Issue Number 266 September 30, 2019

This free Information Age Education Newsletter is edited by Dave Moursund and produced by Ken Loge. The newsletter is one component of the Information Age Education (IAE) and Advancement of Globally Appropriate Technology and Education (AGATE) publications.

All back issues of the newsletter and subscription information are available online. In addition, seven free books based on the newsletters are available: Joy of Learning; Validity and Credibility of Information; Education for Students’ Futures; Understanding and Mastering Complexity; Consciousness and Morality: Recent Research Developments; Creating an Appropriate 21st Century Education; and Common Core State Standards for Education in America.

Dave Moursund’s newly revised and updated book, The Fourth R (Second Edition), is now available in both English and Spanish (Moursund, 2018, link1, link2). The unifying theme of the book is that the 4th R of Reasoning/Computational Thinking is fundamental to empowering today’s students and their teachers throughout the K-12 curriculum. The first edition was published in December, 2016, and the second edition in August, 2018. The Spanish translation of the second edition, La Cuarta R, was published in September, 2018. The three books have now had a combined total of well over 70,000 page-views and downloads. More than 15,000 of these are the Spanish edition.

Education to Help Address Biodiversity
and Other Global Challenges

David Moursund
Professor Emeritus, College of Education
University of Oregon

“The world is my country, all mankind are my brethren, and to do good is my religion.” (Thomas Paine; English-born American political activist, philosopher, political theorist, revolutionary, and author of two of the most influential pamphlets at the start of the American Revolution; 1736-1809.)

“Be the change that you want to see in the world.” (Mahatma Gandhi; Indian lawyer and anti-colonial nationalist who employed nonviolent resistance to lead the successful campaign for India's independence from British Rule, and in turn inspire movements for civil rights and freedom across the world; 1869-1948).

This is the fourth in a series of IAE Newsletters that explore contemporary goals of education (Moursund, 9/15/2019, link; Moursund, 8/31/2019, link; Moursund, 8/15/2019, link). The first newsletter provided some historical background, e.g., that the goals of the first schools developed about 4,400 years ago were designed simply to teach reading, writing, and arithmetic.

The next two newsletters in the series focused on 14 generally accepted traditional goals for PreK-12 education in the United States. This discussion was based on Goals of Education in the United States, an article that I developed with my colleague Dick Ricketts more than 30 years ago (Moursund & Ricketts, 10/1/2016). Student progress toward achieving these 14 goals typically occurs through a combination of carefully structured learning time that we call schooling and all of the informal education that occurs outside of schools. Two important goals from this list are closely related to the nine major global challenges that Johan Rockström describes as Planetary Boundaries (Rockström, et al., 2009, link).

Goal 3. Sustainability: Students value a healthy and sustainable local, regional, national, and global environment, and they knowingly work to improve the quality of their environment.

Goal 7. General Education: Students have appreciation for, knowledge about, and understanding of a number of general areas of education.

Our focus is on educating children to understand these challenges and to help them to develop the knowledge and skills they will need in order to deal effectively with them.
Sustainability Challenges

You very likely have read and learned a great deal about such major global problems as climate change due to global warming, a growing shortage of fresh water, and the current rapid decrease in biodiversity. Each of these is a global challenge, and education combined with collaborative human efforts can help to make a major difference in coping with them.

Johan Rockström is a noted worldwide expert on sustainability, a former director of the Stockholm Resilience Centre, and now is co-director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany. Nine major global safety limits, or planetary boundaries, were identified by Johan Rockström and 28 of his colleagues in a New Scientist article published ten years ago (Rockström, et al., 2009, link).

After defining the nine planetary boundaries, Rockström issued a warning that we already have exceeded four of them. His basic idea is that if enough of these boundaries were to be crossed, the earth would be in deep trouble. Each boundary, such as the one concerning global warming, can be considered to be a world problem or challenge. He points out in the New Scientist article how the past 10,000 years of earth’s history have been especially kind to human development, but warns us that period is ending:

The relatively stable environment of the Holocene, the current interglacial period that began about 10 000 years ago, allowed agriculture and complex societies, including the present, to develop and flourish. That stability induced humans, for the first time, to invest in a major way in their natural environment rather than merely exploit it (van der Leeuw 2008). We have now become so dependent on those investments for our way of life, and how we have organized society, technologies, and economies around them, that we must take the range within which Earth System processes varied in the Holocene as a scientific reference point for a desirable planetary state.

However, since the industrial revolution (the advent of the Anthropocene), humans are effectively pushing the planet outside the Holocene range of variability for many key Earth System processes (Steffen et al. 2004). Without such pressures, the Holocene state may be maintained for thousands of years into the future (Berger and Loutre 2002).

