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Environment Essay Outlines

Man and the Environment

The Concept of Bearing Responsibility
To what extent should rich nations bear responsibility for solving environmental
bear responsibility
criteria (cause, ability, self-interest)
Generic (command):
Extent question requires student to acknowledge that responsibility is shared
rich, developed nations
implied developing nations
cutting back - reducing consumption and production
active measures reforestation, alternative energy,
mitigation/adaptation coping with consequences
What environmental problems?
Apart from global warming, these problems include deforestation,
loss of biodiversity, air, water, and land pollution.
How to measure extent of responsibility?
(1) How much of the damage were their doing?
(2) How able are they to solve the problems?
(3) How much is at stake for them?
Criteria: CAUSE


Rich nations

Developing nations

Industries (MNCs, TNCs)

Historically, rich nations are

primary contributors to global
warming due to past industrial

Currently, some of the

developing nations who
are the larger
contributors to global

--While it may appear that some

of the developing nations are
greater contributors to carbon
emissions today, much of such
emissions are from industrial
activity from companies owned
by rich nations.

Per capita consumption

patterns are highest in the
developed world.

In the future, it is the

current rapidly
developing nations that
will be the primary
contributors to global

--Physical location is thus not as

important as national


It is the rich nations who

possess most of the
technological know-how and
financial means to deal with
environmental catastrophe and
to research possible alternative
energy solutions.
It is also the rich nations who
are able to most help the
developing nations when it
comes to coping with the
consequences of global


Rich nations are not spared

from the ill-effects of global
warming. Moreover, they have
significant interests in business
development in the developing

It is the developing
nations who hold the
key to solving
environmental problems
because they make up
most of the worlds
population and control
most of the worlds
This means that they
have the potential ability
to help address
environmental issues.
Developing nations have
an obvious stake in
resolving environmental
issues because they
suffer the brunt of
global warming.

While developed nations should bear more responsibility, developing nations should also
play their part in solving the environmental problems.
Assuming rich nations have (1) caused environmental problems, (2) the ability and (3) are
self-interest, they should bear more responsibility to solve the environmental problems.
Although they have a moral obligation, it would be unfair for them to bear full responsibility.
This is because developing nations are increasingly (1) causing environmental problems, (2)
gaining the ability and (3) are self-interested to make amends.
Ultimately for the environmental problems to be solved, this would require the commitment
and cooperation of both nations.
Yet, developing nations are increasingly (1) causing environmental problems, (2) gaining the
ability and (3) are self-interested to make amends.
The Concept of Possibility
Is it possible to protect the environment when many countries require increasing amounts of
energy to progress?

possible (realistic, difficult, long term probability, short term probability) requires
discussion of impediments (acknowledging condition and trade-off: increasing amounts of
energy consumption have an impact on the environment, human will and determination,
human ingenuity, international cooperation)
protect the environment (conservation, mitigating consequences of global warming,
reforestation, alternative energy, etc), countries that require increasing amounts of energy to
progress (undeveloped, developing, developed)
The increasing amount of energy that is required to progress has a damaging effect on the
In order to protect the environment, countries need to cut back on the amount of energy use.
It is possible
(1) the obstacles are manageable
(2) the solutions can be maintained and enforced
It is not possible as:
(1) the obstacles are overwhelming
(2) rendering the solutions insignificant
It is possible but extremely difficult
(1) acknowledge there are solutions
(2) but the obstacles are overwhelming
(3) rendering the solutions ineffective
Why is it possible but extremely difficult?


The use of alternative energy sources has already been proven to be

Dependency of many
economically viable. (i.e., increasing energy use need not be harmful to countries on fossil
the environment)
fuels that are highly
polluting to fuel

economic growth
As the consequences of global warming become more severe,
governments around the world will be under pressure to work together
and seek solutions to protect the environment while at the same time
ensure progress for their people. Furthermore, there appears to be a lot
of excess capacity, i.e., there may not be a need for drastic cuts or
changes in lifestyles what is needed are merely more efficient ways
of energy production and use. (Need not cut back on energy

Lack of will
Lack of cooperation

Based on current trends in science and technology, Man is likely to

Man appears to have
invent more ingenuous ways of protecting the environment while at the reached the limits of
same time enjoying economic progress.
his intellectual
Protecting the environment can also be economically viable as
evidenced by eco-tourism and jobs in the alternative energy market.

Mans Greed

It is increasingly possible to protect the environment because of the use of alternative energy
resources, the increased pressure from governments to work together to seek solutions, the
more ingenuous ways of protecting the environment and the economically viable pursuits.
However, the overwhelming obstacles such as the heavy reliance on fossil fuels, lack of will
and cooperation, Mans Greed and the appearance that Man has reached his intellectual
limits ..........
Not Possible


Many governments are unwilling to adopt alternative sources of

energy due to the high costs associated and the hassle that comes
with changing existing infrastructures.

Dependency of many
countries on fossil fuels that
are highly polluting to fuel
economic growth

Peoples fears that such modern forms of technology may have

ill effects.

Dependency of many
countries on exploiting
natural resources to fuel
certain industries

Man is inherently selfish and greedy. Countries are likely to

cooperate when there appears to be little incentive for them to take
the first step.

Lack of cooperation, lack of


Man appears to have reached the limits of his intellectual abilities.

There is little alternative left except to cut back on energy use.

Human ingenuity

Eco-tourism is not as environmentally friendly as it seems

and money channeled into such projects could have been better
used elsewhere. Jobs in alternative energy markets are unstable,
uncertain and not as lucrative

Changing lifestyles

How to use The Flipside:
The Flipside offers you two views on a given issue. In many cases, the views are polar
opposites. In some cases, the second view is merely an alternative perspective. These
contradictory views are presented in full to facilitate discussion and to offer a more objective
take on issues. The graduating GP student should be well aware that no view can ever be
balanced in an essay with the polar opposite. The result is a thoroughly contradictory essay.

Instead, the student should adopt one point of view (the stand), while balancing his views by
acknowledging some/partial truth in the alternative view.

The student may also choose to balance by saying that there are exceptions to his stand which apply
under certain conditions.

The student may also choose to present the alternative offered here in order to subsequently rebut

To illustrate we have crafted sample paragraphs in Section 5.


Concept/Issue: Responding to Global Warming

Question: How responsible is Mankind in protecting the environment?

Answer: Mankind is responsible in protecting the environment to a large extent. Granted,
there have been efforts on the part of individuals, non-governmental organisations,
governments and international organisations towards protecting the environment.
However, these efforts to change the environmental situation have been cosmetic at best.
This shortcoming is a result of some who remain adamant and apathetic to take up the
responsibility of protecting the environment. As long as people recognise their roles and
are responsible in protecting the environment, those efforts would remain concerted and
maintained in the long run.

Alternative views

There are governments who recognise the

impact of traditional sources of energy and are
turning to cleaner and greener alternatives such
as nuclear energy. In 2008, Italy announced
that within five years it planned to resume
building nuclear energy plants out of a growing
concern over the warming effects of carbon
emissions from fossil fuels.

Despite adopting an alternative source of

energy, i.e. nuclear energy, some governments
are undermining other solutions to climate
change by diverting urgently needed resources
away from the true renewable and energyefficient solutions that governments who are
serious about climate change need to invest in.

Big businesses are also more receptive to the

call to look after the environment. Increasingly,
there are companies who exercise corporate
social responsibility (CSR) as they are
reinvesting in their workforce, communities
and the environment. One such company
is Starbucks who is committed to supporting
programmes that facilitate farmers access to
carbon markets, allowing them to generate
additional income while helping to prevent

Some companies stray away from their

responsibilities to the environment as they
falsely believe that developing sustainably
would reduce their profits.

Established outside of political parties,

(nongovernmental organisations) NGOs
voluntarily are responsible for advocating
publics concerns and pressurising
governments to do a better job. Conservation
International has worked with the Cambodian
government to create a one-million acre
protected area and sponsored scientific
research of coral reefs off Indonesia.

As dedicated as NGOs are in protecting the

environment, a small minority are more radical
in their approach. Adherents of radical
environmentalism and ecological anarchism
are involved in direct action campaigns to
protect the environment. Some campaigns have
employed controversial tactics including
sabotage, blockades and arson.


Concept/Issue: Responding to Global Warming

Question: Do the rich and privileged hold a greater responsibility to tackle environmental
Answer: According to Maslows Hierarchy of Needs, protecting the environment would
be a concern of the rich and privileged because of their emphasis on the quality of life.
Given this concern and their ability to afford the skills, technology and costs of protecting
the environment, the rich and privileged are often placed with greater responsibility to
protect the environment. Apart from the aforementioned reasons, their influential position
in the world renders them even more responsible. Therefore, with their economic
advantage and political clout, the rich and privileged do hold a greater responsibility to
tackle the environmental problems.

