on Me?

Adapted from "Transnational Pollution: Why Are You Dumping on Me?" in Global Issues for the 90s.  Denver: Center for Teaching International Relations, University of Denver, 1993. pp 79-83.

Grade Level



This lesson introduces the grandest and most threatening problem of the global environment-transnational pollution.  The flow of pollutants across national boundaries has confirmed that pollution does not recognize geographical boundaries.  Clearly, environmental degradation in one country can spread to another, reconfirming that now more than ever, the health of the global environment is the responsibility of all nations, whether vast or small, rich or poor.  The purpose of this lesson is to familiarize students with the different types of transnational pollution, and to give them an opportunity to role play in a hypothetical case of transnational pollution on the Danube River.  The story, "Why Are You Dumping on Me?" is reminiscent of the 1986 Sandoz chemical plant fire in Switzerland that dumped thirty tons of pesticides, dyes, and fungicides into the Rhine River.  In this activity, students should be encouraged to offer solutions to this clear and present danger.

Teacher/Student Objective

The major goal of this activity is to make student cognizant that an incident in one nation may well have serious environmental consequences for other nations.  Additionally, it will also give students an opportunity to play complex roles that are meaningful and consequential to global concerns.

Gauging Student Understanding

The progress indicators cited reflect desirable end goals. Teachers should be prepared to use a wide variety of observational, testing and authentic achievement evaluation measures in judging the progress of students.

By assuming specific points-of-view in a role playing exercise, students will reveal their ability to develop and defend a position.  Logical reasoning and rational argument will be judged through the use of a scaled evaluation sheet administered by a trained group of students.

Suggested Materials

Initial Data for Consideration and/or Process

Begin the lesson by encouraging students to give examples of transnational pollution.  You might need to define "transnational" for them, extending or going across national, political or geographical boundaries.  Some examples might be airborne pollution like acid rain that originate in one country (the US) and pollute another (Canada).  Emissions from factories and automobiles in the form of carbon dioxide are also carried by the wind across national boundaries.  Radiation leaks from nuclear power plants (Chernobyl, April 1986) or nuclear tests in the atmosphere can also be carried in the same way.  River pollution can begin in one country and flow into another (the Danube, Rhine, and Meuse rivers).  And the destruction of habitat of migratory birds and animals can also be considered transnational pollution.

Divide the class into groups of six.  Explain that each group will consist of the same six individuals:
President of Meinhold Chemical Company; a German government official; a Czech environmental activist; a Rumanian river boat captain; an official of the Austrian Ministry of Public Health; and a United Nations official.

DistributeHandout  Remind students to read the handout from the perspective of their role.  Review the objectives of each role.  An optional method is to divide the class into six groups, each group with one role.

Give each group a large piece of butcher paper, and explain that the objective of this activity is to develop solutions and a course of action in response to the fire at the Meinhold Chemical Company.  Remind them that transnational pollution, in all its forms, is a very serious environmental problem and that by its nature, will affect more than one nation at a time.  Also, let them know that each group will present their course of action to the whole class.  The course of action taken by each group must take the role objectives of individual members into consideration.  Explain that when conflict occurs (and it will) between members of the group over a proper course of action, they should be encouraged to compromise and alter their positions to reach a group consensus.  Direct each group to record their course of action on the poster paper.

After all the groups have finished developing their solutions and a course of action, ask a representative or team of representatives from each group to present their course of action to the entire class.  Have each group hang their posting paper so it can be seen by the whole class.

Facilitate a discussion on the similarities and differences among the various group ideas.  Explain that the goal of this discussion is to develop one course of action that the entire class approves.  Once again, compromises will have to be made.  Record the final solutions and course of action on a piece of posting paper that is visible to the entire class.

The activity can be concluded by focusing a discussion on the following questions:

Other Possible Activities

Role playing activities are adaptable to any topic which has at its core some kind of controversy.

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