Energy and the Poor - Black Carbon in Developing Nations

Anne Larson Hall
Environmental Studies at Emory University
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In this activity, students will explore impacts of the use of wood, dung and charcoal in developing countries for fuel, producing black carbon. In-class discussion will generate a list of several broad topics, impacts from the use of black carbon generating fuels. Using the jigsaw method, small groups will explore one broad topic related to black carbon, followed by the creation of multi-topic groups that will synthesize the wide range of information gathered on all of the topics.

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Undergraduate course in Environmental Geology, with both majors and non-majors.

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

Students must be able to use the web for research and be able to work in small groups to generate a concept map and short collaborative paper.

How the activity is situated in the course

This activity is a stand-alone exercise.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

  • Students will investigate topics related to household energy use in developed and developing countries.
  • Students will be able to explain the term black carbon and how it is generated.
  • Students will understand the social, health and environmental impacts of the use of wood, dung, and charcoal as household fuels.
  • Students will propose solutions for household energy use in developing nations as well as understand their own role in producing black carbon and greenhouse gases.

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

Students will critically evaluate the impacts of varied household energy sources, synthesize a wide range of social, health and environmental impacts and generate solutions to these problems.

Other skills goals for this activity

Students will work in two separate groups; one group that will search the internet and collect references and information and one group that will synthesize the information gathered.

Description of the activity/assignment

To prepare for this assignment, students will read a New York Times article, "Third-World Soot is Target in Climate Fight," by Elizabeth Rosenthal This article and additional references are given in the Instructor's Notes below.
In class, students will generate a list of broad topics that the article has touched on, adding new topics that may come up during the discussion (for example, health effects, climate change, use of solar technology and improving stove efficiency, land use, black carbon legislation). The jigsaw method is used to form two sets of working groups. Within the first small group, each student will become knowledgeable on one topic related to the impacts of black carbon. Students in the second, multi-topic group will work together to create a concept map and short collaborative paper.

This activity connects household energy use to a wide variety of related topics, from social implications of time spent wood-gathering to air pollution and respiratory problems in the poor, to low-cost solar technology and climate change.

Determining whether students have met the goals

Within the second small group, the students will complete a concept map and a 2-page collaborative paper that demonstrates their understanding of the wide range of problems linked with black carbon. Students will also generate practical solutions.

More information about assessment tools and techniques.

Teaching materials and tips

Other Materials

Supporting references/URLs

Links to several references are included on Instructor's Notes page.
How Does Black Carbon Change the Carbon Debate? (Acrobat (PDF) 1.9MB Jul13 11) a publication by the Climate Institute.