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Influencing Environmental Policy with Real Data

In history, all men are not created equal. Some humans hold much higher offices than others and their decisions affect the lives of countless other humans. Some are elected, some appointed, some conferred with degrees based on education, and some are in the right place at the right time. We trust that the limits set by these special humans – and their judicious interpretation of the data at hand – are helping all other humans to live life to the fullest. Sometimes that trust is well placed. Many times it is not questioned.

     In the case of environmental policy in the United States, many of the special humans have relied on trial and error to come to decisions that affect the health and well-being of other humans. Scientists, lobbyists, and politicians have all thrown their hats into the ring when it comes time to draft legislation that will regulate the manufacture and consumption of man-made materials. Taking light bulbs as an example, legislation was passed in 2007 to take effect in 2014 making incandescent light bulbs illegal at minimum thresholds of luminous efficacy. The implementation of this venture has since been pushed back because of the difficulty of rollout and, arguably, the reliability of the data surrounding the decisions made in the legislation.

     In this unit, learners will take the real-world problem of energy efficiency and test it. They will compile their own data and set their own minimum and maximum limits of luminous efficacy for light bulbs. They will analyze the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 and draft their own rebuttals to the legislation based on the analysis of their data. Lastly, they will use their human-robot capacity to determine the long-range effects of their revisions to the legislation and prepare themselves for their roles as future policymakers and global citizens. This unit is designed to be used in an 11th grade Advanced Placement United States History course. It may be modified or appropriate as-is for an honors or regular United States History course. Additionally, the unit will take about 5-7 in-class days. The placement of the unit will be within discussions of Progressivism and the turn of the 20th century.

Meagan C. Rubino
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