2.1 Know your subject: Climate change, environmental and social responsibility

In this unit, we explore the matters of concern relating to Topic 2: Climate change, environment and social responsibility. In this topic, we will explore different sub-topic matters of concern and how to apply the curriculum-activated Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) process. The goal is to apply an iterative solution-orientated learning-led change approach to engage with climate change in your Life Orientation class so that the learners feel part of the solution and take up climate change as part of their world within their communities. Tables 1 and 2 list the Curriculum Assessment Policy Statements for Topic 2, including the outline of the sub-topics for Senior and FET phases.

The course aims to support you as a teacher, teacher educator, student or interested reader to

  • Strengthen your subject content knowledge of climate change
  • Enhance your teaching practices
  • Support your assessment practices

Table 1: Life Orientation content of Topic 2 as outlined by the CAPS document for the Senior phase

Table 2: Life Orientation content of Topic 2 as outlined by the CAPS document for the FET phase

Unit Objectives

  • Identify matters of concern in Life Orientation’s CAPS aligned Topic 2: Climate change, environmental and social responsibility.

  • Explore ways to uptake climate change as an abstract concept to a real-life matter of concern in the learner’s context using the solution-orientated process of the learning-led change approach.

  • • To understand Life Orientation’s subject, knowledge competencies and values to enable learners to understand their environmental and social responsibilities related to building resilience to climate change within their communities.

  • To link the learner’s sense of environmental and social responsibilities related to climate change and their role within their communities as part of the social-ecological natural world.

What is an ecological footprint?
An ecological footprint is a measure of human demand on the earth’s ecosystems. It compares human demand with planet earth’s ecological capacity to regenerate. It represents the amount of land and ocean area needed to regenerate the resources a human population consumes and to absorb and render harmless the corresponding waste. An ecological footprint estimates the amount of land and ocean area required to sustain an individual’s consumption pattern and waste on an annual basis (MMSB, 2017).

What is environmental responsibility?
Environmental responsibility is our duty to protect and improve our environment. An environmentally responsible individual, industry, community, or government assesses their environmental sustainability and applies this knowledge to their decision-making. When making decisions, we should always practise the precautionary principle to ensure that our actions do not have negative impacts on the environment. Using the “precautionary principle” when the environmental impact is uncertain, means that we take action to avoid any negative impacts, even if there is no proof that there will be a negative outcome caused by our action (MMSB, 2017).

There are four different levels of environmental responsibility: individual community, industry and government.

  • Individual
    • As individuals, the choices we make every day can have a great impact on the earth. If we rethink our actions, we can reduce our environmental impact.
    • Reduce waste – Reduce, reuse, recycle, compost, and be a responsible consumer.
    • Conserve energy – Turn off lights and computers, install energy-saving devices, or wash laundry in cold water.
    • Conserve water – Limit shower times, run dishwashers only when full, keep a pitcher of cool water in the fridge rather than running the tap, or repair leaky faucets.
    • Properly dispose of items – Use household hazardous waste (HHW) collection facilities, recycle, or donate unwanted items.
    • Get involved – Start or join an environmental club (at school or in the community).
    • Educate – Educate yourself and others, and help to spread the word on environmental issues.
  • Community
    • Community leaders have the ability to influence residents and businesses and reduce the community’s overall environmental impact by providing environmentally responsible services and educational programmes.
    • Waste management – Curb side recycling or drop-off facilities, community compost sites, engineered landfill sites, hazardous waste, and electronic waste collection facilities.
    • Water conservation – Regulations, tips, incentives, and fines.
    • Community greening projects – Composting programmes, beautification projects, community vegetable gardens, and litter collection.
    • Educational programmess – Provide residents with education on conservation, waste reduction, recycling programs, and local environmental issues.
  • Industry
    • Industries have the ability to sustainably manage operations, meet or exceed government environmental regulations and standards, become corporate eco-citizens, and promote positive environmental change.
    • Meet environmental standards – Conduct Environmental Impact Assessments, join the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO), or get LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification.
    • Go green at work – Start or support a Green Team, develop a green procurement policy, initiate a waste audit, or promote waste reduction and water and energy conservation.
    • Support communities – Provide financial and in-kind support to local environmental initiatives or initiate community partnerships.
    • Manage resources responsibly – Practise the precautionary principle, mitigate impacts, and implement sustainable practices for harvesting of timber, marine and other resources.
  • Government
    • Governments have the ability to create and enforce environmental legislation and influence all other levels (individuals, communities, and industries) to reduce their environmental impact.
    • Environmental conservation – Protect habitat and species, practise the precautionary principle and mitigate negative environmental impacts.
    • Natural resource management – Research sustainable practices and implement the most environmentally­ sound options for harvesting of timber, marine and other resources.
    • Policies and regulations – Develop, implement and enforce policies and regulations on waste management and water and energy conservation.
    • Community involvement – Support communities, businesses and NGOs (non- governmental organisations).
    • Alternative energy – Research and implement programmes to harness wind and solar energy.
    • Education – Participate in and support research and education, attend environmental conferences, communicate environmental agendas and information to staff, work with Government departments, and publish research and results (MMSB, 2017)
  1. Divide students into four groups. Assign each group a different level of environmental responsibility (individual, community, industry and government. Provide the student or learner with examples of individuals, communities, industries, and governments to facilitate role-playing.
  2. Ask your students or learners to brainstorm with their group members and discuss examples of environmental responsibilities that apply to their assigned level. Provide the class with 10 minutes for a group discussion, allowing enough time to discuss examples from all four levels of environmental responsibility. Explain to the students or learners that they should include waste reduction, energy conservation, water conservation, carbon emission reduction and climate change.
  3. After the group has discussed their ideas, each group to share their ideas with the rest of the class. Lead a class discussion for each specific level of responsibility, inviting the remaining groups to get involved with the conversation and share their ideas.