Sun-Earth System
Value Systems of Nature
- Supplement
Understanding Environmental Issues
- Supplement
Risk & Uncertainty


This assignment can be completed individually or in groups of 3 - 4 people. One copy per group will be handed in. The assignment must be hand-signed by all group members.

1. Write a paragraph on the definition of the term "environment". Your discussion should include:

  • Origin of the word
  • Alternate definitions
  • Your view on the definition

2. Define the phrase "environmental problem."

3. Why are environmental problems currently on the forefront of the news?

4. List ten environmental problems that concern you.

5. Criteria are often established to define, classify, and prioritize environmental problems.List at least five criteria that you would use to classify environmental problems.

6. What are some of the values or attitudes these criteria express?

7. Rank the criterion importance as follows in a summary table:

  • List the criterion.
  • Provide a brief description of the criterion.
  • Describe how the criterion can be measured.
  • Rank each criterion by assigning a weight to represent its importance. (You have 100 points to divide up among the criteria to decide which should get the most attention. Criteria with higher points are considered more important.)
(sum = 100)

8. Based on the above criteria importance weights, rank the ten environmental problems as follows:

  • List the environmental problem.
  • Identify the criteria that apply.
  • Describe how the criteria can be measured.
  • Based on the criterion importance ranks, calculate a weighted rank. (The weighted ranks should be calculated on a 100-point scale. A value of 100 would indicate that the environmental issue was assigned the highest possible amount of points for each of the identified criteria.)
Environmental Problem
Applicable Criteria
Criteria Measurement

9. Which three of these environmental problems would you consider most important for the President of the United States? What are your reasons for choosing these?

10. Now, suppose you have been elected as the Mayor and the city's environment is one of your priorities for taking action. Would the above answers change? Briefly describe how and why.

Go to Understanding Environmental Issues Supplement

  ©Copyright 2003 Carnegie Mellon University
This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant Number 9653194. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.