Rockström has presented two TED Talks, and I very strongly recommend that you view both talks (Rockström, 9/27/2018, link; Rockström, 8/31/2010, link). Quoting from the 9/27/2018 TED Talk:

In a talk about how we can build a robust future without wrecking the planet, sustainability expert Johan Rockström debuts the Earth3 model—a new methodology that combines the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals with the nine planetary boundaries, beyond which earth's vital systems could become unstable. Learn more about five transformational policies that could help us achieve inclusive and prosperous world development while keeping the earth stable and resilient.

The following quote is from the UN Sustainable Development Goals report that Rockström refers to in this TED Talk (United Nations, n.d., link):

The Sustainable Development Goals are the blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all. They address the global challenges we face, including those related to poverty, inequality, climate, environmental degradation, prosperity, and peace and justice. The Goals interconnect and in order to leave no one behind, it ís important that we achieve each Goal and target by 2030.

The Earth3 model is a very sophisticated, computerized model. It demonstrates the power of computer modeling and the uses of computers to help address global problems. My 9/14/2019 Google search on the term computer modelling produced about 165 million results. A recent article from provided a helpful definition and includes a Latest Research and Review section with links to other sources (Computer Modelling, 9/11/2019, link):

Computer modelling consists of writing a computer program version of a mathematical model for a physical or biological system. Computer simulations that are run according to such programs can produce knowledge out of reach of mathematical analysis or natural experimentation. [Bold added for emphasis.]

Computer modeling and mathematics are thoroughly intertwined. Therefore, I believe that math education should place a greater emphasis on teaching both math modeling and the use of computers in math modeling. Here is a simple example:

Sue has six apples and John has five apples. How may apples do the two of them have together? Think about:

  • 6 apples plus 5 apples equal 11 apples
  • 6 + 5 = 11

The second bulleted item is a mathematical model for the first bulleted item. It is independent of whether we are talking about apples, oranges, dollars, etc. Math modeling lies at the very heart of the disciplines of mathematics and math education.

A student can learn a variety of ways to actually carry out the calculation, such as by counting aloud (1, 2, 3, 4, …11), counting on (start at 6 and count 7, 8, … 11), noting that the answer is 5 + 5 + 1, and they have memorized 5 + 5 = 10, and/or by rote memory. If the student uses a calculator, the student has done calculator modeling. If the student uses a computer, the student has done computer modeling.

Next, consider compounding, as in compound interest and compound growth in human population. The formula is the same in all compound growth. But, the computation is not really something that one wants to do by hand. A computer and/or tables of compound growth now are standard tools. Because money and compound interest are such important topics in our current society, all students need to gain an understanding of compounding, and how to do the necessary computations.

My 9/15/2019 Google search on the term computer-based math modeling produced about 313 million results. Math modeling is a broad, standards-based content area in PreK-12 math education.

Rockström’s Nine Planetary Boundaries

Fred Pearce interviewed Johan Rockström for a recent article in New Scientist (Pearce, 9/11/2019, link). In this interview, Rockström explains his concept of the planetary boundary:

Our scientific understanding of Earth systems has advanced tremendously over the past 30 years, but still we don’t know exactly where the critical boundaries are for these systems. So, we apply a precautionary approach. We identify safe zones and high-risk zones. Between them, uncertainty ranges, within which we don’t know what might happen. We place the planetary boundary at the lower levels of the uncertainty ranges. [Bold added for emphasis.]

The following discussion is my shorter paraphrase of information from Pearce’s interview of Johan Rockström, together with some added comments (Pearce, 9/11/2019, link).

  1. There are three boundaries that operate at a planetary scale, and each has thresholds beyond which danger lies:
      1. The oceans.
      2. The atmospheric climate system.
      3. The stratospheric ozone layer, a region of Earth's stratosphere that absorbs most of the Sun's ultraviolet radiation. Damage to the ozone layer, such as damage by chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), allows harmful radiation to damage plants and animals (including people) under the damaged area.
  2. There are four boundaries that we call biosphere boundaries. They help to regulate the planetary systems:
      1. Biological diversity.
      2. The hydrological (water) cycle.
      3. Land cover such as forests and planted crops.
      4. The flows of nutrients vital to life, such as nitrogen and phosphorus.
  3. There are two categories of alien things that do not exist naturally:
      1. Novel entities including nuclear waste and gender-bending chemicals. Quoting from (Stratford, 12/10/2012, link): “Gender bending chemicals are a vast and diverse group of chemicals which have been found to mimic, block, or alter the effects of growth and developmental hormones causing reproductive abnormalities in some animals [including humans].… Gender-benders most often seem to interfere with androgens, oestrogens, and thyroidal hormones and are also called endocrine disrupting chemicals.”
      2. Aerosol air pollution that alters Earth’s energy balance and impacts regional climate systems such as the south Asian monsoon. Quoting from (University of Leeds, 2019, link): “Aerosols affect Earth's climate as strongly as greenhouse gases, acting to cool the planet by reflecting the sun's rays back to space (see 1c above). For example, clouds and rainfall can be quite different in polluted air compared to clean air, and storm systems can intensify more rapidly.” Jet airplanes add to aerosol aid pollution.
The Biological Diversity Boundary and Challenge

I believe that these nine safety limits, or planetary boundaries, are so important that each should be integrated fully into our educational systems. Through both schooling and informal education, we can help students learn to understand these major challenges, and to gain the knowledge and skills that will help them in working to alleviate these problems.

