These tasks are originally made for Danish high school students. Many examples refer to Danish circumstances, and many links lead to sites in Danish. Nevertheless, we hope that the translation may inspire others to develop tasks that fit to local conditions.

Theme 1: Energy base

  1. Energy is the basis of all human activities.

a.Find examples of activities that do not require much energy.
b.Find examples of activities that require a lot of energy.
c.Are there any activities that do not require any energy at all?

2. Draw a diagram that shows what types of energy you use during the course of a day. Examples can be chemical energy from food, energy for transport (what types?) and energy for heating. If you are unsure about what types of energy are used for different activities, try to find the answer online. Here are a few links to get started with:‐om‐energi/energikilder.aspx

3. Try to develop the diagram from task 2 so that it also shows how the energy that is used is not lost, but instead takes on new forms (see important concepts, 1st law of thermodynamics). For example, the chemical energy in the food you eat becomes movement energy when walking, running or cycling.

4. Energy consumption also has an environmental impact. Examine the environmental impact of the different energy types you use during the day.

5. Making energy usable in everyday life requires energy. Energy must be used to extract energy – actually, energy must be used at all stages from extraction to final use. Choose an energy type (coal, oil, sun, wind, etc.) and draw a map or a diagram that shows where energy is needed to make this type of energy useful in our daily lives.


Theme 2: The biophysical perspective

  1. Use the ecological economics basic model (see first figure in this theme) as well as the concepts metabolism and metabolic organism to explain the relationship between the global economy and environmental issues such as: climate change, plastic pollution, cutting down the rainforest, pollution of groundwater and loss of biodiversity.
  2. The Danish economy can be viewed as a metabolic organism. Use Statistics Denmark’s page on environment and energy to get an overview of raw material extraction in Denmark, which can be considered part of this metabolism:‐miljoe‐og‐energi/miljoe‐og‐energi
  3. Plastic pollution of the oceans can be seen as a result of human society’s economic metabolism. Describe the problem of plastic pollution and include a list of actual suggestions to solve the problem. You can start your investigation by visiting the Plastic Change website:
  4. Investigate your global ‘carbon footprint’ using WWF’s calculator:


Theme 3: Growth and the environment 

  1. In mainstream economics, the circular flow model is used as a basic model for the economy. However, ecological economics uses a different basic model (the first figure in theme 2: the biophysical perspective).
    • a)  Discuss the differences between the two models.
    • b)  What role does the environment play in the two models?
    • c)  How can you describe economic growth with the two models?
    • d)  Can the two models be combined? If so how?
  2. Think of arguments for and against the following statements:
    • a)  Economic growth is the same as increased wealth!
    • b)  Increased consumption results in increased joy of life!
    • c)  Economic growth is necessary for social stability!
    • d)  Economic growth is necessary for the survival of the welfare state!
    • e)  Growth and competition are key words when it comes to solving the climate
  3. In the debate about economic growth and the environment the possibility of decoupling
    economic growth and environmental impact is often mentioned.

    • a)  Argue for and against the assertion that decoupling has taken place in the past.
    • b)  Argue for and against that decoupling is taking place now.
    • c)  Argue for and against that decoupling will occur in the future.
  4. Try to use different models to substantiate your arguments. Models could be the IPAT equation and the ecological economics basic model (the first figure in theme 2: the biophysical perspective). For inspiration, you can read this article from Statistics Denmark, which claims that Denmark has decoupled GDP and greenhouse gas emissions:‐03‐15‐saadan‐paavirker‐ oekonomien‐miljoeet
  5. The circular economy (see theme 9: the circular economy) can be used as a strategy for green growth. Argue for and against the circular economy as a tool for decoupling economic growth and environmental impact.
  6. Investigate the attitude towards economic growth among the parliamentary parties.
    • a)  Who are advocates of economic growth?
    • b)  Is anyone in favour of green growth, and if so, how do they interpret the
    • c)  Is anyone sceptical about economic growth?
    • d)  Does anyone suggest alternatives to economic growth, and if so, what do they
  7. Memo 1. Imagine that Denmark’s Prime Minister has asked for a memo about economic
    growth to determine whether Denmark should be a growth economy in the future or whether other alternatives should be identified. The Prime Minister wants to know whether Denmark should:

    • a)  Continue with economic growth without taking the environment into account.
    • b)  Focus on Green Growth.
    • c)  Work for degrowth.
    • d)  Not care about growth.
    • e)  Use a new measure of economic growth.

Write a memo to the Prime Minister with recommendations that address the above

  1. Memo 2. Write a memo that gives concrete recommendations for a political strategy that
    can achieve the recommendations in memo 1. If, for example, Denmark has been recommended to invest in green growth in memo 1, what should be the policy strategy for such a transition? What legislation should be implemented? What public investments should be made, etc.?
  2. Memo 3: Imagine that Denmark’s Prime Minister has established a group, who have been given the task to come up with recommendations for a new measure of economic growth in Denmark. You are the leader of the group and you have to prepare a memo containing recommendations to the Prime Minister. Use the links below for information and inspiration:‐nationalregnskab/et‐groent‐bnp‐nationalregnskab

Theme 4: Conflicts and distribution

1.This assignment requires proficiency in English and may be approached as a combination of the subjects social science and English. The Atlas of Environmental Justice is an interactive map of global environmental conflicts.

a.Have a look at the map and try to get an overview of what it is about.

b.Choose three conflicts and describe what they are about.

c.Select three conflicts of the same type and see if you can find some interesting differences between them.

d.Select three different types of conflict and see if you can find any similarities between them.

