This inspiring video describes the development and outcomes of a pollution-tracking database and related app for tracking manufacturing pollution in China.
The database offers information that provides transparency and empowers citizens to encourage positive changes from some of the largest suppliers of global materials.
The app also provides a carbon pollution map for the country of China based on their carbon reduction goals.
Ma Jun's beginning focus of protecting one lake to his current focus of holding national agencies and multinational corporations accountable for their practices is a testament to starting small, while keeping the larger picture in mind.
The link between corporate image and the actions of suppliers down the supply chain can be the basis for a multitude of activities on global consumption and/or corporate responsibility.
There are several potential complements in the video for lessons/activities about business ethics, information freedom, economic systems, and public data, as the database is a collection of published environmental violations that are accessible to citizens.
There are potential connections for computer science and geography students interested in Global Information Systems (GIS), as the app and database utilize location and frequently updated data.
Ask students to work in small groups to list their ideas about the responsibility of corporations/industries to the environment and to the communities in which they operate. After sharing, challenge them to think about scenarios where a company may feel encouraged to damage their local environment and community (as happened in the video), even if they know it is wrong to do so. Are there other models of global economics that could be considered?
With supply chain visibility becoming more important to both consumers and companies, invite students to track the supply chain of some of their favorite items of clothing, shoes, or electronics. Is it easy to accomplish? What barriers may be standing in the way?
Ma Jun designed this app based on a database of violations and a map. For any class that has a GIS component, design a small project where students build a map based on a public database in their own communities. Have them make their maps publicly accessible, if it is appropriate to do so.
This 12-minute TED talk presents the development and impact of a database (and associated application, called Blue Map) that reports on air quality and industrial pollution violations from industrial manufacturers within China. The transparency and ability to explore and share information triggered a series of changes that addressed pollution within China. This resource is a powerful demonstration of the potential for transparency and open databases to trigger environmental change. This resource is recommended for teaching.
College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Standards
Dimension 2: Economics
D2.Eco.15.9-12 Explain how current globalization trends and policies affect economic growth, labor markets, rights of citizens, the environment, and resource and income distribution in different nations.
Dimension 4: Taking Informed Action
D4.7.6-8 Assess their individual and collective capacities to take action to address local, regional, and global problems, taking into account a range of possible levers of power, strategies, and potential outcomes.
Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)
ESS3: Earth and Human Activity
HS-ESS3-4 Evaluate or refine a technological solution that reduces impacts of human activities on natural systems.