Alternative views

It is the affluent and developed nations that are

often to blame for the problems plaguing the
environment. It is the way the rich lives, and in
particular the excesses of the very rich, that is
doing most of the real damage. The
Worldwatch Institute in its annual report, State
of the World 2004, addressed the devastating
toll on the Earth's water supplies, natural
resources, and ecosystems exacted by a
plethora of disposable cameras, plastic garbage
bags, and other cheaply made goods with built
in product-obsolescence, and cheaply made

Other developing nations are fast becoming the

major contributors to environmental problems.
Increasingly, developing countries are catching
up rapidly to the detriment of the environment,
health, and happiness. For years, the streets of
China's major cities were characterized by a
virtual sea of people on bicycles, and 25 years
ago there were barely any private cars in
China. By 2000, 5 million cars moved people
and goods; the number is expected to reach 24
million by the end of next year.

manufactured goods that lead to a "throw

away" mentality.

Rich nations have the financial resources and

the political clout in their own countries and in
the international arena.

Poor countries also have an important

responsibility towards the world.
Many environmental problems respect no
national borders; environmental problems in
one country can easily cross physical borders
and affect not only the country of origin.


Concept/Issue: Environment and Economy

Question: Will economic development always be carried out at the expense of the
Answer: Since the 1980s, there has been a growing body of evidence to suggest that
industrialisation is having an effect on the climate of the planet. Till today,
industrialisation with its countless new machines and technologies continue to exacerbate
the exploitation of the environment. If this were to go on, economic development would
always eclipse protection of the environment. However the picture is not as bleak as it
seems. Increasingly today there is a growing awareness and effort on the part of
governments to develop sustainably. As long as governments are moving away from
traditional methods of development and are developing sustainably, economic
development would not always be carried out at the expense of the environment.

Alternative views

Developed countries are unwilling to slow

down economic growth for the
environment. Rich countries led by Russia,
Australia and the EU have been accused of
trying to cheat their way out of reducing their
greenhouse gas emissions by creating
"dishonest" forestry accounting loopholes.

However, while economic development has

brought about environmental degradation, it
need not always be at the detriment of the
environment. Many business corporations have
succeeded and yet have committed to the
environmental cause.

Developed and in particular developing

countries are still dependent on polluting
energy sources like fossil fuels for its
economic growth.

Although ecotourism is intended for small

groups, even a modest increase in population,
however temporary, puts extra pressure on the
local environment and necessitates the
development of additional infrastructure and
amenities. The construction of water treatment
plants, sanitation facilities, and lodges come
with the exploitation of non-renewable energy
sources and the utilization of already limited
local resources. The conversion of natural land
to such tourist infrastructure is implicated in
deforestation and habitat deterioration of
butterflies in Mexico and squirrel monkeys in
Costa Rica.

Eco-tourism channels resources away from

other projects that could contribute more
sustainable and realistic solutions to pressing
environmental problems. Pacuare Eco Lodge,
located near Turrialba, in the heart of Costa
Rica's rainforest claims that they have
attempted to stick to the highest standards of
sustainable construction. No trees were cut
during the building of the property and the
local Indian community was involved during
the construction. The staff has also been drawn
from the local community. Electricity is not
used and all fuel requirements are fulfilled
using solar panels and a water-run generator.

Some countries adopt a wrong attitude,

believing that the earth is resilient it has
always and will always be able to cope with
our callous actions.Therefore, there is no
urgency and effort to change and develop

With the awareness that environmental

problems are global problems, more countries
and international organizations like UNEP
would see the need help people in developing
countries to find alternative work without
having to rely on traditional activities that
endanger the earth.
4. Concept/Issue: The Fallacy of Global Warming
Question: Is the threat of global warming exaggerated?
Answer: In his new book, The State of Fear, Michael Crichton argues that the threat of
global warming has been exaggerated by environmentalists. While there are many who
question how unrealistically magnified global warming has been, the effects of climate
change may be increasingly palpable but measures and solutions are in place to control
this phenomenon.


Alternative views

The threat posed by global warming is likely to

be exaggerated as the rise in the world
temperature and supposed rise in sea levels is
not uniform worldwide.

The threat posed by global warming is indeed

true as the rise in the world temperature is
found to have direct correlation with the rise in
sea levels, and this may jeopardise the safety of
some places in the world.

The possible risks brought about by the surge in

the Earths temperature are difficult to be
verified, even with the use of supposedly
advanced methods.

The possible impact caused by the increase in

the world temperature is likely to be true as
scientists and climatologists use rather reliable
and advanced methods to prove their

The dangers which are supposedly brought

about by the rise in world temperature are not
new, as reflected in the history of mankind; they
are just natural phenomenon that happen
especially when mankind did not take sufficient
precautionary measures.

The potential dangers brought about by the rise

in temperature across the globe are not at all
exaggerated as they are very real. Direct
manifestations of a widespread and long-term
trend toward warmer global temperatures have
already surfaced, especially in the past 5 years.

The supposed harbingers of the negative

consequences may also be brought about by
other changes in our climate, not just global

The threat posed

temperature is not
quite a number
harbingers of the

The threat may have been exaggerated because

not all governments across the world are taking
it very seriously; if some of them can afford to
pay lip-service to this threat in their quest for
unprecedented or sustained industrialisation, the
situation may not be all that worrying.

The threat presented by the rise in global

temperature is definitely not overestimated as it
is on the agenda of many important
international and regional meetings throughout
the world, at the governmental and
organisational level.


by the rise in the Earths

exaggerated as we do have
of events that serve as
likely impact of continued

Concept/Issue: Energy CrisisNuclear vs Renewable Sources

Question: Is nuclear power the best way to meet the ever-increasing energy needs of
Mother Earth?
Answer: Nuclear accidents in Chernobyl and Three Mile Island have not swayed some countries
from relying on nuclear energy to meet their energy needs. Despite the incidence of nuclear
accidents, this gradual dependance on nuclear energy is dues to it being a more environmentally
friendly alternative to the traditional sources such as coal and fossil fuel. However, given the risks
involved with nuclear energy, it does not make for the best way to meet the increasing energy needs
of Mankind. Apart from nuclear energy, there are other equally or more environmentally friendly
alternatives that are able to meet this increasing energy needs.


Alternative views

Compared to fossil fuels, nuclear energy is

clean. Unlike coal, natural gas, and petroleum, it
does not release carbon dioxide into the
atmosphere in the process of generating
electricity. At a time when there is growing
concern about the link between carbon dioxide
and other greenhouses gases on the one hand
and the warming of our planet on the other, this
advantage of nuclear power has begun to loom

Nuclear energy is economical only under a

very restricted analysis - by the time you have
factored in the costs of construction,
insurance, waste disposal and
decommissioning, you need huge subsidies.

Nuclear waste can be safely stored away. The

best long-term solution for the disposal of the
UK's nuclear waste should be to bury it deep in
the ground, The Committee on Radioactive
Waste Management (CoRWM), an advisory

There is no secure, risk-free way to store

nuclear waste. The Chernobyl disaster was a
nuclear accident of catastrophic proportions
that occurred on 26 April 1986, at the
Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine. It

group has said.The final disposal facility, or

facilities, would be located several hundred
metres underground. The waste would be
encased in tough materials and would use the
surrounding rock as a barrier to prevent
radioactive leakage into the environment.

is considered the worst nuclear power plant

accident in history and is the only level 7
event on the International Nuclear Event

Nuclear accidents are a result of human error,

which can be avoided.

Nuclear power expansion increases the risk of

an accident.

International organisations are preventing

countries from obtaining nuclear weapons.

Expanding nuclear power internationally

would hugely increase the risks from
terrorism and nuclear weapons proliferation.

While nuclear power reactors are expensive to

build, they are relatively cheap to operate.

Nuclear energy is an expensive diversion

from the task of developing and deploying
renewable energy and energy efficiency
required for a low carbon future.

Sample paragraphs:
Question: We have not been good guardians of the Earth. How far do you agree with this
(AV) There are governments who recognise the impact of traditional sources of energy and
are turning to cleaner and greener alternatives such as nuclear energy. In 2008, Italy
announced that within five years it planned to resume building nuclear energy plants out of a
growing concern over the warming effects of carbon emissions from fossil fuels. Naysayers
suggest (note that the AV is clearly signposted as the AV and not your view) that some
governments are undermining other solutions to climate change by diverting urgently needed
resources away from the true renewable and energy-efficient solutions that governments who
are serious about climate change need to invest in.
(Main view and rebuttal) Nevertheless, we should note that the world is in a state of flux as
increasingly, not only are the policy makers reflecting greater awareness and concern for the
environment but so are the MNCs(AV is countered). Today, big businesses are also more
receptive to the call to look after the environment. Increasingly, there are companies who
exercise corporate social responsibility (CSR) as they are reinvesting in their workforce,
communities and the environment. One such company is Starbucks who is committed to
supporting programmes that facilitate farmers access to carbon markets, allowing them to
generate additional income while helping to prevent deforestation.
(Main view and rebuttal) Nevertheless, we should note that the world is in a state of flux as
increasingly, thepolicy makers are reflecting greater awareness and concern for the
environment by relying on renewable and energy-efficient solutions (AV is countered). Today,
governments are pushing for the passage of a renewable energy law to regulate and ensure the
development of alternative sources of energy. Singapores green building movement is an

example of how a combination of legislation and government incentive helped to spur the
green building industry. In Scotland, 585,000 from the European Social Fund is providing
training courses that are to be delivered through Skills Development Scotland, which will
enable employers, with fewer than 250 staff to boost the skills of employees in low-carbon
technologies. These developments reflect that we are increasingly being protective of the



Type of renewable resource that is produced from biomass, a recently

living element such as animals, plantlife or wood. One of the biggest
potential forms of biofuel is biodiesel, which lessens cars dependence on


The tangible impact someones activities will have on the environment,

measured in units of carbon dioxide produced.

