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Hot Topics

Exploring current issues in the classroom

This feature was developed by Resources for Rethinking to connect students to some of the efforts being made to solve important problems that are affecting our planet. Hot Topics are published during the school year to coincide with the timing of national and international campaigns taking place to raise awareness of these key issues.

Each Hot Topic edition includes links to classroom materials from theResources for Rethinking database that will encourage students and teachers to explore the environmental, economic and social dimensions of these issues and to take action in support of the larger campaign.

Hot Topics Calendar

UN International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer

September 16

Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup

Fall 2016

World Food Day

October 16

Waste Reduction Week

October 17-23, 2016

COP 22: UN Climate Change Conference

November 7-18, 2016

World Fisheries Day

November 21

Buy Nothing Day

November 25, 2016

World Wetlands Day

February 2

World Day of Social Justice

February 20

Earth Hour

March 25, 2017


World Water Day

March 22, 2017



Earth Day

April 22

International Day for Biological Diversity

May 22

Canadian Environment Week

June 5-11, 2017

National Aboriginal Day

June 21

Canada Day

July 1


World Day of Social Justice
February 20, 2016

World Day of Social Justice was initiated by the General Assembly of the United Nations in 2007 to encourage support for international efforts in poverty eradication, the promotion of full employment, gender equity and justice for all.

World Day of Social Justice provides students and teachers with an excellent opportunity to focus attention on the barriers to social well-being that millions of people face because of gender, age, race, ethnicity, religion, culture or disability.

Why Care About Social Justice:

o Over 1.5 million children under the age of 5 die each year from vaccine-preventable diseases. (WHO)

o There are currently 800 million people who do not have access to safe drinking water. (UNESCO)

o Currently armed forces in 20 countries are recruiting child soldiers under the age of 18. (Child Soldiers International)

o The tuberculosis rate among Canada’s First Nations ranges from 10 to 30 times higher than that of the population as a whole. (CBC)

o Eighty-two million girls now aged 10 to 17 will be married before their 18th birthday (UNFP).

o One hundred million more women would be alive today if females had equal access to nutrition and health care. (WHO)

o Of the 4.5 million refugees forced to flee Syria, over one million are children. (UNHRC)

o Genocide Watch has identified emergency situations in Syria, Iraq, Sudan, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Somalia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Myanmar and North Korea.

o The gap between rich and poor within and among nations continues to grow and promote conflict.

o Social justice is an underlying principle for peaceful and prosperous coexistence within and among nations

o A sustainable future involves meeting the needs of all people.

Resources 4 Rethinking encourages students and teachers to participate in World Day of Social Justice. Top R4R Picks will connect you to some excellent resources to support these efforts.

World Water Day:
March 22nd, 2016

World Water Day was conceived during the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. Since then the goal of the annual celebration has been to draw international attention to the need for sustainable management of this vital resource. Each year World Water Day highlights a different aspect of freshwater. The theme in 2016 — water and jobs — is focusing on how enough quantity and quality of water can change workers' lives and livelihoods - and even transform societies and economies.

World Water Day provides teachers and students with an excellent opportunity to explore the role of water in sustaining life and to become actively involved in water issues affecting their own communities.

Why Care about World Water Day?

  • While 70% of the earth’s surface is covered with water, less than .003% of this water is potable.
  • Clean, freshwater is a basic requirement for all life, yet the earth’s water resources are facing increasing threats and demands from users.
  • Half of all workers world-wide are employed in water-dependent sectors
  • Global food production accounts for 70% of all fresh water use
  • There are currently more than one billion people without a supply of safe drinking water or access to electricity.
  • Everyday women spend >200 million hours carrying water
  • Canada’s per capita use of water is higher than anywhere else in the world.
  • More water is required to manufacture a car than to fill a swimming pool
  • For many of the 500,000 Canadians living on First Nations reserves, access to safe drinking water remains a major challenge.
  • Water is an integral part of the earth’s web of ecosystems, providing critical habitat for wildlife.
  • Canadians depend on healthy aquatic ecosystems to provide essential economic and social services.

Resources 4 Rethinking encourages students and teachers to participate in World Water Day. Top R4R Picks will connect you to some excellent resources to support these efforts. 

1 For more information and ideas be sure to check out World Water Day

Earth Day
April 22nd, 2016

It is expected that 6 million Canadians will join more than a billion people from 192 countries to participate in Earth Day, 2016.  Since 1970 Earth Day organizers around the world have celebrated April 22 by staging events and projects that encourage citizens to address important environmental issues.  This year, Earth Day Canada is participating in ‘Trees for the Earth’, the first of five global camaigns leading up to the 50thanniversary of Earth Day. The goal of this initiative is to add 7.8 billion trees by 2020 and it is hoped that Canadians will plant 25,000 of these new trees on Earth Day.

Schools have played an increasingly significant role in promoting Earth Day and it is hoped that every child in Canada will have the opportunity to take part in Earth Day activities this year. 

Why Celebrate Earth Day?

  • Earth Day draws attention to the planet and our dependence on it for survival.
  • Earth Day can raise awareness of key environmental problems that threaten earth’s ability to support life.
  • Earth Day can highlight the importance of sustainable development and promote the necessary changes in human practice to achieve its results.
  • Earth Day can provide the motivation and opportunity for participants to take action to improve the environment of their local communities.
  • Earth Day presents an excellent interdisciplinary theme for schools to celebrate.
  • Earth Day celebrations give schools a great opportunity to model environmental stewardship.

Resources 4 Rethinking encourages students and teachers to participate in Earth Day 2016. Top R4R Picks will connect you to some excellent resources to support these efforts.

For more information and activities be sure to check out the Earth Day Canada website.

Canadian Environment Week:
June 5-11, 2016

World Environment Day was established by the United Nations in 1972 to encourage global action on behalf of the environment.  A primary objective of this special occasion is to personalize environmental issues and help people realize not only their responsibility, but also their power to become agents for change in support of a healthy planet. This year's theme is is “Go Wild For Life”.  Its goal is to draw attention to the fight against the illegal trade in wildlife, a practice that erodes biodiversity and threatens the very survival of a large number of iconic species.


Canadian Environment Week (June 5 to June 11) is celebrated annually during the first week of June to coincide with World Environment Day.  Other highlights of this national, week-long event include both Clean Air Day and World Oceans Day taking place on June 8.

World Environment Day and Canadian Environment Week provide many opportunities for teachers and students to investigate a range of important environmental issues and bring about positive changes within their own communities.

Why Participate in Canadian Environment Week & World Environment Day?

  • Canadian Environment Week can help focus attention on important issues related to our environment and our quality of life.
  • Participation in Canadian Environment Week can demonstrate the importance of individual efforts in caring for the environment.
  • Canadian Environment Week can provide opportunities to recognize our shortcomings and celebrate our achievements in protecting the environment.
  • Canadian Environment Week is a great time for students to get outside and make real contributions to improve local environments.

Resources 4 Rethinking encourages students and teachers to participate in the Canadian Environment Week.  Top R4R Picks will connect you to some excellent resources to support these efforts.

For more information and activities to support this special week, be sure to check: