Welcome to Environmental Systems and Societies!
At the start of the 2016-2017 school year, the International Baccalaureate began offering an updated syllabus for the Environmental Systems and Societies course. I developed a bunch of resources for the ‘old’ pre-2016 syllabus, which are linked here. I’ll be adding additional resources around the new syllabus systematically, with an anticipated completion date by the May 2017 IB Exams.
ESS is a university-level introductory ecology course. It is science applied to ideas presented in geography, economics, and TOK. We’ll look at the ways different people around the world perceive and respond to various environmental issues, and we’ll dig deeper into their experiences and motivations for taking action (or not taking action). We will attempt to determine why some protected areas succeed while others fail, why some countries are rich while others are poor, and what people in those less-successful areas might do to improve their situations. The issues students encounter in ESS are complex and challenging. For many of the questions raised, there are no right answers. Students will never be taught what to think about environmental issues; instead, students will learn about the interdependence of the various components of our planet in order to reach their own conclusions.
A big part of what we’ll do in ESS, though, is science in action, and by that I mean field work! Students enrolled in my ESS course will design, carry out, and evaluate investigations into local environmental attitudes, microclimate differences around campus and field stations, soil chemistry, biodiversity in tropical forests, invertebrate populations, and the impacts of soil, air, and water pollution in the Dar es Salaam metropolitan area. Students should plan on spending at least 50 hours conducting practical investigations outside my classroom over the course of the ESS class.
There are 7 major topics within ESS, which I have outlined below. We’ll study some of them individually, but the first one and the last one – Systems and Models and Environmental Value Systems, respectively – will be interwoven throughout the other 5 topics because these issue can’t be separated. Barry Commoner said it best: “The first rule of ecology is that everything is linked to everything else.”
OLD ESS SYLLABUS LINKS (2010 through 2015)
- Systems and Models: The systems approach to science
- The Ecosystem: The structure and function of ecosystems, basic ecology, and measurements in ecology
- Human Populations, Carrying Capacity, and Resource Use: How people use soil, water, and energy resources
- Conservation and Biodiversity: Designing successful areas for the protection of living organisms
- Pollution Management: Outlining the nature and source of various pollutants, as well as strategies for alleviating their impacts on people and the planet
- Global Warming: An examination of the mechanisms and perceived controversies of this highly relevant topic
- Environmental Value Systems: How people perceive the world, and how those perceptions shape their choices and actions
Once again, welcome to ESS! Let’s get started!