Carbon offset

One way to compensate for a carbon footprint, essentially by investing

money in a project that will benefit the environment and cancel out the
emission of carbon dioxide from a certain activity.


Form of transportation by which two or more people travel to the same

destination together to reduce the emissions of travelling.

Climate change

Term for a significant change from one climatic condition to another,

such as temperature of the Earth over time. In some cases, it has been
used synonymously with global warming.


The wise use of natural resources (nutrients, minerals, water, plants,

animals, etc). Planned or non-action to preserve living and non-living


Commonly referred to as the EPA, a government agency founded in 1970

that protects human health and the environment through programs for
consumers and businesses.

Kyoto Protocol

An international agreement between 138 (and growing) developed

countries to work toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions that cause
climate change. It was originally passes in 1997 in Kyoto, Japan and is
set to expire in 2012. The United States has signed but not ratified the
agreement, meaning it is non-binding in the US.


It is a document that delegates at the 15th session of the

Conference of Parties (COP 15) to the United Nations
Framework Convention on Climate agreed to "take note of" at
the final plenary on 18 December 2009. The Accord is not
legally binding and does not commit countries to agree to a
binding successor to the Kyoto Protocol, whose present round
ends in 2012.









It is development that meets the needs of the present without

compromising the ability of future generations to meet their
own needs. It contains within it two key concepts:
the concept of needs, in particular the essential needs of
the world's poor, to which overriding priority should be
given; and
the idea of limitations imposed by the state of technology
and social organization on the environment's ability to
meet present and future needs.
The variety of life on Earth, its biological diversity, is commonly
referred to as biodiversity. The number of species of plants,
animals, and microorganisms, the enormous diversity of genes
in these species, the different ecosystems on the planet, such
as deserts, rainforests and coral reefs are all part of a
biologically diverse Earth.
It is a human rights organisation formed in 1969 that
campaigns for the rights of indigenous tribal people and
uncontacted people, which seeks to help them to determine
their own future.
Its campaigns generally focus on tribal peoples' fight to keep
their ancestral lands, culture and their own way of living. This
organisation works for the people whom are called "some of
the most vulnerable on earth". A part of its mission is to
educate people from misconceptions that help justify violations
of human rights against indigenous people, and the risks that
they face from the advancement of corporations, governments
and also good intentions based on an idea of "development"
that is forced upon them.
It believes that in fact their alternative way of living is not
lacking because they represent a model of sustainability in the
environment that they are a part of and they possess a rich
culture from which the rest of the world could learn.
Greenpeace organises public campaigns:
for preventing climate change by ending our addiction to
polluting fuels and promoting clean, renewable and
efficient energy
for the protection of oceans and ancient forests
for the elimination of toxic chemicals
against the release of genetically modified organisms into
for nuclear disarmament and an end to nuclear
Greenpeace does not solicit or accept funding from
governments, corporations or political parties. Greenpeace
neither seeks nor accepts donations which could compromise
our independence, aims, objectives or integrity. Greenpeace
relies on the voluntary donations of individual supporters, and
on grant-support from foundations.

The Earth is doomed. There is nothing man can do about it. Comment

actions environmental problems impending demise of Earth
solutions fails to solve problems Earth still doomed

This question could be dealt with as containing a single- or multi-part absolute

proposition. Students could challenge doomed and nothing. A balanced approach
is needed.
Note that Earth ( world/society) and Man limits students to environmental
problems caused by mans actions. Social problems and natural disasters are not

See below.

While Man refers to mankind as a whole, students ought to pinpoint the parties
crucial to alleviating environmental problems in general and specifically:

The individual



Supranational organisations

NGOs operating at national and international levels

Earth doomed
Students ought to look at how recent events seem to justify this pessimistic claim.
While they need to concede that Earth would face its demise eventually because of
the fast deteriorating environment problems, armageddon is not impending. They
need to look at the status quo in a reasonable manner. Balance is necessary.
Such is the transboundary nature of environmental problems that while students can
argue that some developing countries are in worse/terrible states, other nations are
in not really better off in the foreseeable future. Earth as a whole suffers the
Credit is given to essays that rank the problems in terms of severity and justify the
Nothing can be done
Students ought to look at how failed measures seem to justify this pessimistic claim.
They need to acknowledge damage that is irreversible or will continue to hasten
Earth towards its doom despite remedial action. However, they ought to argue for the
specific measures that can repair/slow down the devastation caused by each
problem. Balance is crucial to prevent downplaying the severity of the problems.
Such is the transboundary nature of environmental problems that students can argue
for affluent developed countries to help solve other countries problems. Otherwise,
Earth as a whole suffers the consequences.

Credit is given to essays that evaluate the effectiveness of the measures in tackling
each environmental problem and the obstacles that obstruct their implementation.
Credit should be given to essays that present specific and varied examples.
However, examples do not substitute for reasoning.
habitat loss
due to

Regulations to control illegal

Regulations could be in place,
but enforcement is
hampered by corruption or
difficulty in monitoring such
activities (e.g. Indonesia)

Penalties for industries

discharging toxic
Vehicles checked to make
sure emissions meet
acceptable standards
Introduction of cleaner fuels

Some people prefer or can

only afford cheaper fuel
which however is less
environment friendly
Governments unwilling to
enforce stricter controls due
to pressure from industry
lobby groups (e.g. USA not
ratifying Kyoto Protocol)
Not cost-effective in some
cases or feasible in others
(e.g. opportunity costs of
building Three Gorges Dam
in China)
See above notes on pollution.

& impact on

Depletion of
(e.g. fossil
warming & its
problems (e.g.
erratic climate;
rising sea

Switch to renewable
sources of energy. (e.g.:
hydropower, wind energy,
solar energy)
Reduce the excess
production of greenhouse
Impose quota but allow
countries to sell their
unused units to those who
need more

Content Grading
E (0-6) :
D (7-12) :

Irrelevant or mostly out of point (e.g. describes environmental

problems and/or measures).
More description than argument. (Low)
No reference to specific problems or solutions (Low)
Limited scope. One problem and corresponding measures (Mid).
Limited depth. More than one problem but superficial solutions (MidHigh)
Only one part of the proposition addressed. (Mid-High)

C (13-18) :

B (19-25) :

Limited scope and depth. Two or more problems and corresponding

measures. (Low-Mid)
Limited scope and depth. More than two problems and
corresponding measures. Some examples. (Mid-High)
Several problems and their measures presented with insight.
Evaluation (see outline) done. Relevant illustration. Balanced.
Refer to standard descriptors.

A (26-30) :
5. Environmental degradation is inevitable. To what extent is this true?
Inevitable: impossible to avoid or to prevent from happening
General Remarks:

This is NOT a Geography essay. We will NOT be impressed by the mere regurgitation of what you still
remember of your O or A levels exam preparations.

This is NOT a Problem-Solution essay, i.e. Whats wrong with the environment and how can we solve it?.

This IS a Cause-Effect essay, i.e. What are the causes of environmental degradation (effect), and are these
causes so fundamental that they cannot be removed (inevitable)?

Discussion of the premise:

Leading causes of pollution industrialisation, population growth

Explain how these cause the earths pollution

Need to show that if industrialisation / population growth is inevitable, then pollution is inevitable, i.e.
assuming that there are no technological advances which would reduce pollution

Why pollution may not be inevitable, e.g. technological advances, rising
awareness of people about pollution, international agreements to
reduce emissions
Need to give concrete examples of where and when pollution has been
inevitable. Vague descriptions of Americas air pollution or deforestation of
the forests will not do.

Good Essays
1. Showed a good awareness of the key words. A discussion of the notion of
inevitable is mandatory. The focus cannot solely rest on a discussion of the
various environmental problems.
2. Answers that were well structured and organised and consistently reiterated the
key words of the question. Each paragraph clearly defined around a single
problem that shows how it makes environmental degradation inevitable.
3. Answers that had a good range of well elaborated examples that were not vague
(i.e. some/most countries or more/less developed nations).

4. Able to argue competently that the notion of environmental degradation is actually

largely inevitable because the direction most nations are taking and the nature of
human practices.
Problematic Essays
1. Essays that merely focused on listing environmental problems and going into great
depths of explaining the processes of environmental degradation.
2. No discussion or reflection of the notion inevitable.
3. Essays that lacked concrete examples. Use of generalised or hypothetical
examples was generally seen as not having a good grasp of the topic.
4. Instances in essays that discussed why environmental degradation may not be
inevitable were also problematic. You should not be highlighting proposals/
measures that indicate how environmental degradation CAN BE slowed down or
made less inevitable BUT rather WHAT HAS ACTUALLY BEEN DONE to address
the problem.
5. Tone of the essay: There were many instances of talking scripts that highlights an
inability to handle writing in a formal academic register. This is important as it also
reflects on your command and sophistication of language. Remember: Do NOT
talk to the marker-reader!
6. Occasional instances of blatant contradictions. Your stand is toppled by the rest of
your essay which argues the opposite.
7. Planning is essential: Evidence of abrupt endings.
8. Paragraph development must be clear. Each paragraph often deals with different
things thus confusing markers and the point that you aiming to get across. Using
a clear topic sentence would be quintessential in this respect but was however,
most lacking.
We have not been good guardians of the Earth. Do you agree?
Focus: Have we been careless with the only home we know as we carry out our
Economic and leisure activities? Are we taking measures to look after our
Earth or are we treating the earth as one giant supermarket that can supply for
Our endless needs?
We have been good guardians

We have not been good guardians

-There are various earth summits to discuss

ways to look after the earth eg. The Kyoto
Protocol that calls for the ban on the use of
substances, that harms the environment like
CFC, to reduce green house gas emissions.
(possible counter point that students may bring
up as evaluation: Some countries are not
cooperative if it is against their economic
interest to do so.)

