Northeastern Section - 50th Annual Meeting (23–25 March 2015)

Paper No. 4
Presentation Time: 9:05 AM


LUTZ, Tim, Department of Geology and Astronomy, West Chester University, 720 S Church St, West Chester, PA 19383,

The challenge of our time is that we are forced to confront two contradictory but coexisting worldviews. Our society emphasizes individual freedom and success. But our scientific data tell us that our collective effect on earth systems is devastating. This situation creates a double-bind that leaves us unable to reflect meaningfully on the disparities between what we do individually and the effects we have collectively, or to see a way out of the dilemma. Teachers can address the situation by presenting data, models, and visualizations of earth systems environments that open pathways for exploring, discussing and balancing the tension between freedom and responsibility. Among the most relevant technologies to encourage thinking sustainably are modeling tools that give each student the ability to discover their role in the collective and to reconsider the choices they make as individuals. This presentation will show how commonly used online calculators, such as for those for the ecological footprint and water footprint, can be used to gather data from individual students; and how the data are used to visualize the distribution of footprint components for an entire class and to frame a discussion about the ethics of resource consumption. Similar strategies are described for data arising from garment and electronics labeling and from life cycle assessments. The water footprint calculator shows that diet is a powerful determinant of water dependency. A custom calculator based on additional agricultural data shows how food footprints translate into watershed areas and relate to blue, green, and gray water dependency. Assessment results for an introductory, interdisciplinary general education course suggest that utilizing data that reflect students’ lives is effective in promoting critical thinking and encouraging systems thinking about sustainability issues.
  • Lutz NEGSA15 w new data 151.pptx (4.5 MB)