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In each class, split the following two options between team members (in a class that has two team members in the same learning team, each should do a different option). The first option is an article about  overpopulation dealing with some controversial issues facing South Asia and the globe as a whole. The second is a video about weather in the region, a cyclone that hit Cambodia, and what the people in the region are doing to protect themselves. Jot down notes while reading or watching and then write a multi-paragraph response considering the guiding questions.

The Last Taboo: There are 7 billion humans on Earth, so why can’t we talk about population

Article: The Last Taboo: There are 7 billion humans on Earth, so why can’t we talk about population?

Guiding Questions

Consider the following questions in writing a response to the article, “The Last Taboo.” 

  • What is life like in the region surrounding Calcutta? How densely populated is it? What is the quality of life?
  • How do so many people live in this area? What sustains life?
  • What is ecological overshoot? What does it have to do with overpopulation? What does it have to do with overconsumption?
  • How can we solve ecological overshoot and what would that mean for some of our most pressing global issues?
  • Why is overpopulation a taboo topic?
  • What is “the girl effect,” and how is related to education and micro-loans?
  • Why is the issue of overpopulation particularly important to India and Bangladesh? How is it also important to the United States, but in a different way?
  • The author mentions a new, poorly understood, 5th stage of the demographic transion model where devloped countries with increasing wealth, education, and gender equality are experiencing increased birth rates. Why is this a disturbing trend when in the context of global population and ecological overshoot? How does this relate to the paradox: “the fastest way to slow our population growth is to reduce poverty, yet the fastest way to run out of resources is to increase wealth”?

Bangladesh: Living with Flooding

Video: Bangladesh: Living_with_Flooding

Guiding Questions

Consider the following questions in writing a response to the video, “Bangladesh: Living with Flooding.” 

  • What is the experience of the family in the video?
  • How do people in this coastal area of Bangladesh live? Why do so many people live here?
  • This area is in danger of flooding from annual Monsoons, Cyclones, and Tsunamis. Describe each of these dangers.
  • Why was the 1991 Cyclone so devastating? Were the people prepared?
  • How are the people here improving protection from flooding? What is the importance of Mangrove forests, and why are replanting efforts so important to coastal areas in South Asia?
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16 thoughts on “Mission: Discover South Asia

  1. The Islam family in the video lived in the village before the storm. Only one out of seven children, Aminul Islam, and his parents survived. The people in this part of Bangladesh live in poor conditions and in fear of storms. However, people stay in Bangladesh because of the areas immense supply of prongs (a type of shrimp) and different kinds of fish, which provide hundreds of jobs for the people living in Bangladesh. In this region, monsoons, cyclones, and tsunamis are natural dangers to the people and environment. Monsoons are annual winds from different parts of the world. If the monsoons come from the southeast, then they bring rain and winds; however, if they are from the northwest, they bring hot, dry winds. Monsoons, whether dry or wet, bring danger economically and environmentally. They can affect the fish market, or cause a drought. A cyclone is basically a hurricane that spins in the opposite direction. Cyclones, like the one on April 29, 1991, can hurt or wipe out an entire village or city like the one in Bangladesh. A tsunami is a gigantic wave that is caused by an underwater earthquake. The dangers of a tsunami are tremendous. In 2012, a tsunami occurred in Japan that wiped out thousands of people. The Cyclone that affected Bangladesh in 1991 devastated the people of the region because of how many deaths there were. One in every three people was killed and there were only 140,000 people in Bangladesh. They were poorly prepared; the only protection that they had was six safety structures and an earth wall. After the storm, the people built eight more structures with the help of foreign countries and planted mangrove forests. Mangrove forests are trees that can grow in shallow salt water that kept the silt in place and act as a natural barrier. Replanting saves resources and give the people of Bangladesh natural resources.

