1.1.1 Nutrition and health

Climate change aligns with the following suggested themes in the Life Orientation senior and TVET phases. However, this sub-topic or theme can also be utilised for other core themes, even in other subjects.

Turbulent times since 2021 with the Covid pandemic have led to our educational systems and thus our teachers being confronted by unexpected, transitioning challenges. Globally, including in South Africa, there has been widening food insecurity, poverty and lack of climate adaptation and resilience competencies for ‘deep adaptation’. The IPPC (2019) report outlines that the challenge for users of climate information, such as teachers, is to determine how to incorporate climate change information into various methods and tools that can support operational climate adaptation plans and inform communities.

Bendell (2022) notes that community education for climate deep adaptation is essential to ensure that people require competencies to adapt to social-ecological changes, including those emerging in these times of climate change. He highlights three guiding principles, namely resilience, relinquishment and restoration. These principles can prepare the next generations to transition to disruptive events that are likely to include pandemics, food shortages, resource scarcity and other future crises as we face unavoidable changes within our climate and social systems in the decades to come.

The following questions are questions that you might ask your teacher students to answer when preparing a Life Orientation lesson to engage with climate change or, if you are a teacher, questions that you need to consider when preparing your lesson plan.

  • How can you include nutrition, well-being in sustainable living and well-being in sustainable livelihood in your lesson by engaging with climate change topics, including building resilience and adaptation to climate change?

  • Do you think teaching learners how to grow their own food is relevant to your Life Orientation lessons?

  • How do you think you can use nutrition and food security topics to engage with climate change alongside your learners?

  • Does your school or higher educational institution have a food garden?

  • Do you think developing a food garden with your learners can help them obtain skills required for climate change adaptation and resilience and transfer these skills to their community?

  • How can one change the relationship between learners and food to think of food as part of the system to nourish them and keep them healthy?

The key concepts of climate change

The reality is that many South Africans do not have access to nutritional food, and many children rely on the School Food Feeding schemes for their daily dietary meals. As teachers and teacher educators, we need to teach our learners the importance of nutrition and empower them to create their own gardens at school and home. Stolz (2021) reported that in South Africa, one in four children under the age of five is stunted; on the other side of the scale, one in eight is overweight. She also reported that severe acute malnutrition is one of the three leading causes of child deaths in South Africa. Data indicates that the number of stunted and overweight children is increasing (Stolz, 2021).

The WHO dietary recommendations include the following:

  • achieve energy balance and a healthy weight
  • limit energy intake from total fats and shift fat consumption away from saturated fats to unsaturated fats and towards the elimination of trans-fatty acids
  • increase consumption of fruits and vegetables, legumes, whole grains and nuts
  • limit the intake of free sugars
  • limit salt (sodium) consumption from all sources and ensure that salt is iodised (WHO, 2022).

It is also important to note that various factors influence the choices of personal diets. These factors include Individual preferences, Cultural preferences, Social, Religious, Economical, Political, and Ecological influences. Climate change is also an influence emerging more prominently in the last few years. The increases in global mean temperature will result in the continued increase in global vegetation loss, decreased food stability, decreased access to food and nutrition and water scarcity that will affect food production (IPCC, 2019).

Ethics of Care

Ethical care is Personal Diet and Nutrition Topic engaging with climate change:

  • Self, family and community dietary health and
  • resilience and adaptation to climate change
  • Stabilising community food systems.

UNESCO adopted a Declaration of Ethical Principles concerning climate change in November 2017. UNESCO understood that ethics constitute the substantial core of any commitment. As a mobilising force, ethics can steer action, facilitate arbitration, resolve conflicting interests, and establish priorities. Ethics have the capacity to connect theory with practice, general principles with political will, and global awareness with local actions.

UNESCO adopted a declaration based on six climate change ethical principles:

  • Prevention of harm: To better anticipate the consequences of climate change and implement responsible and effective policies to mitigate and adapt to climate change, including through low greenhouse gas emissions development and initiatives to foster climate resilience.
  • Precautionary approach: Do not postpone the adoption of measures to prevent or mitigate the adverse effects of climate change on the grounds of a lack of definitive scientific evidence.
  • Equity and justice: Respond to climate change in a way that benefits all, in a spirit of justice and equity. Allow those unjustly affected by climate change (due to insufficient measures or inadequate policies) to access judicial and administrative proceedings, including redress and remedy.
  • Sustainable development: Adopt new paths for development that make it possible to sustainably preserve our ecosystems while building a more just and responsible society that is more resilient to climate change. Special attention must be paid to areas where the humanitarian consequences of climate change can be dramatic, such as food, energy, water insecurity, the oceans, desertification, land degradation and natural disasters.
  • Solidarity: Support, individually and collectively, the people and groups most vulnerable to climate change and natural disasters, particularly in the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and Small Island Developing States (SIDS). Strengthen timely co-operative action in various areas, including technology development and transfer, knowledge-sharing and capacity-building.
  • Scientific knowledge and integrity in decision-making: Strengthen the interface between science and policy to optimally aid decision-making and implement relevant long-term strategies, including risk prediction. Promote the independence of science and widely disseminate its findings to as many people as possible for the benefit of all. (UNESCO, 2022).

ESD: Ethics of Care

This next video provides more specific details about ethics-led learning in Life Orientation teaching.

Matters of Concern

  • How do we find a solution to hunger and malnutrition in our communities?
  • What competencies and values do our learners need to require to support food security and nutritional stability in their communities?

Risk assessment:

A key challenge alongside the symptoms of climate change, including malnutrition and food insecurity, is evaluative action-learning for transitioning to future sustainability. A strong foundation of climate change knowledge is essential and capacity building initiatives should be the highest priority. In order to build the resilience of our communities, we need curriculum processes centred on learning to change in difficult times so that communities can assess risks and implement priority adaptations. Other concerns are that children do not know how to grow their food, and these skills are increasingly important to ensure current food security and encourage an interest in growing their own food. Growing food can also create new entrepreneurial opportunities for learners or provide some additional pocket money.

By focusing on developing a sustainable food supply and food consumption, based on nutritionally balanced and diverse diets, South African communities can enhance food security under climate and socio-economic changes (IPCC, 2019).

Teach learners about the importance of nutrition and how to uphold a healthy lifestyle to increase their resilience to diseases and even stress (IPCC, 2019). Capacitate learners to grow food for themselves and their families. Encourage learners to think sustainably and prepare them for the future challenges of climate change.