IB ESS Extended Essay Topic Ideas

Environmental Systems and Societies

As a seasoned IB writer, I’ve seen firsthand how a well-chosen extended essay topic can impact a student’s academic writing. The IB Environmental Systems and Societies (ESS) essay is a unique opportunity to investigate issues at the intersection of natural systems and human societies. From my experience, launching your essay with a solid topic is crucial for success.

What Is IB Environmental Systems and Societies?

IB Environmental Systems and Societies (ESS) is a unique interdisciplinary course offered within the IB Diploma Programme. It is designed for students to research the complex and dynamic relationships between environmental systems and societies, combining the sciences and humanities elements to promote a holistic understanding of environmental issues. 

The ESS course covers a wide range of topics that reflect the interdisciplinary nature of the subject. These include:

  • Ecosystems and ecology.
  • Natural cycles and resources.
  • Human populations, carrying capacity, and resource use.
  • Environmental value systems.
  • Environmental impact assessments.

ESS is distinctive because it integrates methodologies from both the sciences and the humanities. This approach allows students to research the scientific aspects of environmental systems (like ecology, climate change, and conservation) alongside societal impacts and responses (such as ethics, policy, and economics). The goal is to promote understanding of how scientific and human contexts interact and influence one another.

IB ESS Extended Essay Topics and Research Questions

IB Environmental Systems and Societies offers students a unique opportunity to research and engage with the world’s most pressing environmental issues:

  1. Urban Heat Islands in Tokyo. How do urban heat islands affect local climate conditions and community health in Tokyo, Japan?
  2. Plastic Pollution in the Caribbean Sea. How does plastic waste impact marine biodiversity in the Caribbean Sea?
  3. Water Resource Management in California. How effectively are California’s water resource management strategies addressing the state’s water scarcity issues?
  4. Renewable Energy Adoption in Sub-Saharan Africa. What are the social and environmental impacts of adopting solar energy in rural areas of Sub-Saharan Africa?
  5. Deforestation Effects in the Amazon Rainforest. How has deforestation in the Amazon Rainforest impacted local ecosystems and the indigenous populations?
  6. Air Quality and Public Health in Beijing. How does air quality in Beijing correlate with public health outcomes among its urban populations?
  7. Sustainable Agriculture Practices in India. How effective are traditional sustainable agriculture practices in improving rural India’s soil health and crop yields?
  8. Impact of Ecotourism in Costa Rica. What are the positive and negative environmental impacts of ecotourism in Costa Rica?
  9. Waste Management Systems in Sweden. How have Sweden’s innovative waste management policies affected reduction and recycling rates?
  10. Coral Reef Degradation in the Great Barrier Reef. What are the primary factors contributing to coral reef degradation in the Great Barrier Reef?
  11. Green Building Benefits in Vancouver. What are the environmental and economic benefits of green building practices in Vancouver, Canada?
  12. Environmental Impacts of Consumerism in the United States. What are the environmental impacts of increased consumerism in the United States?
  13. Biodiversity in Urban Settings of New York City. How does urban biodiversity contribute to ecological sustainability in New York City?
  14. Pesticides and Pollinators in California’s Central Valley. What has pesticide use’s impact on pollinator populations in California’s Central Valley?
  15. Climate Change and Migration in the Maldives. How is climate change influencing migration patterns in the Maldives?
  16. Coastal Erosion in the Maldives. How is coastal erosion impacting the physical and economic landscape of the Maldives?
  17. Air Pollution Control in Mexico City. What have been the most effective strategies for controlling air pollution in Mexico City, and how have they impacted public health?
  18. Water Conservation Techniques in Israel. What are Israel’s most effective water conservation techniques, and how have they contributed to agricultural sustainability?
  19. The Effects of Urban Sprawl in Atlanta. How has urban sprawl in Atlanta affected local biodiversity and the prevalence of urban green spaces?
  20. Oil Spills and Their Impact on Alaskan Wildlife. What are the long-term environmental impacts of oil spills on wildlife in Alaska?
  21. Renewable Energy Policy in Germany. How have renewable energy policies in Germany affected the country’s carbon footprint and energy security?
  22. Deforestation and Climate Change in Indonesia. How is deforestation contributing to climate change and habitat loss in Indonesia?
  23. Sustainable Fishing Practices in Japan. How effective are Japan’s sustainable fishing practices in preserving marine biodiversity?
  24. Impact of Drought on Agricultural Practices in California. What impact has the recent drought had on California’s agricultural practices and water usage?
  25. Environmental Policy Effectiveness in the European Union. How effectively have the European Union’s environmental policies reduced industrial pollution?
  26. Ecological Restoration Efforts in the Florida Everglades. What have been the outcomes of ecological restoration efforts in the Florida Everglades?
  27. Impact of Tourism on Coral Reefs in Egypt. What impact has tourism had on the health and sustainability of coral reefs in Egypt?
  28. Green Urban Planning in Singapore. How has green urban planning contributed to environmental sustainability in Singapore?
  29. Effects of Agricultural Runoff in the Mississippi River. How does agricultural runoff affect water quality and aquatic life in the Mississippi River?
  30. Urban Waste Management and Recycling in Seoul. How effective are Seoul’s waste management and recycling programs in managing solid waste?
  31. The Impact of Solar Farms on Desert Ecosystems in Nevada. How do large-scale solar farms in Nevada impact the local desert ecosystems and biodiversity?
  32. Sustainable Urban Development in Copenhagen. How has Copenhagen’s approach to sustainable urban development influenced its environmental footprint and quality of urban life?
  33. Acid Rain Effects on Forests in the Northeastern United States. How does acid rain affect forest ecosystems in the northeastern United States, particularly focusing on soil chemistry and tree health?
  34. The Role of Indigenous Knowledge in Managing Australia’s Bushfires. How can indigenous knowledge systems contribute to managing and preventing bushfires in Australia?
  35. Impact of Plastic Bag Bans in Kenya. What environmental and social impacts have resulted from implementing plastic bag bans in Kenya?
  36. Impact of Renewable Energy on Rural Economies in India. How has the introduction of renewable energy projects transformed rural economies in India?
  37. Conservation Strategies for the Siberian Tiger. What conservation strategies have been most effective in increasing the population of the Siberian tiger?
  38. The Effect of Urbanization on Local Bird Species in London. How has urbanization in London affected the diversity and population of local bird species?
  39. Water Quality and Public Health in the Ganges River Basin. How does water pollution in the Ganges River basin impact public health in surrounding communities?
  40. Carbon Sequestration Potential of Tropical Rainforests. What role do tropical rainforests play in carbon sequestration, and how can this contribute to global climate change mitigation?
  41. The Economics of Recycling in the European Union. What are the economic benefits and challenges of recycling programs in the European Union?
  42. The Role of Wetlands in Natural Disaster Mitigation. How do wetlands contribute to natural disaster mitigation, particularly for flood control?
  43. Impact of Agricultural Pesticides on Groundwater Quality. How do agricultural pesticides impact groundwater quality in the Midwest United States?
  44. Noise Pollution and Cardiovascular Diseases in Urban Areas. Is there a correlation between noise pollution in urban areas and the incidence of cardiovascular diseases?
  45. The Sustainability of Biofuel Production in Brazil. How sustainable is biofuel production in Brazil, considering environmental and social impacts?
  46. Wildlife Conservation Efforts in the Serengeti. What are the key factors determining the success of wildlife conservation efforts in the Serengeti?
  47. The Impact of Climate Change on Small Island Developing States. How does climate change affect Small Island Developing States’ economic and environmental stability?
  48. The Influence of Public Policies on Urban Air Quality. How have public policies influenced urban air quality improvements in Tokyo?
  49. Effects of Overfishing in the Mediterranean Sea. What are the ecological and economic impacts of overfishing in the Mediterranean Sea?
  50. The Environmental Cost of Cryptocurrency Mining. What environmental costs are associated with cryptocurrency mining, particularly regarding energy consumption?
  51. The Role of Green Spaces in Mental Health in Cities. How do urban green spaces influence mental health outcomes among city dwellers?
  52. Impact of Fast Fashion on Water Resources. What is the impact of the fast fashion industry on global water resources?
  53. The Effectiveness of Marine Protected Areas in the Philippines. How effective are marine protected areas in preserving marine biodiversity in the Philippines?
  54. Urban Farming and Food Security in New York City. How does urban farming contribute to food security in New York City?
  55. The Impact of Electric Vehicles on Urban Air Quality. What has been the impact of increasing electric vehicle usage on urban air quality in California?