    • Good job! It answers all the questions and has a lot information. however I want to know more about the reason that why there are monsoons and cyclones. 🙂

  2. Bangladesh: Living with Flooding
    The family in this video lives in a village in Bangladesh that is hit by the devastating 1991 cyclone. The whole family is swept away, and only the parents and one of the 7 children survive.
    Most of the people in Bangladesh are fishermen or work in the fishing industry. These people catch mainly fish and shrimp to clean and transport to the nearest city. The people in the city pack the food up, put it on ice, and sent it to a nearby port by boat. There it is sold and exported. Many people live here because this industry provides many job opportunities. Also, they will always need people to do these jobs, so the people of Bangladesh don’t have to worry about running out of things to do and loosing their jobs.
    People in these areas are threatened by annual Monsoons, Cyclones, and Tsunamis. Monsoons are seasonal winds that bring that carry moist ocean air from the south and southwest. They bring heavy monsoon rains that often flood low-lying areas. Cyclones are wind-and-pressure systems that have low pressure at its center. This natural disaster causes a circular wind motion that can be very powerful and destroy anything in its path. A tsunami is a huge sea wave produced by underwater earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. These are especially threatening to people living on the coast, because one of these huge ways could take out an entire civilization.
    The 1991 Cyclone was devastating because the air pressure was low so the sea rose higher than it usually does, the tide was high, and … These three factors made the winds and water powerful enough to destroy everything it could reach. The people were partially prepared for it. The meteorologists saw the vortex over the Bay on Bengal and warned their citizens, but no one new exactly where it would strike, when it would hit, or how destructive it would be. The villages had some earth embankments around them, but obviously not enough to slow down the force of the winds.
    Since 1991, Bangladesh has built many new earth embankments that surround entire cities. Mangrove forests growing in the saltwater off the shore will also help prevent destruction if another disaster strikes. Prevention techniques are very important to people on the coastal areas because when natural disasters strike them, they loose everything and must completely rebuilt their lives.

    “Cyclone.” The American Heritage® Science Dictionary. Houghton Mifflin Company. 12 Apr. 2013. .

  3. Bangladesh: Living with Flooding
    This family went though the great flooding and only the boy Aminul Islam and his parents survived from this disaster. Aminul lost all his brothers and sisters. The sea waves swept away everything.
    People in this region live in wood house, surrounded by trees. They play sports, chess and watch TV during leisure time. People here make living on catching fish, farming shrimps and few people do farming. There are some lands that are covered by salt water, where people use them to grow young shrimps from the Bay of Bangal and sell them to foreign countries. People use seaways and busy ports to do business. Fish feeds Bangladeshis. Because this area is surround by sea, there are plenty of resources to make a good living. Hundreds of ways can provide living here. Though sometimes people will face the danger from Cyclones, they can’t earn money elsewhere as much as they do here. They have to stay.
    Annual Monsoons, cyclone and Tsunamis threat this region. The temperature and pressure difference between land and sea cause the strong winds, which is called monsoons. Annual monsoon sometimes will go round and round in the sea and finally form cyclone in the Bay of Bangal. But its center is calm while rest part is powerful that can destroy everything. Huge winds make big waves attack the coast and become tsunamis. Tsunamis can cause big disaster to the coast.
    In 1991, the big cyclone’s eye was clearly visible. It could not be predicted how far it would travel and the way it would go through. So they could only issue the general warning. However people did do something for protecting. There were only 6 shelters on the island with people full in them. There was even no spot to seat down. Bad protection and general warning made it worse that after the storm, almost everything was gone.
    For more protection, people build lots of settlements surround the whole island. More and more shelters are also built on the island. People (including woman) take lessons to learn how to use the shelters during storm. What’s more, they have been doing planting programs, which are not just on land. Mangrove forests are grown in salt water. When the storm comes, these forests can reduce the power of waves, protect villages and environments. Replanting efforts are important to region because plantation can help slow down the waves and protect the land.

