CBC Digital Archives

Lesson Plan: For Teachers: The Environment: Issues and Politics

Political Science, Geography, Science
2 to 3 lessons
To conduct internet research on current environmental issues and their impact on political decision-making and activism.
Using a variety of web-based resources, students will examine current environmental issues confronting governments, political leaders, and activist groups.

Lesson Plan


During the 1970s and 1980s acid rain became one of the most critical and controversial environmental questions of the day. Scientists were able to identify acid rain as a serious environmental hazard with obvious causes, but the United States government, despite pressure from Canada, did not want to assume its share of responsibility for curbing the emission of industrial pollutants into the atmosphere. Meanwhile, environmental activist groups on both sides of the border campaigned vigorously to raise public attention and to lobby politicians. The two countries eventually agreed on a treaty, but it may have come too late to restore the health of many lakes and rivers. Today, environmental issues continue to be at the forefront of Canada-U.S. relations.

The Task

Students will prepare and present a report on one current environmental issue and its impact on political decision-making and activism. They should choose an issue of interest to them, that has received media attention, and that has involved political leaders, governments, and environmental activist groups, for example:

Clearcut logging in British Columbia

Coalbed methane development in Alberta

The Sydney Tar Ponds in Nova Scotia

Tainted water in Walkerton, Ontario

The power blackout of August 2003 in Ontario

Oil and natural gas pipeline development in the Northwest Territories

The depletion of the cod fishery in Newfoundland

Students will explain how their selected issue became political through the actions or inaction of governments and activist groups. Students will compare their issue to acid rain, indicating any similarities and differences in the political process leading to a resolution.

The Process

Students will work in pairs or small groups, beginning their research on the topic Acid Rain: Pollution and Politics on the CBC Digital Archives website. Students will then expand their research to include resources relevant to their chosen topic, including but not limited to internet resources and newspaper and magazine archives. Students should distribute the research and writing evenly in their pair or group. Students must cite all resources consulted and quoted. Pairs or groups should prepare a summary of their research and conclusions.


Have pairs or groups present their summaries to the class. Conduct a class discussion on the effectiveness of environmental activist groups in achieving environmental and political change.

Resources for this Topic

Carroll, John E. Acid Rain: An Issue in Canadian-American Relations. C.D. Howe Institute, 1982.
Mason, B.J. Acid Rain: Its Causes and Its Effects on Inland Waters. Oxford and New York: Oxford UP, 1992. Pawlick, Thomas.A Killing Rain: The Global Threat of Acid Precipitation. Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre, 1984.
Ross, Howard, and Michael Perley. Poisoned Skies: Who'll Stop Acid Rain? Toronto: Stoddart, 1991.

Trouble in the Forest. (National Film Board of Canada, 1988: Gary Toole, dir.)

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