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Environmental Tradeoffs – Lesson Plans allow Alberta Students to consider future tradeoffs.

I just read an article “Are Young People Tuning out the Environment” ( and am somewhat disappointed with what I read. The article cites a recent report that depicts current high school and college students as much less environmentally minded that their parents or grandparents.

That surprises me! The article goes on to suggest a reason for this lack of concern for the environment stems from a feeling of hopelessness ingrained in students from focusing on the doom and gloom outcome.

As a former teacher and environmental educator, I have struggled with this myself. How do you convince students that something has to be done about environmental issues without explaining to them what the drastic consequence of not doing anything might be? I’ve heard David Suzuki speak to this very issue, and his advice is to give students hope. Show them that there are things that can be done, and show them more desirable outcomes.

That’s exactly what Alberta Tomorrow ( does. By looking at a range of indicators, and by setting goals for Alberta in 30 years, students are tasked with drawing the future they would like to see. The outcome of their future drawing is not always as they expect and here begins the discussion of tradeoffs.

We can balance land-uses such as forestry, agriculture, hydrocarbon production, and recreation and get the desired wildlife habitat, water quality and quantity, and greenhouse gas emissions outcomes. This will take planning though. Planning that needs to be done today.

Our students understand this. We can give them hope by showing them that with a little planning, they can have the future they would like for Alberta. (Although not without tradeoffs!)

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