  4. Bangladesh: Cyclone in 1991
    -The family, who were featured in the video, lives in Bangladesh and experienced the massive Cyclone in 1991. Because they ignored the warning, they weren’t able to leave their house because it was too late. The family’s house was surrounded by water due to the break of the earth embankments. The earth embankments had been there for many years, and had never been broken until the night of the Cyclone. The waters were filling up their house rapidly, and left the family stuck with nothing to do. All of the family’s belongings were swept away in the flood waters, along with the majority of the family members. The next day, the father of the family went to search for his lost family members. About 2-3 miles from his home, he found three of his children dead. He then found his wife and fourth child alive down the road. This storm was so devastating to the town that the death ratio was 1 in every 3 people was killed from the harsh winds and flood waters of the deadly cyclone in 1991.
    -Many of the men in Bangladesh work as fisherman. They travel out into the sea and catch many different types of shrimp. After the shrimp are caught, they are taken into town to be cleaned and put on ice to be exported into other towns. Even though this area suffers harsh weather, the area provides many job opportunities. Also, the jobs provide a reasonable income for the population.
    -The population of this area is affected by annual Monsoons, Cyclones, and Tsunamis. Cyclones are huge revolving storms that develop over warm water near the Equator. These storms are very strong and destroy everything in its path. Monsoons are large seasonal winds that are created from moist, ocean air. They also bring very large rains that create heavy floods. A tsunami is a large sea wave. Volcano eruptions and strong earthquakes produce them. All of these natural disasters are a big threat to the coast.
    -The Cyclone in 1991 was so devastating because of the air pressure. Since the air pressure was so low and the sea rose higher than it usually does. All of these factors made the winds so powerful that it destroyed everything. Also, since the meteorologists couldn’t determine the power of the vortex, none of the people prepared. Since no one was prepared, the storm was devastating and wiped out most of the population.
    -Ever since the cyclone in 1991, the people in Bangladesh built new earth embankments and created new mangrove forests. Mangrove forests are fast growing forests that grow in salt water, they also slow down currents and waves. With these improvements, Bangladesh can protect their population from future natural disasters.

  5. Life in and in regions surrounding Calcutta is unbelievably overcrowded, unsanitary, and dangerous. The population density is at about 70,000 people per square mile within the city and 9 million more live outside of the city itself, coming to a grand total of 14 million people. While the city’s fertility rate is about 1% lower than the world’s average, the growth in the urban areas is attributed to migration from rural areas. Where does the support for life come from? Of course, there is air and climate. Water comes from three hundred miles away at the buttress of the Himalayas where the world’s third-largest freshwater reserve is. Fifty miles south of the city there is the Bay of Bengal, where millions of tons of seafood are caught and transported. Coal factories to the north and south of the city on highlands provide fuel. However, these dwindling resources can assign their cause to population growth.
    In 1983, the first incident of ecological overshoot occurred. This is when we begin to consume our natural resources faster than they can be replaced, and this phenomenon has only reoccurred many times since. This ecological overshoot is because of two things: overpopulation and overconsumption. After our population surpassed 4.5 billion, there were more people who needed to use resources and that is when the first problem was created. Since then, our ever-increasing population has gotten a little greedy. In 2011, the 6.8 billion people of Earth consumed natural resources equivalent to those on 1.4 Earths. The shrinking capacity of resources on our planet is, to say the least, unevenly distributed. Every minute, 157 people are born; only about 2% of those are born in developed countries. People are fighting for survival in places like Calcutta without necessary resources and land to live while some people in America are wasting water, food, and fuel, among many other resources. Earth has ecological limits, and we are severely pushing them. This cannot continue for much longer or we will run out.