A planned construction on Amager Fælled in Copenhagen is included on the map. Find the conflict. Compare the description of the conflict on the map with information about it online.

  1. Is the map’s presentation of the conflict true and fair?
  2. Are there sides of the case that are not mentioned on the map, and if so which?

2. Palm oil is the cause of environmental conflicts in many parts of the world. The organisations, WWF, Greenpeace and Danwatch have all documented and raised awareness of the environmental and social problems associated with palm oil production.

  1. Use the Internet to investigate what the palm oil conflicts are about.
  2. Where are the conflicts located?
  3. Use the Atlas of Environmental Justice to find an actual palm oil conflict.
  1. Make a list of the actors involved in the conflict
  2. Make a list of the environmental problems.
  3. Make a list of the social problems.
  1. Use the Atlas of Environmental Justice to compare the conflict you have chosen with other similar conflicts. Are there any players or problems that are present in several places?
  2. Make a list of the measures that have been proposed as solutions to palm oil conflicts?
  3. Devise a strategy for resolving a particular palm oil conflict?
  4. Discuss how to solve the palm oil problem more generally.


Theme 5: View on nature and ethics
Several organisations, funds and individuals work to protect nature in Denmark. Here are some links to some of them:

  1. Visit the websites and have a look around.
  2. Make a list of the key topics on the websites.
  3. Use Hans Fink’s seven perspectives (see the infobox ‘view on nature’) to investigate which views on nature are expressed in these organisations’ communication and activities.
  4. Make a list of the key actors involved in the issue of nature conservation in Denmark. In order to answer this, it may be necessary to visit other websites, such as the Nature Agency:
  5. Try to compare the different actors’ interests, focus and approaches. What are the differences and similarities?
  6. Use the concepts anthropocentrism and ecocentrism to interpret the actors’ approach to nature.
  7. Try to find out what the different actors consider to be valuable in nature.
  8. Use the concepts instrumental and intrinsic value to interpret the different actors’ values in relation to nature.



Theme 6: Political decisions 

  1. How do we value things in our daily lives?
    • a)  Try to find examples of valuation where money and prices should not be used.
    • b)  Try to find examples where money and prices are a useful way of expressing
  2. Memo 1: You have been given the task of helping decision‐makers decide whether the
    Hærvej motorway should be built. You have to write a memo, which contains recommendations for a good decision‐making process. Do not make recommendations about whether the motorway should be built, but rather about how the decision should be made. In your memo you must answer the following questions:

    • a)  What figures and calculations should be included in the decision‐making process?
    • b)  Which interested parties should be listened to?
    • c)  Which experts should be consulted?
    • d)  How should the views of the public be heard?
    • e)  How would you design a decision‐making process so that all the above elements are taken into consideration?
  3. Memo 2: In this memo, you have to make an actual recommendation about whether construction of the Hærvej motorway should go ahead. Should it be built, or not? Regardless of your final recommendation, you should put forward arguments to support your recommendation.
    • a)  Specify the pros and cons of the decision.
    • b)  If you recommend a yes:
      1. Explain why the advantages outweigh the disadvantages.
      2. Explain why there are no better alternatives.
    • c)  If you recommend a no:
      1. Explain why the disadvantages exceed the benefits.
      2. Explain any better alternatives.
  4. Links for inspiration:

Note: In tasks 2 and 3, the Hærvej motorway can be replaced by another major construction work or another important societal decision.


Theme 7: Control and regulation 

  1. Select a current environmental problem. Find inspiration in the publications about Late lessons from early warnings.
    • a)  When did the first warning about the problem emerge?
    • b)  How have the authorities attempted to regulate the problem? How has
      regulation evolved over time?
    • c)  Who wants the environmental problem to be solved? Does anybody want to
      obstruct the regulation?
    • d)  What progress has been made towards solving the problem?
  2. Find some current examples of environmental side‐effects that affect a third party, for example related to agriculture, industry or tourism.
    • a)  What methods can the state use to reduce the side‐effects?
    • b)  What are the advantages and disadvantages of the various methods?
  3. Find three examples of each of the four types of good.
    • a)  What type of good is the Internet?
    • b)  Try to find some examples of goods that have changed type over time.
  4. The ozone layer is a layer in the atmosphere that protects biological life on the planet
    from ultraviolet radiation. It was discovered that the layer can be damaged by humans’ use of the organic compound CFC. In this connection, an international agreement (the Montreal Protocol) was successful in phasing out the use of CFCs and similar substances, and it appears that the thinning of the ozone layer is slowing down. The ozone layer can be seen as a public good, where it is possible to reap the benefits of the good without doing anything. Can you think of any explanations as to why it has been so much easier to solve the problem of the ozone layer than to find effective solutions to the climate problem?
  5. The atmosphere can be seen as both a public good and a global commons. Why?

a) In December 2015, a global agreement (the Paris Agreement) was signed to maintain the global temperature increase below 2 degrees Celsius. How likely do you think it is that the Paris agreement will be successful? What interests are involved in the different countries?