-We have not balanced our need for wealth

with our exploitation of the resources. We
have regarded the resources as if they are
infinite.There is no vision to see that enough
is left for future generations there is overhunting, over fishing, overuse or
exploitation of our fossil fuel, water etc.
-We pollute our land, seas and sky. We

-There are environmentalists and various

movements like the Green Peace Movement
that act as watchdogs for the preservation of the
environment. (A counter-point that may be
raised: many such movements lack credibility
as they have other agenda besides protecting the
environment - motivated possibly by politics.)

domestic and industrial/ agricultural

activities) on our lands and seas, rivers,
ponds making them dead.
-We have taken away the habitat of our
fellow creatures that share the earth thus
contributing to their endangered or extinct

-Scientists are working to repair the damage

done earlier like repairing the ozone layer or -We pollute the sky with emissions from
working with energy that is pollution free.
industries and vehicles. We even pollute the
air with airwaves from handphones etc.
-Industries are also more receptive to the call to making it unsafe for all creatures.
look after the environment as they exploit
resources. Some even pump money back into -We have caused havoc with the climate like
research to help the environment.
global warming by releasing green house
gases and bringing about the Green house
-There is also global effort to encourage people effect and global warming. El Nino, long
to recycle, reuse and to conserve.
droughts and winter cold spells to name a
-Wrong attitude that the earth is resilient it
has always and will always be able to cope
with our callous actions. Therefore, there is
no urgency and effort to change and help to
manage the earth better.
Possible conclusion: Students can touch on the fact that economic gains will always eclipse
environmental issues; poorer countries eager to get rich or those with no other alternatives
will continue to cut down trees to sell or for land to build industries or poach rhino
horns. There is more awareness but we are still apathetic and our activities are still exerting
tremendous pressure on the environment.
Students may choose to take the other stand.
1. Do you agree that it is the responsibility of richer nations to tackle global
environmental problems?
Global environment problems eg global warming; pollution esp the discharge of toxic
waste materials into the air, waterways;
Tackle : resolve, eradicate, alleviate -> implies that the rich nations have the clout
political, financial, legal eg international summits in which they could lean on others to
adopt certain policies eg Kyoto Protocol, cancellation of debts of worlds poorest
YES, it is the responsibility of richer nations because






eg financial


the political

clout/will in their own countries and in the international arena eg at the G7, G8
Summits & the legal means to implement & enforce policies eg reducing tax for
green cars eg
the US is a large consumer of oil -> President Bush could have pushed to raise
fuel-efficiency standards for passenger cars when he signed the latest energy
Bill (Jul 2005). This could have encouraged or forced the car industry to
develop the technology to burn cleaner fuels eg biofuels, hydrogen -> this would
have gone a long way towards alleviating current environmental problems.
Rich nations -> main contributors of greenhouse gases & pollutants eg US
responsible for about a quarter of global emissions & but has persistently refused to
ratify the Kyoto Protocol; now the fear is that the Protocol would not come into force
if Russia refuses to ratify it too.
NO, rich nations are not the only ones responsible for the global environmental
problems; every country should also help tackle these global environmental problems
Many environmental problems respect no national borders; an environmental
problem in one country can easily cross physical borders and affect not only the
country of origin but also its neighbours & internationally
eg latest Indonesian haze -> had affected Malaysia for about 1 month esp KL badly &
Penang eg PSI was above 100 for some days; fear economic loss eg 1997 haze cost
Malaysia abt US$8-10 million in lost revenue as a result of closed workplaces, sick
days and medical bills, lost tourism, crop damage and disrupted transport; hence
countries need to co-operate with one another to protect the environment
Other developing nations are fast becoming the major contributors to
environmental problems eg Chinas rapid industrialisation -> huge demand for lands
-> desertification > brown cloud blown across the Atlantic Ocean towards the
Californian coast -> had affected those living along the West Coast of the US; hence
unfair to pin blame on any rich nation eg even though Europe is also a major emitter
of greenhouse gases, many EU countries, prime movers in environmental protection,
have ratified the Kyoto Protocol
Poor countries also have an important responsibility towards the world eg resourcerich but poor countries must prevent the exploitation of their natural resources eg
insist that MNCs are using more environmentally friendly methods of mining the
earths precious elements eg gold, copper that would not create toxic wastes to be
discharged into open water sources eg waterways; regulate the logging industry eg
Amazon basin -> illegal logging a huge problem -> displacement of native tribes &
enforce the renewal of this natural resource
Rest of the world may not be major contributors to the environmental problems
but as long as they are consumers, have a moral obligation to ensure that they do
their bit & do not aggravate the environmental problems

Preserving the environment is more important than economic development. Do you

Question Analysis
Topic: the environment
Issue: Whether conservation of the environment is more important than economic progress

Key Words: Preserving the environment, more important than (comparison required), economic
Context: Unspecified
Possible stands:
Students have to show how the approach they support is more
beneficial than the other.
Agree: Preserving the environment is more important
2 Disagree: Economic development is more important
3 Disagree: Both are equally important students have to show that mankind cant do without either, and
valuing any one over the other will bring equally disadvantageous results




Preserving the environment is more important

preservation affects
economic growth

How much society can sustain economic

growth actually bears a co-relation to
environmental preservation and
prudence in the use of resources.
Environmental degradation can result in
high costs to economic growth.

China - According to Chinas deputy

environmental minister, due to air and
water pollution, China is losing 8-15%
of GDP. 70-80% of cancer cases are
environmentally-related loss of
productivity of the workforce.

Environment: Levels
of pollution are high;
resources will be
irreplaceable if
depletion rates are not

If the current levels of pollution are left

unchecked, the planet may not be able to
sustain life in a few generations time.
Economic development and affluence
would be valueless then. The loss of
clean air and water and the depletion of
resources such as fuel and food, together
with drastic climate changes will make
survival very difficult, if not impossible.

According to Nick Brooks (Tyndall

Center for Climate Change Research,
East Anglia): "By the end of this
century it is likely that greenhouse
gases will have doubled and the
average global temperature will have
risen by at least 2C... In the worst
case scenario it could completely alter
the climate in many regions of the
world. This could lead to global food
insecurity and the widespread collapse
of existing social systems, causing
mass migration and conflict over
resources as some parts of the world
become much less habitable.

Preservation of
historical sites: Loss
of culture and history

If sites and buildings of historical

significance are sacrificed for the sake
of new developments, part of the history
and heritage of the place will be lost,
and such loss is irreversible. The people

Singapore: the nations first and oldest

condominium, Beverly Mai, will be
demolished as the land which it stands
on is worth much more than the
building itself.

will gradually lose their sense of history,

identity and belonging as their city looks
more and more like any other city which
is bent on development and
Demolishing old
buildings may
eventually cost
society more than
embarking on a new

Preserving old buildings can create

more employment and increase local
household income more than the
building of new developments. The
employment created can be of longer
term benefits as related industries such
as heritage tourism can flourish.

In Norway, historical rehabilitation of

old buildings creates 16.5% more jobs
new construction; every direct job in
the cultural heritage sector creates
26.7 indirect jobs, compared to the
auto industrys ratio of 6.3:1.
In Virginia, USA: heritage tourists
spend 2.5 times more and stay longer
than other visitors.
(Info from European Cultural
Heritage Forum 2005)

Economic development is more important

development is
essential to ensure the
survival of the
millions living in
poverty in developing

The huge numbers of people living

below the poverty line is in itself a
social disaster and action should be
taken to enable them to get out of
poverty as soon as possible. Solutions to
poverty such as education, fair trade and
social stability depends on economic

According to the UN Human

Development Report 2005: In the
midst of an increasingly prosperous
global economy, 10.7 million children
every year do not live to see their fifth
birthday, and more than 1 billion
people survive in abject poverty on
less than $1 a day. These people
should be helped and allowing them to
have a share of the worlds economic
development pie is the most evident

The cost of
compliance with
regulations is high for
developing countries

It costs more for developing countries,

than it does for developed countries to
comply with the regulations, placing
them at a competitive disadvantage.

