Life seems haphazard and chancy, with no inevitable victories for the environment, the Deseret News' environmental specialist told a group of about 45 schoolteachers Wednesday.

Joseph Bauman, the reporter and columnist who has covered environmental issues for the paper since the early 1970s, said that when he was in school, he had the naive notion that life was more or less structured and things ran on their own momentum - or at least by the direction of an adult clique.But he has learned that with many issues "things just happen," and there are ups and downs for the environment.

Debates that impact the environment are really a kind of participatory democracy, and anything can happen, he said.

Everybody must pitch in, Bauman said, particularly the students in whose hands the world will eventually rest.

Bauman, 42, addressed an "Exploring the Environment" seminar sponsored by the paper Wednesday. The daylong seminar was part of the Newspapers in Education program, under direction of Carolyn Dickson, manager.

The workshop also included a talk by Lawson LeGate, the Sierra Club Southwest Region representative; a slide presentation by

the Utah Division of Environmental Health; a visit to the Little Cottonwood Water Treatment Plant at 90th South and Danish Road; a tour of Superfund sites with comments by Mark Burrell, public health information officer for the division; and a visit to Wasatch-Cache National Forest.

Bauman said newspaper reports give us a feeling for the reality of environmental questions, the immediate ebbing and flowing of great issues.

Other controversies such as tax limitation initiatives, the governor's race or murders on the Navajo Reservation may capture the students' imagination as being more interesting, he said.

"But I hope the Deseret News can demonstrate today that the nitty-gritty, everyday environmental problems and their solutions are just as vital to our future."

He discussed many of the articles he has written on topics as diverse as the San Rafael Swell, protection for Hovenweep National Monument, solvents in the workplace, and the Hole-In-The-Rock Road.

Also, state land management, wilderness, the checkerboard pattern of land ownership in Utah, a charge by the Sierra Club that grazing groups have too much power in Bureau of Land Management advisory boards, auto emission testing, a complaint by an environmentalist that Utah politicians are not tuned in to citizen concerns, the Magna tailings problem, harm to Grand Canyon National Park from the operation of Glen Canyon Dam, and debate over mitigating damage from the Central Utah Project.

"It's a fragile, lovely planet in which many forces are in a delicate balance," Bauman said. An example of this balance might be the Kennecott tailings pond, where dust flies if enough moisture isn't pumped onto the immense pile.

It's easy to disrupt our ecosystem, he said. So it's up to everyone "to see that the planet remains a fit place to live."