    So, the solution seems simple: gradually reverse the increasing population growth rate while slowing the rate at which we consume our resources. However, it won’t be soon enough, and no one is making a stride to speak out because other issues (ex: abortion, religious conflicts) arise when overpopulation and overconsumption is discussed. This topic is such a taboo topic because when you talk about the growth of a population, the conversation will inevitably turn to sex and how to control it. Then religious and moral issues arise. People like the Duggars who birth about 20 children because they don’t believe in contraceptives and then take more resources have the freedom to do so. Therefore, these pressing issues take a backseat on our queue because they are the elephants in the room that no one wants to bring up.
    The state in India is only worsening, too. To begin with, the land is being overused and is also eroding ten times faster than it can be replenished. This issue of peak soil is evident. Almost a fourth of the land (more than 314,000 sq mi) is in the process of desertification, which double’s India’s water usage in the next twenty or so years for irrigation. Add on the problem of global warming decreasing photosynthesis and therefore the production of crops and the smog presenting the possibility of decreasing crop yields up to forty percent more and you have a real catastrophe in the making. To top it off, disease and hunger kill millions of Indians every year. While we are comfortable out here in the West, Indians are fighting for survival every day.
    So, what if women living in poverty have the opportunity to turn things around? Only about half of women in India are literate, but a campaign called the “girl effect” is working to improve this number. The campaign uses the concept of microloans, or granting small loans to help a person start a small business, and increasing women’s education. Donations are given to one of the 600 million girls who live in developing countries to start a business or buy an animal for her farm. These microloans helped 2 million women escape from poverty’s grasp since the program was started. Women will reinvest 90% of their earned income back into her family and village, as opposed to 35% for a boy. Adolescent pregnancy results in about $10 billion in lost potential annual income. Particularly in Bangladesh, by delaying early marriage and birth for one million girls, the country has the possibility to add $69 billion to the country’s income. The inspiring campaign is centered on a belief that the world can change if these girls all have the support they need to get to work. This was one of my favorite parts of the article, and I will be following the campaign from now on. For more information, click here: http://www.girleffect.org/
    The belief that educated and wealthier people will have fewer children is proving to be false in today’s society. In 18 of the world’s most developed countries, fertility rates have grown unbelievably. This is a disturbing thing considering global overpopulation, ecological overshoot, and overconsumption are rampant. This new fifth stage of the demographic stage is making this paradox true: “the fastest way to slow our population growth is to reduce poverty, yet the fastest way to run out of resources is to increase wealth.” The solution is to have fewer people with fewer needs and an economy geared toward sustainability instead of luxury. We need to plan for our civilization’s future if we want to continue living on the Earth we live on today. We need to use our resources wisely and concentrate on those struggling for life in our overcrowded world, and that will be quite more easily said than done.
    What do you think is the problem here? Do you have any insight on how to solve this worldwide chaos as we struggle to make the world a better place? What can we, students at a prep school in Arkansas, contribute to efforts to improve the world in these aspects of overpopulation, poverty, and overconsumption (especially this one)?