  1. A college kitchen can be seen as a form of commons. Can Ostrom’s principles be used to establish rules for the use of the kitchen?
  2. Explain how the markets for mobile phones, clothing and alcohol are regulated by the authorities and by other actors.
    • a)  What regulations apply to all the mentioned markets? What regulations are more specific?
    • b)  What are the arguments for and against the different regulations?
    • c)  Try to find examples of markets that are not regulated by the authorities. Are
      they regulated in other ways?
  3. For many years, the supply of drinking water in Denmark has been carried out by local
    utilities owned by municipalities or by consumers jointly (as well as some private wells or boreholes that only supply water for a single house or a group of houses or for a business). The state regulates the utility companies’ prices for water based on a non‐profit principle, which means that the costs and investments must be covered, but no profit can be made. At the moment, discussions are taking place about whether the utilities should be privatised, i.e. whether they should be sold to private actors. What are the different political parties’ views on the privatisation of water supply and what arguments do they put forward?


Theme 8: Sustainable transition 

  1. The transportation system is an important societal system.
    a) What technologies are included in the transport system?
    b) What infrastructure needs to be in place to ensure that the transport system
    c) Where do market transactions occur in the system? d) Which laws regulate transport?
  2. Draw a map that illustrates a societal system of your own choosing. You can write text on the map.
    • a)  Draw the system’s infrastructure.
    • b)  Include the system’s most important technologies.
    • c)  Indicate where market transactions occur on the map.
    • d)  Indicate where the different regulatory laws apply on the map.
  3. Shipping is part of the societal system called the transport system, but it can also be seen as a societal system in itself. Find at least three examples of societal systems that are part of a larger societal system.
  4. When politicians debate the transport system, the discussions usually focus on public transport versus private car transport.
    • a)  Investigate the different parliamentary parties’ attitudes regarding this discussion.
    • b)  Find three arguments for increased transport with private cars.
    • c)  Find three arguments against increased transport with private cars.
      1. Discuss which arguments are the most convincing.
      2. What role does the environment and sustainability play in these arguments?

a) Discuss how different ideologies play a part in the discussion about public transport versus private car transport?

  1. Political debates about societal systems often focus on the environment and sustainability. Choose a societal system.
    • a)  Examine which environmental problems are associated with the system.
    • b)  Find at least three political measures that could reduce these environmental
  2. Understanding the energy system as a societal system can be seen as a specific model of
    energy provisioning. However, mainstream economic theory focuses on the energy sector, which represents a different model of energy provisioning.

a. Discuss the differences between the two models: societal system and sector.

  1. Electric cars can be considered a niche in the transport system.
    • a)  What are the attitudes towards electric cars of the different parties in Denmark?
    • b)  What can be done politically to create a selection environment that promotes
      electric cars?
    • c)  What are the arguments for and against interventions that improve the selection
      environment for electric cars?
  2. Choose a societal system.
    • a)  Identify a regime and a niche in this system.
    • b)  Specify the landscape factors that affect the development of the system.
  • c) Use the concepts of niche, regime, landscape, selection and selection environment to make as many hypotheses as possible about the future development of this system.

Note: Several of the above tasks can be varied by replacing the specified societal system with another. For example, in task 1, the transport system can be replaced by the food provisioning system.




Theme 9: The circular economy

  1. Choose a product that you use in your everyday life, and try to draw a diagram of its entire life cycle from the cradle (resource extraction) to the grave (discarded) or new cradle (recycling).
        1. Make a list of the most important materials in the product and find out where they come from. Can any of these materials be recycled?
        2. Draw a diagram of the path of the product from the extraction of resources to you as a consumer.
        3. Try to find out where water is used to make the product.
        4. Try to find out how much energy is used on production and transportation.
        5. Try to find out how much CO2 is emitted in connection with production and transportation.
        6. Discuss the following based on your own diagram:
      1. How can the product chain be made more circular?
      2. Is it possible to separate the technical and biological cycles?

If you need help getting started, you can get inspiration from the videos and links below:

2. The circular economy has become a popular concept in Denmark, and several municipalities are striving to increase the recycling of resources. Find out what your municipality is doing to make the use of resources more circular.

        1. Does your municipality have a waste plan, and if so, what are the details?
        2. What role do recycling depots play in the circular economy in your municipality?
        3. What materials are recycled in your municipality and how?
          What are the arguments for increasing the recycling of resources

3. Resources and the circular economy are also a national policy issue.

        1. What are the different parties’ attitudes towards resources and recycling?
        2. Do any of the parties have a particularly strong profile in the field of resources, and if so, what is their position?
        3. What arguments are put forward in the debate on resources and recycling in Denmark?