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School of Environment, Education and Development

Student in The Atrium at The University of Manchester
BA Geography

Study a course tailored to you at the university ranked fourth in the UK for Geography (Guardian University Guide).

BA Geography / Course details

Year of entry: 2018

Course unit details:
Environment, Society and Space

Unit code GEOG10172
Credit rating 10
Unit level Level 1
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by School of Environment, Education and Development
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


Human understanding of the environment is conventionally portrayed as objective and based on the steady accumulation of scientific knowledge. Whilst ecological science has played a fundamental role in the evolution of environmental thinking and human development, this course will demonstrate that society’s relationship with the physical world is also shaped by broader cultural, political and economic factors. Far from being fixed, what we regard as ‘the environment’ has dramatically shifted over time as a consequence of scientific and social change. Drawing on a range of case studies of contemporary environmental issues, including global warming, biodiversity, fracking, conservation, renewables, water supply, eco-cities and geo-engineering, this course will reveal how the environment has been a site of ongoing contestation and debate. Key themes such as sustainable development, green consumerism and ecological resilience will be examined to understand how environmental thinking has been mainstreamed and integrated into everyday life. The course will consider the past and future role of geographical research in analysing, explaining and modifying the relationship between environment and society, profoundly altering our sense of place and belonging in the world.


  • Identify the key theoretical frameworks through which the relationship between environment and society has been understood
  • Examine how environmental thinking has evolved as a result of both scientific knowledge and broader social, economic and political processes
  • Demonstrate that environmental thinking has been increasingly mainstreamed and integrated in everyday social life
  • Discuss how understandings of the environment have altered humans’ sense of place and belonging in the world
  • Reflect critically upon the role of geographical knowledge in understanding and shaping the relationship between the environment and society

Learning outcomes

  • Demonstrate familiarity with the key theories and models that have contributed to geographical knowledge on environment and society relations
  • Show understanding of a range of contemporary environmental problems and controversies in a variety of geographical contexts
  • Understand the importance of historical and geographical context in scientific knowledge production
  • Gain awareness of the cultural, political and economic influences on environmental thinking
  • Critically reflect on the role of geography in contributing to social and environmental change



1.       Introduction: environment and society

2.       Emergence of the environment

3.       Green politics and ecology

4.       The compromise of sustainable development

5.       Governing the commons

6.       Study week I

7.       Ecological modernisation and green growth

8.       Resilience, participation and local knowledge

9.       Study week II

10.   Urban sustainability and the city

11.   Green consumerism and environmental lifestyles

12.   Revision session and conclusion


Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • Critical thinking and evaluation skills
  • Organisational skills and independent learning
  • Writing and data collection skills
  • Ability to interpret and assess contemporary real world problems 
  • Awareness of politics and policy implications of academic knowledge

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Written exam 100%

Recommended reading

Adams, W. M. (2009) Green development: environment and sustainability in the developing world. Third edition. London, Routledge.
Castree, N. (2013) Making sense of nature. London, Routledge.
Castree, N. et al. (2009) A companion to environmental geography. Oxford, Wiley-Blackwell.
Forsyth, T. (2003) Critical political ecology. London, Routledge.
Robbins, P. et al. (2014) Environment and Society: A critical introduction. Second edition. Oxford, Wiley-Blackwell.
Whitehead, M. (2007) Geographies of sustainability: geographical perspectives on the sustainable society. London, Routledge.
Key journals
Annals of the American Association of Geographers; Antipode; Dialogues in Human Geography; Ecology and Society; Environment and Planning A, C and D; Geoforum; Global Environmental Change; International Journal of Urban and Regional Research; Progress in Human Geography; Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 20
Independent study hours
Independent study 80

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Mark Usher Unit coordinator

Additional notes

Geography students have study weeks on weeks 6 and 9

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