The remainder of this newsletter uses biological diversity (biodiversity) as an example. Biodiversity refers to all the variety of life that can be found on Earth (plants, animals, fungi and micro-organisms) as well as to the communities that they form and the habitats in which they live. A report from the University of Michigan addresses this specific issue (Erickson, 5/2/ 2012, link):

Loss of biodiversity appears to impact ecosystems as much as climate change, pollution and other major forms of environmental stress, according to a new study from an international research team.

Notice that this report was issued more than seven years ago. Every school teacher knows the difficulty of translating careful educational research into widespread practice. Individual teachers can (and, often do) make changes in their curriculum, instruction, and assessment based on the research they have read. However, we know that it is much more difficult to successfully implement such a change on a school-wide, district-wide, state-wide or nation-wide basis. So it is with the problems of biodiversity and the problems of global warming. It has now become imperative that we address these problems on a global basis.

At the current time, biodiversity is decreasing at a rapid pace. Quoting from the article, The Extinction Crisis (Center for Biological Diversity, n.d., link):

Our planet is now in the midst of its sixth mass extinction of plants and animals—the sixth wave of extinctions in the past half-billion years. We're currently experiencing the worst spate of species die-offs since the loss of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. Although extinction is a natural phenomenon, it occurs at a natural “background” rate of about one to five species per year. Scientists estimate we're now losing species at up to 1,000 times the background rate, with literally dozens going extinct every day. It could be a scary future indeed, with as many as 30 to 50 percent of all species possibly heading toward extinction by mid-century.

John Rafferty identifies humans as being the major contributors to this problem in his recent article, Biodiversity Loss (Rafferty, 6/14/2019, link).

“…biodiversity losses from disturbances caused by humans tend to be more severe and longer- lasting. Humans (Homo sapiens), their crops, and their food animals take up an increasing share of Earth’s land area. Half of the world’s habitable land (some 51 million square km [19.7 million square miles]) has been converted to agriculture, and some 77 percent of agricultural land (some 40 million square km [15.4 million square miles]) is used for grazing by cattle, sheep, goats, and other livestock. This massive conversion of forests, wetlands, grasslands, and other terrestrial ecosystems has produced a 60 percent decline (on average) in the number of vertebrates worldwide since 1970, with the greatest losses in vertebrate populations occurring in freshwater habitats (83 percent) and in South and Central America (89 percent). … In addition, a 2019 report by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services noted that up to one million plant and animal species are facing extinction due to human activities.

Final Remarks

The nine global challenges discussed in this IAE Newsletter all require global cooperation in order to be addressed successfully. You have undoubtedly heard the advice, “Think globally, act locally.” What we need today is for the leaders of the world, nations, states, and cities to “Think globally, act globally.” The future of all of our children depends on the acceptance and implementation of this advice. This is not a new idea. My 9/15/2019 Google search of the quoted expression “think globally, act globally” produced about 11,000 results. See, for example, the Global Executive Doctor of Education program established in 2012 at the University of Southern California Rossier (Stevens, 2015, link).

You, as a person involved in schooling and/or informal education can educate yourself and the other people you know —including our children—to learn to “Think globally, act globally.”

What You Can Do
  1. The TED Talks site currently lists 57 free online videos (Ted Talks, 2019, link). My 9/14/2019 Google search on the term free videos on biodiversity produced about 32 million results. My Google search on the term free math videos on biodiversity produced about 1,420,000 results. Take advantage of these free videos by using some of them for your own education and for the education of your students.
  2. Here is an activity that can be done with children at home or at school. Have each one individually spend a minute or two thinking about how many different types of plants and animals they can identify. As an at-home activity, have them name the various plants and animals. As a classroom activity, write the responses from the whole class on a whiteboard or chalkboard. In a fieldtrip to an appropriate location, or on the school playground, have students identify as many plants and animals as they can see in a few minutes. Again, compile a list from the whole class. After any of these activities, encourage students to discuss ways we can all work together to preserve the wide biodiversity they have observed.
  3. Share this newsletter with others, including students. Then have the students meet in discussion groups for each group to select one of Rockström’s nine boundaries to research, then make a report to the class. This report could include their recommendations for both local and global actions. (Remember that all IAE publications are free to copy for educational purposes.)

