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Environmental Systems and Societies (ESS)

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ESS is offered only at standard level (SL). As an interdisciplinary course, ESS can count as either a Group 3 or a Group 4 course. ESS is designed to combine the methodology, techniques and knowledge associated with the four Australian Curriculum sciences (Chemistry, Biology, Physics and Environmental Science) with those associated with the Humanities and Social Sciences.

ESS is a complex course, and is firmly grounded in both a scientific exploration of environmental systems in their structure and function, and in the exploration of cultural, economic, ethical, political, and social interactions of societies with the environment. Students will become equipped with the ability to recognise and evaluate the impact of our complex system of societies on the natural world. The interdisciplinary nature of the course requires a broad skill set from students and includes the ability to perform research and investigations and to participate in philosophical discussion. The course requires a systems approach to environmental understanding and problem solving, and promotes holistic thinking about environmental issues. It is recognised that to understand the environmental issues of the 21st century and suggest suitable management solutions, both the human and environmental aspects must be understood.

The aims of the ESS course are to enable students to:

  • Acquire the knowledge and understandings of environmental systems at a variety of scales 

  • Apply the knowledge, methodologies and skills to analyse environmental systems and issues at a variety of scales 

  • Appreciate the dynamic interconnectedness between environmental systems and societies 

  • Value the combination of personal, local and global perspectives in making informed decisions and taking responsible actions on environmental issues 

  • Be critically aware that resources are finite, and that these could be inequitably distributed and exploited, and that management of these inequities is the key to sustainability 

  • Develop awareness of the diversity of environmental value systems 

  • Develop critical awareness that environmental problems are caused and solved by decisions made by individuals and societies that are based on different areas of knowledge 

  • Engage with the controversies that surround a variety of environmental issues 

  • Create innovative solutions to environmental issues by engaging actively in local and global contexts. 


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Last reviewed 27 August 2019
Last updated 27 August 2019