Think Globally, Act Locally - World Problems and Solutions

Think Globally, Act Locally  -  World Problems and Solutions


            I remember seeing the bumper sticker "Think Globally, Act Locally" and being annoyed.  I thought, "how can one solve a global problem by just doing something in the neighborhood?"  Dilemmas of epic proportion face our fragile planet, and the changes required to deal with them will have to be massive.  However, with an idealistic faith in "the butterfly effect" and the practical realization that you have to start somewhere, I have decided that acting locally is both necessary and noble.  Thus, I am introducing this concept "Think Globally, Act Locally," as the theme of a term project in ninth grade World Literature and Composition.  The project will have two distinct phases.  (See if you can guess what they are?)

Phase 1:  Thinking Globally

            In this first phase students will research a world problem.  Choosing from a list of several general problems (ie. hunger, disease, pollution, poverty, etc.) students will focus on a specific instance of the problem in some part of the world.  They will write a standard research paper employing a minimum of five bibliographic sources.  These research papers will be collected in a compendium on global problems.

Phase 2:  Acting Locally

            In this second phase students will create a local solution.  Using local resources, students will create a small-scale solution, however experimental or symbolic, for the global problem they have researched.  They will document the process of their project and include this documentation in a compendium on local solutions.


            First, the problem you are studying should be considered an effect, and in analyzing the effect you will consider the causes.  It may be that these causes are not thought to be problems themselves, but they help result in the effect, the problem.  It is more than likely that all of these problems will have some foundation in human behavior.  Thus, it is necessary that you consider all the social sciences, as well as the natural sciences, in considering the causes of your problematic effect.  Second, these problems are grave and their implications overwhelming, and your local solution may seem pathetically ineffectual.  Do not get bummed out!  Despair is a logical consequence of such investigations, but you should take heart in simply gaining an awareness of the problem.  The solutions will be the life's work of many of your generation.  Have faith in the possibility that the cause of the problem will be the cause of the solution:  humanity.

World Problems/Possible Solutions

1.         World Problem:  Hunger and Starvation.  Students will study eating habits, food sources, and agriculture cross-culturally, as well as examining specific instances of starvation and malnutrition historically and geographically.  Possible Local Solutions:  Grow Food!  Nutrient rich, efficient, fast-growing food plants will be cultivated and the implications for large scale farming will be considered.  The products of this effort will then be given away to the needy of your area.

 2.         World Problem:  Sickness and Disease.  Students will study various health problems & epidemics in various societies/countries presently, in the past, and/or in the anticipated future.  While the focus of this area of study is on sickness, indigenous cures will also be examined.  Possible Local Solutions:  Grow medicinal herbs and study curative measures.  Students will cultivate healing plants in the context of homeopathic principles and local remedies.  Again the products of this effort can be given away to the needy, as well as other research institutes.

 3.         World Problem:  Air Pollution.  Students will study urban and rural examples of pollution, from methane to monoxides.  The causes as well as the effects of atmospheric pollution should be examined and consideration given to the greenhouse effect, acid rain, the ozone hole, and respiratory diseases.  Possible Local Solutions:  Again, grow plants, in this case plants which absorb airborn toxins as well as carbon dioxide and/or give off quantities of oxygen.  Solutions to desertification and reforestation should be considered, as well as interior environments and the influence of houseplants.

4.         World Problem:  Ground Pollution.  From NH & LA to Mexico City & New Dehli, trash abounds.  Garbage in its many manifestations will be analyzed.  Students should consider the modern ethic of disposibility as well as biodegradability of waste.  Possible Local Solutions:  Start a campus-wide recycling program to begin to solve the problem here - at least.  This effort should commence with an environmental impact study of your school and involve corporate sponsorship in the recycling effort.  Further, it should be a money maker!

