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School of Environment, Education and Development

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BA Geography with International Study

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

BA Geography with International Study / Course details

Year of entry: 2018

Course unit details:
Environment and development

Unit code MGDI31212
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by Global Development Institute
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


The course will investigate the evolution of ‘mainstream’ development thinking centred on industrialisation and modernisation, and the growth of environmental critiques, culminating in international consensus of ‘sustainable development’. A critical approach to environmental arguments will be developed drawing on the literature on ‘political ecology’ to problematize the role of knowledge and power in establishing environmental goals. This conceptual framework will then be applied to a number of specific instances of policy debates over natural resource use.  


  • To provide a critical review of the origins and evolution of concepts of ‘development’ and environmentalism, and the emergence of ideas of ‘sustainable development’.
  • To explore relationships between environmental and development thinking using insights from ‘political ecology’
  • To explore the nature of environmental critiques of ‘development’ and debates about their validity
  • To analyse specific policy debates and controversies over natural resource use and its consequences.

Learning outcomes

By the end of this course unit you should:

  • Be able to demonstrate an understanding of the principle theories of development and the influence that environmental thinking has had on each.
  • Be able to demonstrate familiarity with critical approaches to environmental agendas using arguments drawn from ‘political ecology’
  • Be able to use specific policy debates about natural resource management to illustrate conceptual arguments about the role of environmental thinking in development agendas.


The week-by-week timetable for the course will be:

Week 1: Introduction/course overview – the roots of environmentalism and ‘development’

Week 2: The politics of the environment and development – towards a ‘Political Ecology’

Week 3: Limits to growth? Global environmental change and environmental science.

Week 4: Limits to science? The myth of the advancing desert.

Week 5: Limits to institutions? community-based natural resource management

Week 6: Debating (over)population

Week 7: Debating food security: agriculture and the land grab

Week 8: Debating big capital: social responsibility in mineral extraction

Week 9: Debating climate change mitigation: energy generation vs carbon sequestration

Week 10: Debating biodiversity: Parks against the people?

Week 11: (Re)conceptualizing environment and development

Week 12: Revision


Teaching and learning methods

The course unit will be delivered via a two-hour weekly lecture class and a one hour tutorial.  Reading prior to lectures and completion of preparatory work for the tutorial exercise is compulsory.


All materials relating to the course will be available on blackboard.

Transferable skills and personal qualities

During this course unit, you will be encouraged to develop the following abilities and skills:

  • Critical thinking in relation to empirical evidence and theoretical arguments developed and utilized by geographers and other social scientists
  • Write and talk about key issues relating environmental and social change in an articulate, structured, reasoned and informed way
  • Be introduced to ideas, practices and case studies that will be relevant to a diverse range of career opportunities that includes: environmental management, development and environmental policy and advocacy work.

Assessment methods

There will be unseen 2 hour examination at the end of the course (67%), as well as an individual piece of coursework (33%, 3000 word essay).

Feedback methods

Feedback will be provided in the following ways during this course unit:

  • extensive verbal feedback through Q&A, discussion and interactive activities within lectures;
  • verbal feedback on any course unit issue through consultation hours;
  • verbal feedback on exam performance through personal tutorials;
  • detailed written feedback on the coursework assignment.

Recommended reading

Forsyth, T. 2003. Critical Political Ecology Routledge

Robbins, P.  2011. Political Ecology (2nd edn), Wiley-Blackwell.

Watts, M. Peet, R. and Robbins, P. 2010 Global Political Ecology Taylor and Francis



Key Journals

Geoforum, Global Environmental Change, Journal of Peasant Studies, World Development, Development and Change, Journal of Development Studies

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Assessment written exam 2
Lectures 20
Seminars 10
Independent study hours
Independent study 168

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Tomas Frederiksen Unit coordinator

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