  4. Author’s note: According to the results in the box below that I copied from the readability site I used, an average 10th to 11th grader should be able to read this newsletter successfully (Text Readability Consensus Calculator, 2019, link). Each of the eight readability formulas used at the site is a computer model, and the computations are very tedious to do by hand.
Readability Consensus
  1. Have students research and report on the impact that student activist Greta Thunberg is having in creating worldwide awareness of the dangers of global warming/climate change. She makes a compelling argument in her TEDx Talk (Thunberg, 11/24/2018, link). I presented information about Greta in my recent IAE Blog, Think and Act Both Globally and Locally (Moursund, 9/17/2019, link).
References and Resources

Center for Biological Diversity (n.d.). The extinction crisis. Retrieved 9/13/2019 from

Computer modelling (9/11/2019). Retrieved 9/14/2019 from

Erickson, J. (5/2/2012). Ecosystem effects of biodiversity loss could rival impacts of climate change, pollution. Michigan News, University of Michigan. Retrieved 9/14/2019 from

Moursund, D. (9/17/2019) Think and act both globally and locally. IAE Blog. Retrieved 9/20/2019 from

Moursund, D. (9/15/2019). Goals in informal education and formal schooling: Part 2. IAE Newsletter. Retrieved 9/17/2019 from

Moursund, D. (8/31/2019). Goals in informal education and formal schooling: Part 1. IAE Newsletter. Retrieved 9/15/2019 from

Moursund, D. (8/15/2019). Educational goals and improving education. IAE Newsletter. Retrieved 9/15/2019 from

Moursund, D. (2018). The Fourth R (Second Edition). Eugene, OR: Information Age Education. Retrieved 9/21/2019 from Download the Microsoft Word file from Download the PDF file from Download the Spanish edition from

Moursund, D., & Ricketts, R. (10/1/2016). Goals of education in the United States. IAE-pedia. Retrieved 9/17/2019 from

Pearce, F. (9/11/2019). Planet Earth has 9 safety limits and we’ve already exceeded 4 of them. New Scientist. Retrieved 9/13/2019 from

Rafferty, J. (6/14/2019). Biodiversity loss. Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 9/13/2019 from

Rockström, J. (9/27/2018). We the future: 5 transformational policies for a prosperous and sustainable future. TED Talks. (Video, 12:23.) Retrieved 9/13/2019 from

Rockström, J. (8/31/2010). Let the environment guide our development? TED Talks. (Video, 18:01.) Retrieved 9/13/2019 from

Rockström, J., et al. (2009). Planetary boundaries: Exploring the safe operating space for humanity. Ecology and Society. Retrieved 9/13/2019 from

Stevens, M.C. (2015). Think globally, act globally. USC Rossier School of Education. Retrieved 9/15/2019 from

Stratford, H. (12/10/2012). What are gender bending chemicals? Pollution Issues. Retrieved 9/13/2019 from

Ted Talks (2019). Biodiversity. (Videos, varying lengths.) Retrieved 9/13/2019 from

Text Readability Consensus Calculator (2019). Readability formulas. Retrieved 9/15/2019 from

Thunberg, G. (11/24/2018). The disarming case to act right now on climate change. TEDx Talks. (Video, 11:12). Retrieved 9/21/2019 from

United Nations (n.d.). Sustainable development goals. Retrieved 9/18/2019 from

University of Leeds (2019). Aerosols and climate. Retrieved 9/13/2019 from


David Moursund is an Emeritus Professor of Education at the University of Oregon, and editor of the IAE Newsletter. His professional career includes founding the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) in 1979, serving as ISTE’s executive officer for 19 years, and establishing ISTE’s flagship publication, Learning and Leading with Technology (now published by ISTE as Empowered Learner).He was the major professor or co-major professor for 82 doctoral students. He has presented hundreds of professional talks and workshops. He has authored or coauthored more than 60 academic books and hundreds of articles. Many of these books are available free online. See .

In 2007, Moursund founded Information Age Education (IAE). IAE provides free online educational materials via its IAE-pedia, IAE Newsletter, IAE Blog, and IAE books. See . Information Age Education is now fully integrated into the 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation, Advancement of Globally Appropriate Technology and Education (AGATE) that was established in 2016. David Moursund is the Chief Executive Officer of AGATE.


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Information Age Education is a non-profit organization dedicated to improving education for learners of all ages throughout the world. Current IAE activities and free materials include the IAE-pedia at, a Website containing free books and articles at, a Blog at, and the free newsletter you are now reading. See all back issues of the Blog at and all back issues of the Newsletter at