“Before you eat breakfast this morning, you’ve depended on more than half the world. This is the way our universe is structured. . . We aren’t going to have peace on earth until we recognize this basic fact of the interrelated structure of all reality.”

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., 1967

It has been roughly half a century since the start of the modern environmental movement. The 1960s brought clarion calls from the likes of Rachel Carson and Paul Ehrlich to consider humans’ impact on the environment as our species rapidly dominated the landscape. These were not abstract concepts – news of Santa Barbara’s oil spill and Ohio’s Cuyahoga River catching fire dominated headlines. Air pollution was imperiling public health in America’s cities, sewage and industrial runoff poisoned waterways, and the bald eagle – America’s symbol – was nearly extinct. Public pressure mounted to do something. By 1970, the Environmental Protection Agency was founded and landmark legislation to protect public health and the environment (Clean Air, Clean Water and Endangered Species Acts) passed with broad, bipartisan support. In 1972, NASA revealed an amazing, iconic satellite image of Earth from space, exhibiting all of our precious ecosystems and atmosphere. This blue marble orbiting the sun was then home to barely four billion people.

It was at about this time that environmental studies emerged as a new discipline in universities and high schools. There was a need for a multi-disciplinary approach to analyze complex environmental problems. By the end of the 1980s, the environmental movement and environmental studies had increasingly come to focus its attention on global issues that could only be resolved through international cooperation. Issues such as global warming, acid rain, ozone depletion, biodiversity loss and rain forest depletion affected the entire global family. When the first edition of Earth Matters was published in 1991, climate change was a relatively new environmental concern and world leaders were preparing to convene an Earth Summit in Brazil, which established ‘sustainable development’ as the most important policy of the 21st century.

Now, nearly two decades into the 21st century, world population is approaching 8 billion and a new generation of students is discovering the challenges to our global environment and society. High school and university courses in Environmental Studies and Human Geography are more popular than ever. Central to these disciplines is how people – both in our numbers and our activities – have reshaped the landscape, atmosphere and oceans dramatically within the past 200 years. Most of the threats to our global ecosystems and social structures are human-made, and are worsened when more of us place stress on finite resources and fragile economies. Earth Matters helps students explore these connections by linking human population and resource consumption trends to the health and well-being of the planet and all its inhabitants.

Interconnectedness is the central motif of Earth Matters. Today’s students inhabit a rapidly changing world of increasing global interdependence. Our global economy is evident in everything from the sources of clothes we wear and the foods we eat to the cars we drive and the computers that link us to each other in seconds. Our global environment is shaped by everyone’s actions and depends on everyone’s vigilance. Air and water pollution and climate change know no national boundaries. Loss of biodiversity due to urban development in one area can affect the future of medical discovery. And a child from any part of the globe, who is nurtured with a sense of self-worth and a decent education, could grow up to be a great scientist, artist or statesman with the potential to enhance the quality of life for all humanity.

Through informative background readings and case studies and innovative activities, Earth Matters introduces high school students to issues of the global environment and society, while challenging them to evaluate these issues critically and motivating them to develop solutions. Earth Matters aims not only to enlighten students but also to build skills, concern, and commitment to effective global and local citizenship.

What’s New in the 5th Edition

Educators have told us that Earth Matters fills a valuable niche in their curriculum libraries, ever since the first edition was published in 1991. There is much new to discover in this 5th edition including:

  • All new Background Readings for each unit with the latest data and trends.
  • 19 new Case Studies focusing on timely topics (e.g. threats to pollinators and climate refugees) and inspiring projects that are making a difference (e.g. urban gardens and anti-poverty initiatives).
  • 13 new teaching activities addressing global migration trends, megacities, lifecycle analysis of everyday products, the new Sustainable Development Goals, and much more.
  • Nearly 400 recommended resources for further research including the latest websites, apps, online videos, insightful articles and books.
  • 31 infographics for sharing with students
  • Links to relevant curriculum standards (including the Next Generation Science Standards and C3 Social Studies Framework) as well as the course frameworks for AP Environmental Science and AP Human Geography.

And, best of all, the entire curriculum is now online, making it easy for our curriculum team to keep the content current.

As secondary and post-secondary educators have been doing for nearly three decades, you are free to use this new edition in creative ways to supplement your textbooks or to develop an entire course on issues of local and global importance. We welcome your feedback and wish you and your students rewarding learning experiences.