Reluctance of developing countries to

ratify the Kyoto Protocol and they
perceive it as unfair that obstacles are
being put in their way towards
economic development through

There is nothing optimistic about the future of our

environment. Do you agree?
1. nothing = no way at all

2. optimistic = favourable outcome

Parameters of discussion :
-Students need to challenge the word nothing and show that there is at least
one optimistic thing about the future of the environment
- Students need to explain the steps being taken to improve the environment
Possible stands / theses:

There should be optimism about the future because:

1. science and technology has enabled us to come up with measures to

protect the environment and ways of alternative sources tap on solar,
geothermal or hydroelectric sources, new options being developed by
the automobile industry, such as the so-called hybrid cars, which
combine an internal combustion engine and an electric motor
2. governmental efforts to protect the environment in China, millions of
trees are planted each year in a bid to help save the environment
3. people are made aware of the problems the environment is facing and
are encouraged to conserve and recycle
4. nature has a way of presenting solutions to humankind for instance, as
global warming melts the ice caps in the Arctic Ocean, several countries
are planning on tapping into the Arctic for rich reserves of energy
5. ingenuity of humankind to conserve the environment eg. City of Copsa
Mica was terribly polluted in the 1980s but the area has successfully
been cleared of pollution in recent years
6. new avenues are being explored and positive initiatives to protect the
environment are taking place for example, ways have been developed
to use parts of trees that once went up in smoke in beehive burners.
Bark and sawdust, for instance, once considered useless for building
purposes, are used in new composite wood products

There should be pessimism about the future because :

1. natural resources are being depleted quickly - within the next 100 years,
analysts predict that our reserves of oil will deplete, rate of
replenishment cannot keep up with the speed at which they are
destroyed - every day, several football field size plots of rainforest are
chopped down to make paper
2. frequency of earthquakes, floods, typhoons and hurricanes have

significantly increased since the dawn of the 20th century (Major

earthquakes, for example, occurred merely once every century before
the 20th century. Now earthquakes that measure more than 8 on the
Richter scale happen every year) problem is not likely to be resolved in
the future since seismologists and other experts are still pitifully clueless
to the prevention of such disasters
3. some countries are more concerned with economic progress than
environmental well-being. For example, the reason behind the USAs
pull-out of Kyoto Protocol was perhaps one motivated by economic gain.

Do you agree that environmental protection is a luxury of the

Minimum requirements of the question
1. environmental protection: Show a clear understanding of the efforts and
motivations to safeguard the natural environment (air, water and land), the
interests of inhabitants and human health
2. luxury: Show the negative connotation in this word: Something expensive and
inessential but conducive to pleasure and comfort; implies that environmental
protection is not a priority and not necessary
3. of the rich: Consider if only the affluent individuals and nations can
concern themselves with taking care of the environment

There is some truth to this statement using Maslows Hierarchy of Needs, we can reason that
environmentalism is a concern of the rich and more developed nations because of their emphasis on quality of
life. The poor are more concerned with making ends meet and developing nations pay more attention to
industrialization opportunities.


Consideration of the view that it is not a luxury but a necessary course of action by the rich to lead the way in
safeguarding the interests of the other people (especially for those who do not have the resources to better
their own living environment).


Such a thought is dangerous because environmental protection must be seen as everyones priority: anyone
and everyone has a part to play a concerted effort is required to save planet earth.


It not the luxury of the rich: It is the affluent and developed nations that are often to blame for the problems
plaguing the environment. They therefore should bear responsibility to fix the problems and also model the
way for the rest (who one day will join the league of expanding industries) to exercise responsibility towards
the environment.

Potential pitfalls
Limited understanding of luxury
Digression into other areas of luxury of the rich
Descriptive essay of reasons and ways to protect the environment, without
consideration of why environmental protection is a luxury of the rich.
Possible arguments

Only the rich and rich nations have the resources (financial resources and political clout) to tackle
environmental problems.

The poor and the middle-income groups have different priorities: to make a better living.

Environmental protection is potentially costly as it entails the changing of mindsets and attitudes. This means
a lot of money invested in public education. Developing countries will not have the resources to do so.


Many environmental problems respect no national borders; an environmental problem in one country can
easily cross physical borders and affect not only the country of origin. eg Indonesian haze. Environmental
protection is thus not a luxury and definitely not only the responsibility of the rich.

Other developing nations are fast becoming the major contributors to environmental problems e.g.Chinas
rapid industrialization. They can no longer say that protecting the environment is a luxury they can ill afford.

Resource-rich but poor countries must also be more proactive in preventing the exploitation of their natural
resources and insist that MNCs be environmentally friendly. These governments must thus take charge.

All of us are consumers and thus have a moral obligation to ensure that we do our bit and not aggravate the
environmental problems

The viewpoint is also a problematic one as it suggests that environmental protection is not essential. In fact, all
parts of society communities, individuals, business, state and local governments, tribal governments must
have access to accurate information sufficient to effectively participate in managing human health and
environmental risks.

Another view is that environmental protection is not the luxury, but the responsibility, of the rich. E.g. Rich
nations are main contributors of greenhouse gases and pollutants

We are heading for an ecological disaster. How far do you agree with this
Q How far
T ecological
K disaster
Premise given by the question
heading for Are we in the process of destroying the earth? Can this disaster be
Suggested approach to the question
In the light of current situation, taking into account global warming and its effects
(changes in weather conditions, melting of ice caps and the breaking away of the ice
plate in Antarctica etc), loss of natural resources (e.g. Amazon forest loss of animal
and plant species) as well as the efforts undertaken by governments/ organizations/
individuals, perhaps we could only delay the disaster but would not be able the avoid
it totally.
Are we heading for an ecological disaster? Why?

Depletion of natural resources due to excessive activities undertaken by human beings e.g. excessive/ illegal
logging (Amazon rainforest, Indonesia)

Less vegetation thus unable to process the amount of carbon dioxide gas produced as a result of
Mans activities (e.g. industrialization, manufacturing)

Increase in greenhouse gases lead to global warming climatic changes. The ice plate in the
Antarctic has broken away and is melting faster than what scientists have predicted before lowlying areas (e.g. Shanghai, Bangladesh) might be submerged in time to come.

Such changes affect the ecosystem loss of natural habitat for animals and insects thus leading to extinction
(e.g. the Monarch bees and certain species of frogs). The food chain is likely to be disrupted as a result. The
melting of the ice caps could also lead to the extinction of polar bears in time to come.

Pollution Due to industrialization, there is excessive use of chemicals and fertilizers and it has caused land
and water pollution because of inappropriate disposal methods especially in developing countries e.g China.

What are we doing to avoid the disaster? Are the methods effective?

Kyoto Protocol (KP) Looking at the current situation, we are far from achieving what the KP set out to
achieve since its inception. In the past, USA was the top carbon dioxide producer and had shunned the KP for
fear of economic repercussions. Although it has since committed itself again to the KP in April 2008, the
current top carbon dioxide producer, China, is reluctant to be part of the KP, hence the effectiveness of the KP
is undermined.

Recycling of electronic waste can reduce excessive mining (thus minimizing pollution).

Imposition of fines for companies who violate regulation e.g. In Indonesia, the government has finally
imposed penalties for companies who failed to adhere to legal logging methods. The effectiveness of such
penalty is a uncertain as of now there is decrease in forest fires but it would be difficult to prevent all
companies from violating the laws.

The government /organisations taking a more active role in encouraging the public to be more eco-friendly e.g.
In Singapore, rebates are given for new car buyers to convert their petrol-fuelled car to use Compressed
Natural Gas (CNG).

Limited scope with candidates defining ecological disaster being about the
destruction of ecological systems, food chains and animals only, thus strictly
restricting the discussion to the endangering the lives of animals and their
possible extinction due to deforestation, poaching etc.
Failure to mention our most serious threat today global warming and
focusing the discussion on every other threat.
Mankind is a cancer upon the Earth. Do you agree?
Important definitions to note/address before attempting the question:
Cancer: A self-replicating condition with uncontrolled growth that feeds off
its host without giving anything back.
Mankind as cancer presupposes that Man is living off and exploiting his
environment without any attempt to preserve it or renew it.
Points to note:
The question requires one to analyse the relationship between Man and
his environment (Earth).

Students should be able to breakdown if and how each party benefits from
that relationship.
The question presupposes that Mankind is not living in harmony with his
surroundings and as a result, has caused an imbalance that damages the
environment (or his host) and ultimately himself; just as a person who is
terminally ill will eventually succumb, depriving the cancerous organism of
a host.

Industrialism-period between 1900s-present day, move from agriculture to manufacturing, coal

as a fuel, pollution-the proliferation of cities, change in lifestyle, increased energy requirements,
the evolution of transport( the combustion engine), global warming

Students should not merely list or describe the various environmental problems that Man
causes, but must show how these processes are not symbiotic in nature. Eg, in the taking of
fossil fuels, how does mankind renew his environment? The increase of carbon dioxide in the
atmosphere (leading to a greenhouse effect), does mankind do anything to reverse the process?
Can the earth catch up/ do anything to address the imbalance?

Students could compare this with other organisms that inhabit the same space. Animals (and
plants!) are part of natural cycle that leaves little to waste. Everything is used/recycled/goes
back into the earth and benefits the environment around them. Can we say the same for


Apparent exaggerations of environmental problems our actions have not resulted in an ailing

Man has addressed some of the problems he has inflicted eg. technology has reduced the
impact of industrialism/pollution.

Mankind has learnt/is learning to control population our growth is not uncontrolled.

