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Environmental Systems and Societies (HL and SL)

We have forgotten how to be good guests, how to walk lightly on the earth as its other creatures do. Barbara Ward 

Environmental Systems & Societies combines the skills from Biology and Geography, but also includes Economics and Philosophy. Students do not need to have a GCSE in Biology or Geography to do the course, although both are beneficial.   

The course recognises that to understand the environmental issues of the 21st century and suggest suitable management solutions, both human and environmental aspects must be studied. Students not only investigate the issues facing the complexities of our planet, but also the actions required for the fair and sustainable use of shared resources.  

Course content

Students develop a wide range of skills during the course including practical skills, use of statistics, interpreting, analysing and evaluating information, graphical skills, working systematically, considering opinions and values and independent thinking whilst developing a scientific and ethical understanding of environmental issues and sustainability.   

Students study eight units:   

  • Foundations of environmental systems and societies  
  • Ecosystems and ecology  
  • Biodiversity and conservation  
  • Water and aquatic food production systems and societies  
  • Atmospheric systems and societies  
  • Climate change and energy production  
  • Human systems and resource use  


Internal assessment  

Research report (25%)  

External assessment  

Unknown Case Study (25%)  

Short answer and structured essays (50%)  


Field visits to Bedgebury National Pinetum.  

Further study

Students have gone on to study a wide range of subjects at university including Languages at Oxford and Architecture at Bath.  

 I really like ESS because it's a relevant science to today's society- we study topical issues such as pollution and climate change, and it gives me a better understanding of issues in the news. It is also backed up by some of the other subjects I take, such as Mathematics studies and geography. Caitlin