title: BURN IT UP!

courtesy, UNESCO

goal: exploring differences in energy use around the world and developing a critical thinking on the inequities in energy access between developed and developing countries; raising awareness about the importance of responsible energy consumption; understanding the difference between renewable/not renewable energy sources. In short: show that change is possible, and even fun!

risk: when talking about the importance of saving energy, you should try to create a link between theory and students’ daily life. Moreover, whenever possible, you should organise trips to local power stations, or visit venues focused on energy issues (such as Museums of Science and Industry, Centres for Alternative Technologies, etc.).

YXC level: 3rd level (community at large)

YXC materials: looking ahead [Barefoot College | Soweto’s House | Choose Positive Energy | Climate Neutral Network] – clean up your fun [Sustainable Living Festival] – looking for a place [Bed Zed | Green House Kit | Sustainable Mobility | Curtiriba] - facts & figures/GENERAL DATA [Eco-Footprint | Urbanisation | Tourism] - facts & figures/ENVIRONMENT [Energy Global Consumption | Energy Facts & Tips | Renewables Intro | Geothermal | Solar | Biomass | Hydropower | Wind | Global Warming | Extreme Weather | How Much Is Thrown Away?] - facts & figures/BASIC NEEDS [Food Miles] - facts & figures/OTHER NEEDS [Public Transport | Using Cars Intro | Carsharing | Tourism Environmental Impact] - dep’t store [Hydrogen Scooters | Singapore Carsharing Coop | Cambio Car-Sharing | Solar Bikes | Eco Wall Boilers | Eco Washing Machine | Solar Camp Fridge | Ecofan | Tubular Skylights | Solar Web Provider | Fluorescent Tubes | 20,000 Hours Bulb | Solar Panel Minikit | Taking Step Guide | Carbon Calculator] – job opportunities [Smart Municipality | Ashden Awards | Ecovillages | International Public Transport | Freeplay Foundation | Fabio Rosa] – test & play [Changing Climate | Global Warming? ] – links [Energy | Climate Change | Mobility]

subject areas: Social studies | Science & tech. | Economics & biz | Health & well-being | Workshops

work planning: Phase 1, testing students knowledge of the issue; Phase 2, intro to the issue; Phase 3, team work; Phase 4, monitoring & reporting; Phase 5, taking action.

testing student knowledge (with key questions):

bullet Which kind of energy sources are the most used in the area you live in? bullet Can you explain the difference between renewable and not renewable energy sources? bullet In our opinion, which are the top 2-3 energy-consuming actions in your daily life: a) heating/cooling; b) getting around/away; c) stuff use (energy behind products & services you consume); d) leisure activities; e) working activities; bullet In your region, are almost all citizens (households, schools, offices, hospitals, factories, etc.) connected to a central urban-grid? If not, how do they get electricity?

bullet 1.6 billions of people in developing countries live without electricity. Do you think industrial countries have the responsibility to ensure that developing countries have a larger access to suitable energy technology? bullet How would your life be without electricity? bullet How did electricity improve the quality of life? bullet Do you think everybody must have free/affordable access to electricity, at least in terms of ‘basic needs’ (nutrition, health, housing, etc.)?

bullet How do you think is the impact of your daily energy consumption on the environment? a) You don't think about it at all; b) You could save more, but it doesn’t matter! It is factories that cause the most of the damage! c) You know your energy consumption is damaging to the environment. You try to consume less.

bullet Your fridge is empty. You must go to the supermarket. It’s just 10 minutes walking. Do you... a) Jump into the car. You’re tired; b) Walk there - it’s only 10 minutes! You only use the car if it’s raining or (rarely) if you need to move heavy stuff; c) You take a bus/subway; d) Bike to the supermarket! Who needs a car?

bullet How do you face the cold in wintertime? a) You turn up on the heating at the first sign of autumn and you turn it off when spring is coming; b) You switch the heating on and off when you need it; c) You never turn the heating up: you prefer wearing an additional sweater, spending more time in your warmer rooms, such as the kitchen (saving money as well).

bullet When you watch TV, do you: a) Often leave the TV on, even when not in the room; b) Usually leave the TV on standby - it doesn’t make so much difference; c) Always ensure that all appliances are completely switched off when not in use.

intro to the topic (background): energy is essential for almost all of our activities, including preparing our meals, heating our homes, powering the cars we drive or other transport we use to getting around. Energy provides power for our industries, for agriculture and trade, which in turn provide us with a lot of stuff (such as food, clothes, furniture, computers, etc.). But, unfortunately, we don’t all have the same access to energy. There’s a huge gap between northern and southern countries of the world.