5.         World Problem:  Water Pollution.  While this problem is very much related to ground pollution particularly in Los Angeles stormdrains, it also involves the ecology of watersheds.  Students should consider rivers and lakes, aquifers and oceans, as well as community water supplies.  Possible Local Solutions:  Grow aquatic plants/breed plankton, and work on the local causes of water pollution, including providing alternatives to pesticides and petrochemical fertilizers in agriculture.

6.         World Problem:  Energy.  Students will examine various problematic sources of energy including coal, oil, and nuclear power.  How and why these energy sources are used should be considered.  Possible Local Solutions:  Students can develop alternative, non-problematic sources of energy, including solar, wind, hydrogen, and grain based fuels.

7.         World Problem:  Poverty.  Certainly there are myriad economic problems in societies, but the existence of an ever-growing population of poor will result in an exacerbation of other global problems as well as problems of crime and entitlements.  Culturally speaking, this is one of the most complex issues.  Possible Local Solution:  Students should work to develop means by which individuals can become independent from larger economic systems.  How can a redistribution of wealth occur without a revolt of the rich?  Again, growing food can be possible solution.

8.         World Problem:  Use of non-renewable resources.  In addition to oil and coal many other minerals, as well as old growth forests and rainforests are being dangerously depleted.  Possible Local Solutions:  Use of renewable resources - how can we make the switch?  Almost all botanicals are renewable!

9.         World Problem:  Over-Population.  Many claim that this problem, discussed by Malthus and others, is the cause of all the aforementioned problems.  Why?  How?  Possible Local Solutions:  What is required to achieve a zero or negative population growth?  A study of the ecology of reproduction and the economics of life can be done.  However, this problems does not lend itself to tangible local solutions.

Thinking Globally

Phase 1:  Instructions

            Students will write a standard research paper of five to ten pages using a minimum of five sources:  books, periodicals, reference materials, and other informational sources.  The purpose of the paper is for students to formally present an analysis of a world problem.  This problem should constitute a serious threat to the environment, humanity, or some aspect of life on earth.  Developing a compelling  topic of inquiry is critical to creating a meaningful, useful and important paper.  It is necessary to explain what is already known about your topic of inquiry and the motivation behind your study at the beginning.  Then, you should go about making a case for your thesis using your researched information.  The use of primary sources is powerful in this regard.  Students must turn in a thesis statement, introductory paragraph, outline, and bibliography on ______________.  You should demonstrate your knowledge of basic research methods and basic paper/report writing skills.  You should also show that you have critical and analytical, cognitive skills by showing how different facts and ideas relate/correlate.  Remember:  The purpose of research is to create new knowledge by combining various pieces of information, new and old, however divergent, and running them through the sieve of your intellect.  Begin by developing a research problem and creating an hypothesis.  Generate associative notions.  Consider the terms: relate, juxtapose, influence, attribute, correlate, equate, parallel, sequence, link, cause, effect.  Then start investigating sources of information: books, periodicals, reference materials, on-line services, etc.  Create a bibliography/reference list and be sure to include:  Author's Name, Title of Article and/or Publication, Publisher, Place of Publication, Date, Page(s).  Whether or not you use index cards, you should be able to present your research notes.  Write your paper and conclude by reporting the results of your investigation, proving or disproving your hypothesis, and discussing the implications of your findings.

Suggested Format:

            Introduction:  In this first section you should answer the following questions:  What are you investigating?  This is your thesis, research question or hypothesis.  Why you are investigating it?  This is your rationale or problem statement and may follow from other research or investigations.  How are you going to proceed with the study?  This refers to the method you intend to use and how you will analyze the results.

            Literature Review:  Here, you should discuss information from other studies, articles, or books dealing with your topic of inquiry.  You should explain the results and implications of these references and describe how they relate to your research. 

            Discussion:  Having presented the evidence and various factual points in the Literature Review, you should now relate, correlate, and associate your information in a discussion demonstrating your thoughts, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation of the problem.  This section constitutes a conclusion, so it is necessary to summarize your work and explain its usefulness.  Again, as you are doing bibliographic research you should discuss your findings as you present them.  The sequence and juxtaposition of bibliographic information is essential to the logic of the conclusions you draw from your research.