1. Extreme consumerism is the main cause of environmental

degradation. Do you agree?
Consumerism contributes to environmental degradation.
There are other contributors to environmental degradation.
Clarification of Terms:
Extreme: degree of extremity is important (not only consumerism, but
unnecessary consumerism to a very large extent)
Consumerism: consumption and buying of goods
Main: primary, contributes the most, cause of the most severe impact
also suggests that there are other factors that contribute to it (e.g.
tourism, industrial, agriculture, overfishing, oil spills, unforeseen
human actions, DDT, GM foods, genetic pollution, greenhouse gases,
alternative fuels, dumping in poor countries as a cheaper alternative
Environmental degradation: destruction and reduction in the quality of
the environment

Possible interpretations / Approaches

Yes, extreme consumerism is the main cause of environmental
No, extreme consumerism is not the main cause of environmental
Possible Points:
Yes, extreme consumerism is the main
cause of environmental degradation.

No, extreme consumerism is not the

main cause of environment

Any human activity will compromise

the environment. Extreme
consumerism is an intensification of
human activity as people consume
more with higher standards of living
and greater economic development.
The worlds resources can keep up with
our needs but not such extreme and
excessive consumerism.

Instead of extreme consumerism, it is

the inability of the earths resources to
keep up with the basic needs of the
growing population of the world (such
as intense industrialization and
economic activity) that has
contributed to the deterioration of the

Extreme consumerism leads to a

throw-away culture, or a neglected
cause for thrift. Goods are discarded
with changing trends, there are higher
demands for consumer goods, and
even increased demands for limited

Even if the consumption of people has

gone up, there is also a growing
awareness of the deteriorating state
of the environment, which has led to
many green movements such as
reusing, recycling and reducing.
However, there are other unforeseen
human actions that have led to
environment degradation. Examples
of such unforeseen human actions are
genetic pollution, industrial chemical
leaks, oil spills, etc.
It can be said that excessive
consumerism (i.e. taking from the
environment more than it can offer)
leads to environmental degradation.
However, the impact of extreme
consumerism is insignificant
compared to worse cases of
environmental degradation such as
bad disposal methods of chemicals
and wastes and persistent production
of poisonous products such as DDT
and toxic pesticides by corporations.

Extreme consumerism does not

necessarily lead to environmental
degradation such as the depletion of
natural resources. Many products are
now made by environmentally-friendly
methods (e.g. using recycled
materials, organic foodstuff).
Can we rely on science and technology to solve our environmental problems?
Verification of key terms:
science and technology
Science: The investigation of natural phenomena through observation, theoretical
explanation, and experimentation, or the knowledge produced by such
Technology: The application of science, especially to industrial or commercial
Rely : Depend/ trust
Solve: Find the solution to/ reduce/ entirely get rid of our problems
Science and technology can be used to solve environmental problems
It is difficult to solve environmental problems
Possible Approaches:
We can rely on science and technology to solve our environmental problems
We can rely on science and technology to solve our environmental problems so long as
there are other supporting factors
We cannot rely on science and technology to solve our environmental problems
Possible Points:
Can rely on science and technology

Cannot rely on science and technology

Science and technology have led to the creation of

new inventions which are cleaner and more
efficient. E.g. hydrogen powered cars, alternative
energy sources, coal that burns more efficiently
such that less residue/emissions are produced.

Science and technology is the main culprit o

environmental problems; Man should be thankf
if science and technology stops adding on to th
problem, never mind solving it.

We can rely on science and technology as long as

we get other kinds of support. E.g. support from
concerned individuals, groups, communities. NGOs
worldwide work for the cause of saving the Earth.
We can rely on efficient technology as long as there
is increasing awareness about conservation
towards achieving sustainable development. Many
countries now recognize the need to treat the
environment as shared heritage and hence are
willing to work towards conservation on a global

The pace of environmental problems has alway

moved faster than the solutions that scientific an
technological advances can offer. And th
situation is unlikely to change.

Scientific & technological advances are too

expensive. It has not been cost efficient or it is to
expensive for companies and (developing)
countries which do not have the financial ability t
dedicate to the environmental cause. Bread and
butter issues are still very real for people in
various parts of the world.

Solving the problem requires long term effort from

Science and technology is more reliable than other

possible solutions to environmental problems.
Although environmental treaties which were signed
and ratified, they have not been abided. E.g.
America has not kept to its part of bargain with
regard to the terms of the Kyoto Protocol.

all parties and at all levels. E.g. government

grassroots participation/ consumers/ schools.

It is hard to arrive at an agenda for conservation

as different nations face different environmental
problems and have different approaches. The
developments in science and technology have no
resolved these differences.

1. How far do you agree that our current environmental woes are of our
Examine the question:
What are some current environmental woes?
Are these largely of mans making?
Current environmental woes

global warming and its related woes extreme weather events, erratic weather patterns, rising sea level

acid rain

air pollution

smog and haze

hazardous waste

rain forest destruction

depletion of natural resources food, water, fuels

species loss

Yes largely of mans making

tremendous pressure on the earth placed by the demands of an exponentially growing world population and
the rapid industrialization of the worlds most populous country

mans indiscriminate and irresponsible use of the environment

No not (fully) of mans making

A natural condition

- global warming attributed to variations in solar activity

- Pre-human climate variations suggest that the warming and cooling of
earths temperatures can take place independent of mans activities

These are but exaggerated claims/alarmist views

- e.g. The Skeptical Environmentalist, Lomborg, 2001 though he was

accused of scientific dishonesty

Attempt by man to reduce the impact of environmental woes (certainly does not exonerate man, though the
desire to carry out reparation can be seen as a mitigating factor)

6. Examine the claim that environmental conservation is much ado about

Much ado about nothing - a phrase to describe a situation in which there has been a
lot of fuss and excitement about something that is trivial and not really important.
The statement suggests environmental conservation is actually a trivial matter that
has been blown out of proportion.
Yes, environmental conservation is much ado about nothing
1. The medias incessant proliferation of negative news about the environment tends
to exacerbate the situation and make the issue of environmental degradation worse
than it seems. We are constantly bombarded by such news that we are allocating
more time and money on projects and campaigns (e.g. Earth Day, Green Week) than
is necessary.
2. The actions of environmental activists have enlarged the issue of environmental
conservation. NGOs have repeatedly called for action to be taken and some
governmental campaigns have become part and parcel of peoples daily activities
(e.g. save water, the 3R campaign). All this hype and attention could actually amount
to nothing if the environment is actually not in such a bad state as we imagine it to
3. There is a strong belief among people that no matter how much time and effort are
put in to conserve the environment, all of it is in vain and futile because of the rate of
consumption of the natural resources and peoples apathetic attitude
towards environmental conservation amongst other reasons.
4. Nature has the tendency for self-correction where depletion of resources will be
made up in one way or another. In addition, mans efforts to adapt to the environment
have seen him using alternative resources when one is lacking or depleted. (e.g.
alternative sources for energy besides coal and natural gas)
No, environmental conservation is a serious matter altogether
1. Evidence has pointed to the grave state of the environment. Release of more
greenhouse gases and the harsher global climate all point to the ecological disaster
that awaits humanity if insufficient action is taken to tackle the issue of environmental
2. The news reflecting the current condition of the environment is not alarmist to
increase ratings for the media companies but reflects the actual dire state of the
3. The preservation of flora and fauna, the search for renewable energy sources, etc
are all pertinent issues that require our time and attention and are not trivial matters
to be swept under the carpet. Ultimately, this issue is about the survival of the
species that populate Earth.



The environment


How far is recycling the answer to the problem of



Andy Tay, CG 01/07



With the rise in world population and consumption, the problem of waste
has worsened. In our attempt to curb this problem, solutions such as
recycling, using of landfills and incinerators, educational campaigns and
regulations have been widely adopted. In my opinion, recycling is certainly
one of the answers to the problem of waste. However, inherent problems
such as the high cost of recycling and advanced technology have made
recycling economically unfeasible especially for the less developed
countries. Nevertheless, recycling as compared to other ways to minimize
the problem of waste is much more environmentally friendlier and is least
objectionable. As such, I feel that recycling must be adopted and used in
tandem with other measures such as educational campaigns and laws.
These solutions would then be able to complement as well as supplement
the limitations of recycling, making the approach to the problem of waste
a more effective one.
Recycling can be a feasible answer to the problem of waste but it is
mainly targeted at developed countries that possess the necessary
advanced technology and are able to afford the high costs associated with
recycling. Despite the advancement in technology, recycling today is still
an expensive tool as compared to other measures like land filling and
incineration. Therefore to less developed nations, recycling is simply
economically unfeasible. According to the Genuine Progress Index, a
research group that has spent a decade monitoring the recycling
programmes in Nova Scotia, recycling cost the province US$18 million a
year more as compared to throwing the waste into landfills. Similarly in
California and New Jersey, local public utilities authorities have reported
that recycling cost the country over half a million dollars more in 1995.

