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Habitable Planet Workshop

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Pietermaritzburg, South Africa

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Dean and Head of the School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences (SAEES), Professor Albert Modi, addressed a multidisciplinary group of students from all over South Africa at the 17th Habitable Planet Workshop on the Westville campus of UKZN.

The Applied Centre for Climate and Earth System Science (ACCESS) hosted the workshop in partnership with UKZN and the University of Zululand.

ACCESS is a consortium of agencies, research councils, programmes, groups and universities combining efforts to deliver various outputs aligned to the Department of Science and Technology’s (DST) Global Change Grand Challenge (GCGC). This involves integrated research and education, services and training outputs and outcomes related to the opportunities and challenges emanating from a varying and changing environment - collectively referred to as Earth Systems Science.

The focus of the workshop was the evolution of Earth’s diversity of flora and fauna and the conditions required to maintain these favourable environments, including environmental interactions that need to be taken into consideration. The course also emphasised past and present relationships between humans and the environment to assess the impact that future global warming and climate change could have.

Using a range of exercises, lectures and excursions, the workshop explored what makes Earth habitable and exposed students to the range of masters degree courses and career choices available in the field of Earth System Science.

Modi’s lecture, titled: “Tracing our Path Back into a Sustainable Future – an Agricultural Science Perspective”, received positive feedback from the workshop organiser, Dr Carl Palmer, a member of ACCESS from the University of Cape Town.

Palmer sad the lecture was a good introduction, covering all the basic, applied and social science aspects of the course.

The presentation was used as a reference for the students participating in the week-long workshop with many participants indicating they found the lecture very informative. There were numerous inquiries about postgraduate studies in the SAEES Disciplines and/or the possibility of collaborating with Modi in community outreach projects.

A student, Ms Refilwe Mofokeng, who has just started a food garden project for primary schools in KwaZulu-Natal, thanked Modi for what she described as a very informative, dynamic and inspiring presentation. Her project, #GetInvolved, aims to establish food gardens in schools, to educate learners about nutrition and the importance of their own health, as well as teach them about recycling, science and assist with donations of school jerseys for winter. The project emphasises the use of skills and knowledge to contribute to the upliftment of these schools.

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