Topic 8: Human systems and resource use

Human Systems and Resource Use

In the first year teaching the new guide I taught sub-topic 1.4 first combining it with sub-topic 8.1. This year I am going to teach 8.1 first and then follow up with 1.4 to use as a lens for resource use discussed in sub-topics 8.2-8.4. I may well weave sub-topic 1.5 into this unit, following 8.2 and before 8.3 as students need to understand the pollution management model in 8.3 and the treatment of solid domestic waste. These strategies of embedding sub-topics 1.4 Sustainability and 1.5 Humans and Pollution into units on resource use will allow a greater opportunity for spiral learning and connections to be made across the curriculum. Of course there is no "right" way to teach the course and you need to do what works best for you and your school's circumstances. I like teaching 8.1 quite early as it is a topic that engages students and lends itself to the new Internal Assessment format. Teaching 1.4 and 1.5 relatively early in the course is also important, in my opinion, as they are intentially called Foundations of ESS.

During this topic we do our first big student-led investigation into as aspect of population demographics, watch TED talks from Hans Rosling, investigate the use of Environmental Impact Assessments for Olympic Games and analyse the use of environmental indicators (sub-topic 1.4), measure our SDW production, visit a recycling centre and an incinerator, study the tragedy of Nairu and the dynamic nature of a resource and consider the carrying capacity of The Earth.

Significant Ideas:

  • A variety of models and indicators are employed to quantify human population dynamics.
  • Human population growth rates are impacted by a complex range of changing factors.
  • The renewability of natural capital has implications for its sustainable use.
  • The status and economic value of natural capital is dynamic.
  • Solid domestic waste (SDW) is increasing as a result of growing human populations and consumption.
  • Both the production and management of SDW can have significant influence on sustainability.
  • Human carrying capacity is difficult to quantify.
  • The EF is a model that makes it possible to determine whether human populations are living within carrying capacity.

Recommended Teaching Time (not including practicals): 16 hours

8.1 An Introduction to Human Population Demographics

For a biologist starting to teach what was then Environmental Systems, this topic was my biggest fear. I had never studied this topic academically and so had to set about teaching myself first before...

8.1 Measuring Population Demographics

For this topic we need to start with some definitions and equations of key demographic indicators. Although there is a trend for formulae memorization not to be required, I can't imagine these formulae...

8.1 Population Policies

There are various ways to approach population control. On an intergovernmental level, the UN encourages countries to pursue policies that will limit population size. There is a Population Division of...

8.2 Resource Use in Society

This sub-topic is closely linked to sub-topic 1.4 on sustainability where students have been introduced to the concepts of renewable and non-renewable resources, natural capital and natural income. I...

8.3 Solid Domestic Waste

There is such a wide range of attitudes to, and management of, solid domestic waste (SDW). One of the challenges of this topic is for students to develop a sufficiently sophisticated understanding of...

8.4 Ecological Footprints

This sub-topic overlaps largely with sub-topic 1.4 on Sustainability. I chose to teach most of the concepts within sub-topic 1.4 and then to revisit and reenforce these ideas through this section of learning.

8.4 Human Population and Carrying Capacity

The concepts of a human population's carrying capacity and its ecological footprint are the inverse of each other. The carrying capacity is the maximum number of humans that can sustainably be supported...

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