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Transnational Pollution: Why Are You Dumping on Me?

Teaching Materials by The American Forum for Global Education - Starting Point page by R.E. Teed (SERC).
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This material is replicated on a number of sites as part of the SERC Pedagogic Service Project


The purpose of this lesson is to familiarize students with the different types of transnational pollution, and to give them an opportunity to role-play in a hypothetical case of transnational pollution involving the Danube River. The flow of pollutants across national boundaries has confirmed that pollution does not recognize geographical boundaries. Clearly, environmental degradation in one country can spread to another, reconfirming that now more than ever, the health of the global environment is the responsibility of all nations, whether vast or small, rich or poor. The major goal of this activity is to make students cognizant that an incident in one nation may well have serious environmental consequences for other nations. Additionally, it will also give students an opportunity to play complex roles that are meaningful and consequential to global concerns. The lesson plan and accompanying handout are highly detailed with a clearly described scenario and characters and detailed activities and questions for the students.

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Learning Goals

Students will:
  • Become aware that an incident in one nation may well have serious environmental consequences for other nations.
  • Realize that a diversity of interests are involved in transnational issues.
  • Practice, develop, and defend a position in a debate.
  • Learn to evaluate the rhetorical techniques of other students.

Context for Use

This exercise should take approximately one class period. In a university setting, it would make a great warm-up for a unit on water pollution.

Teaching Materials

Everything the teacher needs for this lesson is provided at the web site, Transnational Pollution: Why Are You Dumping on Me? (more info) , except a map of Europe so the students can see the area affected by the Danube and a "scaled evaluation sheet" to enable students to assess each other's arguments. A nice map of the Danube can be had from the MSN's Encarta website.

Teaching Notes and Tips

The lesson is geared for 9-12th graders, but is applicable to university students, especially non-majors. More characters could comfortably be added to the debate if the instructor does not wish to break up the class. Additionally, if the exercise is not just an introduction, each student could be asked to provide a position paper for his or her character.

One possible adaptation of this lesson for higher-level courses involves adding real data for the students to work with. Eurodelta has water-quality data for a number of rivers, including the Danube, and sediment data for their deltas. The International Commission for the Protection of the Danube River contains databases, currently with reports on emissions into the Danube.


The site recommends having students evaluate one another's arguments according to certain criteria (presumably provided by the instructor).

References and Resources

In addition to the materials described above, the international Monitoring Tailor-Made Conference on water quality held in 2003 includes a short paper on the current condition of the Danube, which includes some data.


Environmental Science:Ecosystems:Habitats, Environmental Science:Policy:Global Policy, Geoscience:Hydrology:Surface Water:Water Management and Policy, Geoscience:Geology

Resource Type

Activities, Classroom Activity

Grade Level

College Lower (13-14):Introductory Level

Ready for Use

Ready to Use

Earth System Topics

Biosphere:Ecology, Biosphere, Solid Earth, Human Dimensions:Policy, Hydrology:Surface Water, Hydrology


Earth surface, Hydrosphere/Cryosphere:Surface Water:Water Management and Policy, Biosphere, Human Dimensions/Resources


Teach the Earth:Course Topics:Environmental Science, Teach the Earth:Incorporating Societal Issues:Public Policy, Teach the Earth:Course Topics:Hydrology/Hydrogeology, Teach the Earth:Teaching Topics:Water, Teach the Earth:Teaching Environments:Intro Geoscience