Power to the poor: developing countries must be allowed to increase their energy consumption to achieve economic growth and to give all their households access to electricity. Statistics show that today 1.6 billion people have no access to electricity for their basic needs; 99% of them live in developing countries. Women and children living in poor countries spend many hours a day collecting wood for heating and cooking. Wood is both an expensive and unhealthy source of energy. Its overuse is particularly harmful for the environment, leading to deforestation, drought, and - as a consequence - reducing biodiversity.

Today, energy production, use and waste have terrible consequences. We must put energy saving at the top of our priorities, not only because power generation is the biggest source of pollution on earth, but also because soon our energy resources might run out. A responsible use of energy means a cleaner environment and a healthier economy (saving considerable amounts of money).

did you know?

  • Worldwide, average per capita energy use is approximately 20 times greater than minimum human energy requirements for survival, reaching 1.65 toe*/year;
  • on average, it is 5 to 10 times safer and healthier to travel by public transport than by car… For instance, a standard 45 seat diesel bus with only 5 passengers emits less carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and less hydrocarbons per person than a private car with an occupancy of 1.5 persons, thereby having significantly fewer adverse health implications.
*Toe: 1 tonne of oil equivalent.
methodological suggestions: in order to understand that not all countries have equal access to energy resources and that people worldwide consume energy at very different rates and for different purposes, learners could focus on two countries (one industrialised and another less developed). Students will explore the main differences in energy demand & supply and will compare, and try to analyse the social and environmental impact on each community.

It is highly recommended to include the country in which students live and one or more countries from which at least some of them come. This will make it easier for teachers to motivate learners – linking global and quite complex issues (such as energy access) to students’ real lives. In the meantime, this will increase mutual understanding and cohesion among students having different origin/cultural background.

  • gathering information: divide the class into 2-3 teams. Each will focus on an element of the energy-chain (e.g. sources, use & waste, impacts – economic, environmental & social). Use all media available to get statistics and general data (books, newspapers, the Internet, etc.), but ask also your students to collect real stories interviewing their relatives and friends.
  • reporting: ask your students to identify the main problems and the best practices for each of the selected countries.
  • discussing and comparing: ask your students to choose the country they would like to represent and a role (e.g. mayor, NGO activist, energy provider’s CEO, teacher, homeless, etc.). Then organise a discussion. Pay attention: choose carefully the subject, trying to avoid too wide/theoretical discussion. A narrow, pragmatic approach will work much better (e.g. “Energy: hidden costs”). Invite students to play their role and discuss taking into consideration the main findings of their research work. Push them to quote (as much accurately as possible) both official stats as well as their relatives/friends’ stories.
results assessment: the success of this pedagogical module on exploring differences in energy use around the world can be measured by the following results:
  • informative goals: 1) students know the differences in energy use around the world. They develop a new critical thinking on energy issues being able to compare developed and developing countries; 2) they understand the importance of saving energy and the risks related to its waste in terms of environment destruction, human health, global and personal economy.
  • action goals: 1) students can research the history of energy consumption in the local community. Make charts, posters, and graphs, collect photos, movies and/or other outputs. Then they could organise an exhibit – e.g. “Energy: yesterday, today and… tomorrow?” with the aim of raising awareness on the danger of an ‘unloaded’ community and the importance of energy saving. The exhibit could be organised simply at school level or – more ambitiously – at city/region level, involving other schools and/or other organisations (both public and private). 2) Students can organise an ‘Energy saving week’, an initiative to be repeated 2-3 times per year. The event could also become an itinerant campaign to raise awareness of the terrible effects of wasting energy and to show solidarity to people who don’t have access to energy.