These topics provide a rich context for detailed investigation, ensuring the research is grounded in real-world settings and issues.

IB ESS Extended Essay Topic Ideas

How to Choose Your IB ESS Extended Essay Topic

Here, we will walk through how to pick a promising IB ESS Extended Essay topic that interests you and meets the IB criteria.

1. Understand the Subject’s Scope

First, familiarize yourself with the specific requirements and scope of the IB ESS course. This interdisciplinary subject combines elements of ecology, environmental science, and sociology, examining the dynamic interactions between human systems and natural environments. Understanding the breadth and depth of the subject will help you identify areas that particularly interest you and align with the course goals.

2. Reflect on Your Interests and Passions

Reflect on what aspects of environmental systems and societies truly capture your interest. Is it the scientific analysis of ecosystems, the socio-economic factors influencing environmental policies, or perhaps the ethical considerations of environmental management? Identifying a topic that intrigues you is vital, as it will keep you motivated throughout the research and writing process.

3. Consider the Feasibility and Resources

Evaluate the feasibility of your potential topics. It involves considering the availability of primary and secondary sources and data. For example, if you choose a highly specific topic like “The impact of microplastic pollution on coral reefs in Bali,” ensure that you can access the necessary scientific studies, databases, or fieldwork opportunities. Similarly, if your topic requires interviews or surveys, consider your ability to access relevant communities or experts.

4. Consult with Your Supervisor

Your IB ESS teacher or supervisor can offer invaluable advice on your topic choice. They can provide insights into the complexity and depth required for an extended essay, suggest resources, and help refine your topic to ensure it meets IB criteria. Make sure to approach them with a few ideas so they can guide you on which one might be the most successful.

5. Scope Out Originality and Personal Angle

Try to find a unique angle or personal perspective on a well-trodden topic. Originality can come from taking a conventional subject and asking a new question or integrating case studies or data that have not been widely analyzed. This approach makes your essay stand out and makes the research process more engaging.

6. Align Your Topic with IB ESS Themes

Ensure that your topic aligns with the themes and learning outcomes of the IB ESS course. Topics should be interdisciplinary to some extent, incorporating both environmental and societal aspects. For instance, researching how a local policy on waste management has influenced recycling behaviors and impacted local ecosystems could be a robust topic that integrates societal practices and environmental outcomes.

7. Draft a Preliminary Research Question

Once you have a topic in mind, formulate a preliminary research question. It will help you focus your thoughts and research. The question should be specific enough to be answerable within the essay’s word count but broad enough for comprehensive analysis and discussion.

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So, are you ready to start your research? Use your school’s resources, talk to your advisers about your ideas, and dig into a topic that interests and challenges you. Choosing an appropriate topic is the first step in writing an impressive and insightful Extended Essay. Also, our IB experts are always by your side if you need help with Extended Essay writing.