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The following diagram (which we used in the Grade 7 History lesson Just imagine …) shows that our environment

consists of interacting natural and social systems. People depend on natural ecosystems for survival, and in turn people and our cultural, political and economic systems and practices have an impact on the environment.

Power, policy and decisions

People living together

Jobs and money

Living things and life support systems

O’Donoghue, R and Janse van Rensburg, E. 1995. Environments and Methods. Share-Net, Howick

This model helps us to see that, if we want to understand environmental and development issues, we need to consider

them in terms of their ecological, social, political and economic causes and effects. The Issue Analysis Tree helps us to do this.



Draw a “tree trunk” in the middle of a piece of paper or on the chalk board. Write the title of your issue on the trunk. In this example it is: The degradation of the natural environment. Think about the ecological (biological, physical), social, economic and political causes of the issue. The learners write their ideas on strips of paper, which will become the “roots” of the tree. They may find some of the causes listed in the newspaper article, but may think of other ideas during their discussions.



Then think about the biological, physical, social, economic and political effects of this issue. Once again write your

i d e a s o n s t r i p s o f p a p e r . T h e s e b e c o m e t h e b r a n c h e s .


Once you have analysed the causes and effects of the issue, you will have a much deeper understanding of what it might take to address the issue. Will you take “radical” steps – like pulling the tree out by the roots? Or will you “feed the soil” and help the tree to recover, flourish and bear fruit?


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