Hence to the less developed countries, recycling is simply beyond their

reach due to the populations generally low average income, preventing
them from affording recycling programmes in their budgets. Even though
recycling may be a feasible answer to the problem of waste to the
developed countries, this is certainly not the case for the less developed
countries. In this light, technology must improve to reduce the cost of
recycling before it can be embraced even by less developed countries.
Recycling can be a viable solution to the problem of waste in the
environmental sense because, relative to other methods, it creates less
pollution and is more sustainable over a longer period of time. Over the
years, the magnitude of environmental degradation has increased, and
with global warming, recycling, a method that is environmentally friendly
seems least objectionable as compared to other conventional forms of
waste treatment. For example, incineration releases huge amounts of
carbon dioxide as well as other toxic gases into the atmosphere,
accelerating global warming and adversely affecting our health. Similarly,
land filling can result in water pollution and affects the ecology negatively.
Greenpeace, a world environmental research group, discovered that the
major wells in the Philippines contained a high level of metal content
beyond the safe drinking limits set by the World Health Organisation. This
unfortunate pollution would not have occurred if not for the landfills
situated near the wells. The metals buried in the landfills managed to
dissolve and seep into the ground water, causing water pollution. In this
light, it is rather clear that recycling is a much better tool to solve the
problem of waste. This is because studies have shown that for every ton
of paper recycled, 17 small trees are saved and air pollution is greatly
reduced. An example to illustrate the environmental-friendliness of
recycling can be seen in the success of recycling programmes in the
United States. The country managed to save 1.3 million tons of iron ore,
8.2 million trees and successfully reduced greenhouse gas emissions by
two million metric tons in 2004 due to the nationwide recycling
programmes that the country implemented. Therefore, in my opinion,
recycling is certainly a good answer to the problem of waste especially in




embraced by most countries.




Recycling is certainly one of the viable answers to the problem of waste in

countries with limited land. Recycling as compared to landfills takes up
less space and is therefore suitable for countries with a small land area. A
good example to illustrate the influence of physical factors on the choice
of measures to the problem of waste is Singapore. Singapore has a limited
land area but an escalating quantity of waste. There was a 2.09 million
tonnes increase in the amount of waste from 1970 to 2005. To make
things worse, the lifespan of the Pulau Semakau landfill of Singapore is
expected to last till only 2030, and this is provided that the present
generation does not generate more waste per capita. Hence the country
implemented the National Recycling Programme in 2001 to minimize the
amount of waste disposed to the limited landfills, prolonging the lifespan
of the landfills. By 2004, the rate of participation by households in this
nationwide programme has more than tripled to 51%. Therefore from the
example of Singapore, it is evident that recycling is indeed a feasible
answer to the problem of waste since it occupies less space as compared
to conventional measures like landfills. Hence recycling is certainly one of
the solutions to the problem of waste in developed countries that has
limited land area.
Although recycling is one of the least objectionable answers to the
problem of waste, it has to be used in tandem with campaigns and laws
that tackle the root of the problem the excessive wastage of resources.
The over-consuming societies of the developed world will continue to
waste more resources excessively if recycling is not encouraged, made
more convenient or appealing as an option. In Singapore for instance, the
National Environment Agency (NEA) organizes road shows and puts up
posters to encourage recycling. In addition, NEA together with the
Singapore Environment Council implemented Bring Your Own Bag Day to
further strengthen their activities. An additional 10 cents is charged on
these days for every plastic bag used, and the money collected is used for
environmental projects. Similarly in China, the government has taken a
step further to ban the use of disposable plastic bags nationwide due to
the massive problem of accumulated unbiodegradable waste caused by
plastic bags. In the UK, the British government has passed a bill indicating
that charges would be imposed on single-use carrier bags unless retailers

take action voluntarily to cut down on the ballooning pollution caused by

the use of plastic bags. These are just some examples to illustrate the
idea that in order for recycling to be effective, consumers have to be
educated and informed on the consequences of excessive wastage of
resources and how they can play a role to minimize the problem of waste.
Furthermore, law and regulations should also be introduced and passed to
prevent the problem of waste from intensifying. Other complementary
measures would be to make using reusable bags and the recycling of
materials more attractive, such as saving costs on bags or even making
recycling bins more accessible. Hence while I agree that recycling is one
effective answer to the problem of waste, it has to be used simultaneously
with educational campaigns and regulations as that would complement
recycling and mitigate its limitations.
Recycling is certainly a good solution to the problem of waste. However,
we must acknowledge that due to the high costs and advanced
technology needed for recycling, developed countries are therefore in a
better position to embrace recycling as compared to far less developed
countries. Although recycling is suitable for small countries with small land
area and is more environmentally friendly, it does not eliminate the
underlying cause to the problem of waste. Hence recycling should be
implemented together with educational campaigns and regulations for it
to be most effective.

The environment


Environment disasters who is to blame?


Michelle Wong, CG 04/07



Environmental disasters a phrase which commonly conjures up images

of the devastating effects of the wrath of Mother Nature upon human lies.
However, upon further close scrutiny, one would realize that so much
more is at stake than a few thousand lives lost. The existence of
everything around us is in jeopardy because of environmental disasters.
Especially when the diversity and quality of life, with drastic climate

changes, rising water levels, and the many varieties of living organisms
are wiped off the face of the earth, how much more hits can the planet
Earth take from us? While the large majority of the human population is to
blame for wasting resources in the daily course of our lies, the main culprit
would be the ruthless industrialists who put profit-making on the top of
their priorities, regardless of its sacrifices, and mainly world leaders
(governments) who have the power and means to stop them.
Drastic climate changes and temperature fluctuations are one of the side
effects from the excessive release of greenhouse gas emissions. Thirty
years ago (1970s), the earth experienced a cooling effect due to the
introduction of aerosols into the market. Now, with refrigerators,








Consumers as well as irresponsible manufacturers are definitely to blame

for this climate crisis. Despite knowing that aerosols and CFCs are
degrading the environment, educated consumers are still fuelling the
market for such products.
Another environmental disaster is a result of what the market consumers
have created the extinction and endangerment of animals. While
poachers and private businesses clamour to meet the demands of
consumers, they have caused various species of tigers and foxes to be
reduced to being endangered species. While polar bears are not yet under
that, they might soon join them. With polar caps melting due to the rise in
temperature, there have been many reports of polar bears and other
mammals drowning from exhaustion when they could not find land to rest
on. Instead of rising to protest against green house gas emissions, there
are people who actually believe these are coincidences which should be









petitioning to save the planet, there are many who mock them through
forums and the Internet.








incompetence and inefficiency as well. Despite having regular meetings

such as the APEC World Summit, they are consistently forming vague
conclusions like will take a step towards reducing greenhouse gas
emissions. While many private organizations are petitioning, and funding







environment conservation groups have yet to make any significant

Another environmental disaster that happens frequently is oil spillage.
Petrol companies as well as the military are to blame. In 1991, the Gulf
War oil spills were the worst in history with an estimated 1.5 million
tonnes of crude oil dumped into the sea. The environmental implications
were disastrous as many forms of sea life perished and its lingering aftereffects can still be observed a decade later. The toxic vapours killed
marine life while the oil poisoned the birds when it was ingested by
accident. The worst part of all was that the oil spillage was intentional.
The countries along the coast dumped tonnes of crude oil into their waters
in an attempt to deter US marine ships from entering their habours. The
oil slick was 4 inches thick for miles, and the wildlife there has never
recovered since. This shows that politics have a part to play in
environmental degradation.
The flight to becoming the most affluent between countries has also led to
countries refusal to acknowledge that environment disasters are a
pressing concern. With a mixture of political and economic reasons, the
United States of America refused to sign the Kyoto Protocol. Despite
international talks of sustainable economic growth, many countries are
not willing to slow down or compromise their production to invest in
environmental conservation schemes.
As Al Gore mentioned in his movie An Inconvenient Truth if Earths
resources are depleted or destroyed, life would not be sustainable, let
alone material wealth. If a few percent of economic growth must be
sacrificed to preserve the only planet we lie on, then so be it. It is such a
pity that there are so many parties which do not realize that. If future
environmental disasters are to be presented, it would take a lot more than
the efforts of a few campaign organizations. The cooperation of world
leaders would be needed.