    “250 MILLION ADOLESCENT GIRLS LIVE IN POVERTY THEY ARE THE MOST POWERFUL FORCE FOR CHANGE ON THE PLANET.” Adolescent girls are the most powerful force for change on the planet. Web. 10 Apr. 2013. .

    • Part of the problem is lack of education about childbearing and rearing. Put simply, the girl effect states that the more educated women are, the less children they have. Microfinance and education projects in this region are working to get women’s minds off of having children, and get them to focus on their own small businesses and other educated aspirations. Putting the girl effect into action is one way that population growth may level off, or even start to decline.

  6. In and around Calcutta, people live in a daily state of controlled chaos. People are everywhere, and smells of an overcrowded city permeate the air. It is unnatural that so many people can live in the same place at the same time: 70,000 per square mile in Calcutta. As with all cities, Calcutta has the rich parts and the poor parts. The poorer slums are easily consumed by fires and other natural disasters, offer meager protection from the elements, and are downright unsanitary. Despite the massive population, (most of) the city’s needs are met with fish from the Bay of Bengal, coal from the surrounding areas, and the world’s largest freshwater reserves in the Himalaya.
    In 1983, when Earth’s population reached nearly 4.7 billion, we began consuming more in one year than the Earth could provide in one year. This conundrum is known as “ecological overshoot.” As more people are born every year than die every year, the human race consumes more and more, until the Earth will be able to produce no more. The only known solution to ecological overshoot is to reduce the Earth’s population growth faster than it is being increased. However this deceleration is achieved, it would solve many current problems, such as global warming, famine, water supplies, immigration, health care, loss of ecosystem diversity, even war.
    Overpopulation is thought of as a taboo topic; nobody really wants to talk about it. Why? Because the disturbing effects of overpopulation are fast upon us, and many just wish to avoid the topic, afraid of the “what if’s.” In actuality, however, the “what if’s” are pressing matters, and must be addressed if the human race is to survive on Earth. The effects of extreme overpopulation are devastating: widespread famine and disease, scarce resources, and eventually, mass deaths, bodies piling up because of lack of food and water, even space to live. In The Matrix, the antagonist, a computer program inside a virtual world, compared the human race to a virus, exhaustively using every resource available, until the “virus” must move to a new host or die in its exhausted one. These extreme problems, however, can be avoided if overpopulation is addressed now, and problem-solvers unite to reverse the world’s population growth and prevent overpopulation from worsening.
    The “girl effect” is the result of educated women with occupations besides making babies. Micro-loans are small loans given out to women in areas such as Calcutta who want to start a small business or simply buy a goat to feed their family. These, in conjunction with education, preoccupy women and broaden their horizons of life, showing them that they can be successful without having huge families.
    The growing problem of overpopulation is most pressing in areas such as India, where 17 percent of humanity is subsiding on less than 2.5 percent of Earth’s land. India’s problem is sheer population, leading to lack of resources, disease, and the other problems associated with too high a population density. In the United States, however, An average mean population density is paired with active consumers, taking in a huge amount of Earth’s resources per year, producing huge carbon footprints. 2 American children have the carbon legacy, or share of all their descendants’ footprints, of 337 Bangladeshi kids. In India, the consumption per person is low, but the population is high; In the United States, the consumption per person is high, and the population is low (relatively). We must find a balance between these two extremes.
    Birth rates are supposed to decline with increased education, wealth, and gender equality, right? That’s what we thought, until studies have shown that women in 18 out of 24 of the wealthiest nations were having more babies than in previous years. This is disturbing, considering the fact that the people in these countries are the ones that consume the most. MASSIVE CONSUMPTION + POPULATION GROWTH = BAD. This brings up the paradox “the fastest way to slow our population growth is to reduce poverty, yet the fastest way to run out of resources is to increase wealth.” This is indeed true, but with one ambiguous truth: there will always be disparity of wealth. We are all consumers, just some more than others. In either situation, the problem is consuming more than the Earth can produce, but one way is more about overpopulation, and less about overconsumption.
    Is the human race destined to drive itself into extinction? Is it possible to reverse the rampant population growth and consumption in today’s world? Is there a way to bridge a gap between the two extremes of the paradox of overpopulation? These are questions I cannot answer; but for now, all we can do is try to bring overpopulation out of its taboo state and into the open.

  7. Bangladesh: Living With Flooding

    In this video, a family lived in a village in Bangladesh and was hit by a cyclone in 1991 that was devastating. A cyclone is a storm with heavy rains and high winds which blow in a circular pattern around an area of low atmospheric pressure. Only the parents and one of the seven children survived. At that time there were only 140,000 people living in Bangladesh and one in every three people were killed by the cyclone in 1991. The cyclone was caused because of the low air pressure and the sea rose higher than usual. These factors made the winds powerful and forceful that it destroyed everything. The meteorologists could not predict how far it would travel and its pathway. A general warning made preparation hard. There were only 6 shelters filled with people. Since the cyclone in 1991, Bangladesh have built new earth embankments that surround the cities. Mangrove forests have also been created to slow down currents and waves. mangrove forests are trees growing in saltwater. When a storm comes, these forests can reduce the power of the waves and protect the villages and environment. Replanting efforts are important because it gives the region more resources and can protect the land.
    Because Bangladesh has an immense supply of prongs (shrimp type) and a variety of fish, most people are fishermen or work in the fishing industry. The fishing industry provides many job opportunities that many people move and remain here despite the constant fear of annual monsoons, cyclones, and tsunamis. Monsoons are seasonal winds that brings warm, moist air from the oceans in the sumer and cold, dry air from inland in the winter. They bring heavy monsoon rains that often flood low areas. Tsunamis are huge sea waves caused b an undersea earthquake. Tsunamis are the most life threatening to those who live on the coast; however because Tsunamis are enormous, they could wipe out thousands of people. The people of Bangladesh have to fear these three natural disasters because they could wipe out an entire region.

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