Session 1: Introduction


Studying the biosphere can link to the following sustainability issues:

  • The atmospheric build-up of carbon dioxide, (causing global warming).
  • Pollution of fresh and salt waters, and of soil and air.
  • Erosion and other effects of deforestation.

Studying this course will assist in teaching about the life forms present on Earth that adapt and evolve in response to changing conditions. Your learners will be able to show concern over the current trend of global warming is that it is happening at a speed that will prevent many life forms being able to evolve and adapt. This course links to key concepts such as Sources of Energy, Heat Transfer, Insulation, relationship between the Sun and the Earth and Environmental Interactions in Grade 7,8 and 9 especially.

Studying the relationship of the Sun to the Earth can link to the following sustainability issues:

  • Health and Environmental Effects of Ozone Layer Depletion linked to Human, plant and Ecosystem health.
  • May help reduce greenhouse gases through solar energy.
  • May assist in better health for plants and animals when adequately exposed to sunlight.
  • Construction of solar energy power plants can pose hazards to air quality. Such threats include the release of soil-carried pathogens and results in an increase in air particulate matter which has the effect of contaminating water reservoirs.

Which can also link to various SDGs including:

  • GOAL 3: Good Health and Well-being
  • GOAL 7: Affordable and Clean Energy

The Evolving Planet

The evolving planet unit focuses on the past events in the Earth’s history and the characteristics that make Earth able to sustain life. This course will develop your understanding of the planet and changing circumstances to which we as human beings continue to negatively impact the planet. The Fundisa for Change programme supports the CAPS curriculum with transformative teaching, learning and assessment processes to be able to impact the mindset of teachers and how they teach the evolving planet. This course will expand to support whole school development and the development of transformative learning environments.

Earth has had warming events before. In fact, if we look at the history of Earth, we see that the planet has experienced many different climates in the past. We can also pick out five major extinction events in the Earth’s history, some of which appear to be associated with climate changes whether they be cooling or warming events. What is evident though is that these ‘events’ took place over very long periods of time, sometimes millions of years.

Indigenous Knowledge: To face the abovementioned challenges, indigenous peoples mobilize their in-depth knowledge of the territories that have been the source of their livelihoods for generations. Indigenous knowledge thus makes an important contribution to climate change policy, and SDG 13 on climate action; by observing changing climates, adapting to impacts and contributing to global mitigation efforts.

Ethics: Climate change has been described as a “perfect moral storm” because it brings together three major challenges to ethical action in a mutually reinforcing way. The first challenge stems from the fact that climate change is a truly global phenomenon. Once emitted, greenhouse gas emissions can have climate effects anywhere on the planet, regardless of their source (IPCC 2007). There are skewed vulnerabilities: at least in the short- to medium-term, many of the most vulnerable countries and people are those who have emitted the least historically, and whose emissions levels continue to be relatively low.

Paleoclimatology becomes important to study climate trends. This not only includes the collection of evidence of past climate conditions, but the investigation of the climate processes underlying these conditions. Climatic records made by humans only go back to 150 years. Scientists therefore have to depend on “proxy” sources or paleoclimatic records from glaciers, trees and sediments.

Concerns: Paleoclimatology shows that the planet is warming up faster than ever because of the vast amount of greenhouse gases that humans are pumping into the atmosphere. This includes activities such as burning fossil fuels (coal, oil and gas), driving cars and cutting down forests. Many of us have seen – and even experienced – the effects of climate change.

Click and watch the video below: On Transformative learning in the Anthropocene by Prof. Lotz-Sisitka

Activity 1

The graph below shows extinct species.

Image: Invasive predators and global biodiversity loss. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2016)

Research Activity: The graph above extinct species

Graph Activity

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