The environment


Is it possible to protect the environment when many

countries require increasing amounts of energy to


Daryl Chia, CG 08/07



In todays world, where world population, industrial production and

economic growth are surging at breakneck pace, energy consumption is
expanding and mankinds insatiable desire for energy, arable land and
natural resources are both depleting natural resources and damaging the
environment. I believe that economic progress today necessitates
mankinds utilisation of the Earths resources and damage of the
environment. However, I believe that it is possible to both enjoy economic
progress and protect the environment at the same time, especially with
advances in alternative energy technology and a greater involvement of
the public, government and public firms in the protection of the
There is, largely, a false dichotomy between economic progress and
protecting the environment. This is because, among other reasons, of the
availability of alternative sources of energy not that of crude oil or coal
which can power industries and drive economic progress while protecting
or doing only minimal damage to the environment. Such technology
includes nuclear energy, which use does not emit carbon and where byproducts can be stored underground without damage to the environment.
Other forms of alternative energy also include that of wind and solar
energy, where although some might seem prohibitive and capable of
providing only small amounts of energy, may actually allow entire towns
to be powered if harnessed and distributed efficiently. This is the case of
Saint Daids, a town in Southern Wales, which successfully leveraged on
such technology to reduce its household carbon footprint to almost zero
a testament to how technology can allow an economy to function and
progress while protecting the environment at the same time. However,
despite the efficacy of such technology, I conceded that alternative
energy sources are no panacea for todays trade-off between progress and

the environment as yet and this is why the world still consumes 85 million
barrels of dirty-burning crude oil today. This is because alternative energy
sources are still, in general, not as cheap as drilling for oil and hence are
not widely adopted. However, I believe that in the near future, with
todays pace in the advancement of alternative energy technology and in
order to circumvent the predicted disaster of oil running out by 2050,
alternative energy will become cheaper and widely used to the point that
it drives economic progress while protecting the environment at the same
time a very possible eventual outcome.
Another reason why I believe that protecting the environment and
economic progress is possible and become ever less mutually exclusive is
the increase in environmental awareness and desire to protect the
environment, whether for altruistic reasons or for self-interest. Today, 30
percent of paper and plastic waste in the United States of America (USA),
as stated by the U.S. Environmental Agency, is recycled. This is despite
the fact that recycling is often a low profit margin business that requires
government subsidies to operate. A 30 percent recycling rate is an
achievement that shows how a government can push for both progress
and environmental protection at the same time with enough political will.
Also, air travel, the bloodlines of the world economic machine, is
beginning to become cleaner with the foray of firms such as Frances
Climat Mundi, which encourages air travelers and gives them a medium to
compensate for the carbon they had caused to be emitted during their
flights. This is done by paying an extra but small sum over the air tickets
price, which then goes to fund tree-planting events and to replace the
dirty-burning wood stoves of poor Sub-Saharan Africans with cleaner
electric or petroleum stoves. Of course, dissenters would say that such
schemes only apply to altruistic people and governments which are few
and far between. However, I believe that such choices are increasingly
becoming ones that are made based on self-interest as people are feeling
the negative effects of environmental damage. For instance, in October
2008, well after the Olympic and Paralympic Games concluded, Beijing reimposed car quotas because it was in its interest to reduce pollution levels
to protect peoples health and to attract tourists and investors. Thus, I
believe that self-interest and altruism are, more than ever, leading to

green decisions being made which protect the environment while not or
insignificantly inhibiting economic progress.
The final reason why I believe progress and environmental protection may
go hand-in-hand is that of the system of Capitalism and the desire of








consciousness and the desire of consumers to purchase green products

and cleaner cars have led to a paradigm shift in markets where companies
are now incentivized to produce green products or to sponsor green
movements. Companies such as Toyota and Honda have taken advantage
of such a change in drivers preferences by creating smaller, cleaner cars
and hydroelectric cards, leading them to progress and turn profits while
protecting the environment at the same time, unlike Ford and General
Motors, which gas-guzzling cars have led them into business losses in the
order of billions of U.S. dollars in 2008. Appearing green is also a trend for
companies which are in the service sector. Wall Street research firm
Standard and Poors has concluded in 2008 that green corporate
citizenship adds profits to a companys balance sheet. This could explain
why highly respected Wall Street firms Goldman Sachs and the Bank of
America have been sponsoring environmental reform projects in China,
ensuring that they do not provide loans to illegal loggers and promoting
themselves as green banks. Thus, it is seen that capitalism and
businesses inherent desire for profits can and is increasingly leading to
firms both progressing and protecting the environment at the same time.
The environmentally sustainable growth of businesses could quite possibly
be the wave of the near future.
I believe that it is possible to protect the environment while striving for
economic progress, notwithstanding the latter requiring increasingly more
energy to accomplish. This, though, is contingent on the fact that the









environmental consciousness among people, governments and businesses

are sustained at the current pace. To do this, I would suggest that more
weight be placed on the advice given by the United Nations (UN) and the
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to include the
developing nations in Annex I of the Kyoto Protocol and for more countries

to adopt the European Climate Exchanges system of pollution permit

trading. With that, the possibility of economic progress and environmental
protection will be increasingly close to being realized.
Conquest without conscience. To what extent would you agree with this assessment of our
relationship to the environment?
Humans are the masters of the Earth today. Clearly, it is not due to our physical prowess that
gave us such a title. It is our intellect, innovation and creativity that have allowed the human race
to rise in power against all the other animal species that are more physically advanced compared
to us. It is through innovation that has allowed us to win the conquest against the animal species,
bending them over to our will and subjecting these animals to whatever we please. Since cavemen
conquered the animal species, humans have become bolder. Even in todays modern world,
conquests are made, in the form of the uncountable inventions appearing daily, to improve the
quality of life. However, the negative effects of the numerous battles we have held to become
more technologically advanced over the centuries is showing in the home we reside in, Mother
Earth. These battles, regrettably, are still fought daily, and we show almost no effort to stop. In
my opinion, I feel that Conquest without conscience is an accurate description of the humans
relationship to the environment. Numerous acts by humans clearly justify my view.
First, there is the act of pollution. Many of the daily tasks that we do in our everyday life involve
polluting the environment. These tasks take up a majority of our lives and are often done without
a second thought to spare for the environment. China, a country that has up to 1.3 billion people
is one of the largest contributors to pollution. It is not only due to the large number of people
living in the country that causes the pollution to be high. One of the main reasons that I have
singled China out is due to their burning of coal to generate electrical power for the masses. The
usage of coal is highly polluting and the main reason on why China uses it is due to the cost
effectiveness of coal. The more expensive but cleaner alternative of fossil fuels, however, is
adopted in many countries around the world. The usage of coal to generate electrical power for so
many people is significant to the global emission levels of carbon monoxide gas. This selfish act of
rating cost effectiveness over the harm caused to the environment shows how the humans are
involved with the notion of a conquest for advancement without conscience. Mother Earth is then
made to inhale so much more of these toxic gases at the expense of coal being cheaper than fossil
fuels. Pollution is the result our never-ending need for cheaper energy to power our never-ending
consumption of resources.
Second, deforestation too, leads to air pollution. Deforestation is deemed as necessary for many
countries as it is the only way for more land to be developed for industrial purposes and for
housing. As a result, large areas of woodland are cleared on a regular basis to ensure that there is

more space for development to occur. In many countries, there is a more eco-friendly approach in
uprooting the trees such that another tree is planted in another region. However, in the case of
Indonesia, the deforestation technique is to burn the forest by large areas such that large areas of
land can be cleared at once. The usage of this slash-and-burn technique to clear the land, more
notably by poor farmers, causes mass pollution for the country of Indonesia. The haze generated
by the fire is then blown by the wind over to South East Asian countries, causing an
inconvenience to the locals living there and affecting the air quality in these countries. Such acts
by the Indonesians further support the claim on how conquests by the humans are made without
conscience. The Indonesians, in the conquest to clear more land, not only contributes to the
pollution, but also seriously inconveniencing the locals in the Southeast Asian countries. Hence,
their selfish methods of clearing land for development illustrates the little conscience they have
in the conquest for land for development purposes.
Even in the world of medicine, the statement is relevant. In medicine, new drugs are formulated
daily in order to battle against the many sicknesses and illnesses that cause harm to humans.
However, due to the reluctance of humans in trying out the drug for fear of adverse side effects,
the scientists turn to animals. In laboratories that deal with medicine, rats are bred, for the sole
purpose of testing the drug on them. These rats are first injected with the virus, then with the
drug and kept under observation. It is only when the rat is close to death that is it put to sleep.
These animals form part of our environment, and yet are subjected to pain and misery due to our
conquest against diseases. Little thought is spared for how the animal may be feeling during the
process of being injected with the virus. Hence, in the conquest against illness and diseases, the
humans are too, without conscience and do not mind doing the species that share the planet with
us, harm.
However, as our daily activities contribute increasingly to harming the environment, we too, have
been trying to make up for our wrong doings and lessening the impact of our rash conquests.
First, countries are working together on a global scale to scale down the effects of their global
emissions on a regular basis. In 2009, a summit was held at Copenhagen and it was attended by
almost every country in the world to discuss issues regarding global emissions and what can be
done by each and every country to scale down their carbon emissions. At the summit, many
countries, notably China, had each made an effort to reduce the impact of our conquests on the
environment. Such acts by the leaders of the countries of the world then demonstrates that
although pollution is not going to stop any time soon, the negative effects of pollution to the
environment have been recognised and something is being done about it. Even in the upcoming
world expo that is going to be held in Shanghai this year, exhibits of the countries are to have a
green theme to them, raising awareness on the need to cut down pollution. Hence, there is a
conscience present for the environmental damage caused and things are being done about it.

Also, other than global efforts, even automobile companies are starting to play their part in
showing their regret in harming the Earth. More environmentally friendly cars are emerging as
automobile companies try to cut down global emissions due to their cars. These new cars, many
of them hybrid cars, can run on the conventional fuel for convenience sake and too, can run on
the bio-diesel that is quoted to be environmentally-friendly. Such acts by the giants in the
automobile industry will demonstrate how the harm caused to the environment is noted and that
the owners of the automobile industry recognise that part of the fault is theirs and something is
being done about it. There is then a conscience present in these car-makers such that they are
willing to do something for the harm they have caused in their conquest.
All in all, great amount of harm is being dealt to the environment in our conquest for a more
advanced and easier life. However, this harm is being compensated for by a few environmentallymind individuals that actively care for the environment. These are the people, sadly to say, the
minority that possess a conscience for the various conquests made