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A Student’s Insight into a Unique Subject (ESS)

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ESS was a subject that intrigued me right away when I was choosing the subjects I wanted to take for IB. The name itself “Environmental Systems and Societies” just sounded intriguing and new, completely different from anything I had studied before, despite not knowing what the subject was actually about.
Now that I’ve gained a better understanding of how ESS really is, I believe that more students should maybe consider it. Hence, I think that sharing what I’ve learned generally about the subject would be helpful for other students that may be interested in it.

Firstly, I think it’s important to have a general understanding of the course, its importance and the kind of work that you’ll be doing. As the name suggests, Environmental Systems and Societies focuses on the study of the environment we live in and how we impact it. This may sound really broad, but overall, the subject aims to discuss and shed light upon how the world we live in functions in a more technical, scientific perspective, but most importantly, it shows us the ways we humans impact our surroundings and the kind of effect we may be having on our world. It should be no news to most of us that humans are damaging many things in nature, whether it is through global warming caused by the increased emissions of greenhouse gases, or just a loss in biodiversity due to our destructive and unsustainable behavior towards many ecosystems such as rainforests. But fear not, because no matter how terrible these problems may seem, there is always a solution, and I feel like ESS provides us with knowledge that can help us one day solve them, considering that a great part of ESS is teaching us how to mitigate these issues and evaluate their impact, in order to hopefully find new and better alternatives.

Regarding the work you’ll be doing, it’s honestly nothing too outrageously demanding. Part of the subject consists of the understanding of new concepts and terminology, just like any other subject, and most of the work you’ll do consists of small easy exercises that help you consolidate those new terms and concepts in order to make sure that you’ll be ready to apply them in an exam scenario. However, not everything required of you in ESS is that easy because writing reports and conducting investigations will probably be a fairly challenging task the first time you do it. It basically consists of a structured investigation about a relevant environmental issue, and although it may seem hard and perhaps even boring, it is actually incredibly fascinating and engaging, since you’ll be forced to conduct your own data collection, meaning you’ll have to do a lot of lab work yourself, which feels incredibly rewarding when the experiments actually go as planned.

Overall, in my opinion ESS is a fundamental subject in order to help us develop a better understanding of the world we live in, and most importantly it shows us how we can potentially solve the issues that our generation will face in the future. It also helps us develop a balanced set of skills, such as writing balanced arguments, evaluating advantages and disadvantages of certain scenarios, and most importantly it helps us become more independent, since it requires us to think, plan and conduct our own experiments and investigations.


– Bernardo Cristóvão (IB1)

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