IB DP Environmental Systems & Societies


This course has been designed to study the environment from a systems approach. The course is spread over a two-year period of time and culminates with the IB standard level exam in May 2013. Environmental Systems and societies is rooted firmly in the principles of science and makes use of empirical, quantitative and objective data collection to describe and analyze environmental systems. While being an academic course rooted in the sciences, part of its aim is to electrify and activate your awareness about the state of the world’s environment. You are the next generation, who will inherit a legacy of earthly abuse. Our common future is such that we need to make major changes in the way we think about the world. This class is designed to help you start making these changes.

Environmental Systems & Societies replaced the older IB Environmental Systems course in the Fall of 2008. There are a few significant differences in the syllabus and in some schools students may now use the course to either fulfill a Group III or IV requirement. As it is offered with other science (Group IV) courses at OSC, this choice is not an option for OSC Diploma students.
The class will provide you with the scientific concepts and methodologies required to understand the many complex inter-relationships of the world. You will learn how to identify and analyze environmental problems, evaluate relative risks associated with these problems and to examine alternative solutions to solving or ending these problems. The focus of the new syllabus is on:
  • A systems approach
  • The concept of sustainability
  • Holistic evaluation
  • An emphasis on both local and global case studies
  • Use of information and communication technology (GIS, GPS etc.)
  • Practical application of core concepts through field studies
  • Links to TOK through ideas of ecocentrism and other ecological world views.
Environmental problems are, by nature, interdisciplinary. That is, they involve the physical sciences, while also being intertwined with human behavior, culture, politics and a host of other factors. This class is rooted in physical science, but draws on social sciences in order to address the multi-faceted environmental problems that the world currently faces. We will address issues on a global scale in order to give you a broader understanding of environmental issues. At the same time the class also focuses on local problems and solutions here in Sri Lanka and South Asia.

Davis, Andrew and Garrett Nagle. Environmental Systems and Societies. United Kingdom: Pearson, 2010. Print & Web.

Miller, G. Tyler. Living in the Environment: Principles, Connections and Solutions. Fourteenth Edition. Belmont: Brooks/Cole.
2005. Print.

Rutherford, Jill. IB Environmental Systems and Societies Course Companion. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009. Print.


CORE TOPICS (Hours)(Year Introduced)

Topic 1: Systems and models (5 hours) (First Year, Term I)
Topic 2: The ecosystem (First Year, Term I &II)
2.1 Structure
2.2 Measuring abiotic components of the system
2.3 Measuring biotic components of the system
2.4 Biomes
2.5 Function
2.6 Changes
2.7 Measuring changes in the system

Topic 3: Human population, carrying capacity and resource use (Second Year, Terms I&II)
3.1 Population dynamics
3.2 Resources—natural capital
3.3 Energy resources
3.4 The soil system
3.5 Food resources
3.6 Water resources
3.7 Limits to growth
3.8 Environmental demands of human populations

Topic 4: Conservation and biodiversity 15 First (First Year, Term II)
4.1 Biodiversity in ecosystems
4.2 Evaluating biodiversity and vulnerability
4.3 Conservation of biodiversity

Topic 5: Pollution management 18 (Scond Year, Term I)
5.1 Nature of pollution
5.2 Detection and monitoring of pollution
5.3 Approaches to pollution management
5.4 Eutrophication
5.5 Solid domestic waste
5.6 Depletion of stratospheric ozone
5.7 Urban air pollution
5.8 Acid deposition

Topic 6: The issue of global warming (Second Year, Term I)
Topic 7: Environmental value systems (First Year, Term II)


General OSC Science Department Documents