            References:  Of course, all the sources of information used in your study should be referenced in a bibliography.  You should also include the names of any people who contributed to your study.  You may use a number of formal formats for presenting your references, including MLA, APA, etc.  Most of these formats require that you use footnotes, and you are encouraged to do so, but for the sake of ease you may list these at the end of your paper.  Note that footnotes and a bibliography are not the same thing.  Also, you are encouraged to include appendices of graphs, graphics, and supplemental information.

            Evaluation:  You will be graded on your topic/outline and the paper itself while considering your participation and cooperation, research & reference skills, writing skills, expression of ideas, synthesis of information, formating, and presentation.

Acting Locally

Phase 2:  Instructions

            Having begun a formal research paper on an aspect of a world problem, students will create and execute a project which represents a local solution to that problem.  While this local solution will likely be symbolic with regard to the global nature of the problem, it nevertheless will be a real-world, hands-on, result-oriented, environmental project.  These projects should utilize the facilities of North Hollywood High School, in particular the Agriculture Area.  Given this opportunity and the nature of many world problems, a large percentage of these projects will involve plants.

            The chronology of the project development revolves around the spring growing season.  Students will be asked to develop their project during the last weeks of the fall semester, and initiate it during the opening weeks of the spring semester.  Thus, a general preliminary proposal will be due on the first day of the second semester, and then a specific project plan will be due on Valentine's Day (February 14th), many of the plantings having already begun.  Students will keep a journal on the progress of their project, until ______________ when a summary report will be due. The students will also be required to submit a flyer and/or graphic representation as well as a descriptive blurb featuring their project which will be due on ______________.   [Phase 1 - the Research Paper will be due on ______________.] 

            Students are encouraged to work in pairs and to keep their project simple.  They should use the suggestions on the on the World Problems and Solutions page.  It is imperative that intelligent planning take place immediately.  If plantings are not begun early in the spring, harvests may not be possible until after school lets out for summer, and that would be too late.  Students should make every effort to anticipate problems and expect the unexpected.  Planting projects are not always successful, but documenting one's failure and the consequent lessons will justify the endeavor.

Requirements:  (Students, you will be graded on the following components of your project.)

1.         Preliminary Proposal: State the purpose of your project (Acting Locally) and how it relates, however symbolically, to the research paper done for the Phase1 (Thinking Globally).  Include a chronology of the process necessary to execute your project expeditiously.  Describe who is participating in the project and the different resources you intend to use.  This part should be no more than a page.

2.         Project Plan:  Here you should elaborate on your preliminary proposal.  Be more detailed and give specific explanations how and why you are doing what you are doing.  Improve on your chronology and provide at least three bibliographic references.  Describe the materials, tools, equipment needed, as well as the space required and a prospective budget.  Use no more than three pages.  Finally, you should include a copy of a letter requesting information, expertise, or materials which you will send to at least one outside source.  Further, you should keep a weekly journal on the progress of your project.

3.         For our website, visitors, and prospective sponsors you must provide a comprehensively descriptive blurb of your project and create a flyer and/or graphic representation.  The blurb should fit on a 3x5 inch index card and the flyer and/or graphic representation should dominate only one 8.5x11 inch piece of paper.

4.         Summary Report:  This segment should be a two to three page synopsis of the processes and results of your project.  Indicate and explain the philosophical and tangible projects of your work.  How did you succeed, or not?  Include a paragraph of recommendations for future projects of this kind.

5.         Participation:  The largest number of points will be awarded for class participation.  When we have project days you should use your time wisely and demonstrate on-task behavior while class is in session.  You should show the teacher the proof of your efforts frequently to show your ability to work well without constant supervision.  Mature cooperation is not only graded, but required.  Students caught wasting time and/or fooling around will be reprimanded.  Time management and obvious results are imperative. 



Think Globally, Act Locally

World Problems, A Paper

Local Solutions: A Project

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