IDM092-Global Environmental Change and Development

Module Provider: School of Agriculture, Policy and Development
Number of credits: 20 [10 ECTS credits]
Terms in which taught: Autumn / Spring term module
Non-modular pre-requisites:
Modules excluded: IDM091 Global Environmental Change and Development
Module version for: 2017/8

Module Convenor: Dr Andrew Ainslie


Summary module description:

The purpose of this module is (i) to critically examine the theories and concepts that link Global Environmental Change and development and (ii) to use these conceptual models and tools to better understand specific environmental dilemmas and trade-offs through examining particular case-studies. The module provides a comprehensive overview of the major environmental and interrelated social problems plaguing the planet in the twenty-first century and specifically in the ‘developing’ world, and examines the principal institutions and actors implicated in various ways in these problems. Lectures explore how these challenges have been theorised, interpreted and addressed, and what counts as success and failure and to whom, . The aim is to equip students with the requisite conceptual and analytical skills and evidence-based material to be able to understand the links and trade-offs between development, poverty and the changing global environment.

By exploring in-depth, empirical and case-study-based analyses of topical issues in the area of Global Environmental Change and development during the Spring semester, the module takes the conceptual learning into the ‘real world’. It sets out key, inter-related environmental problems in converging ‘developing’ and ‘developed’ country contexts and critiques the range of policy responses to these challenges. Guest lecturers build further upon the theoretical and conceptual groundwork laid in the Autumn semester, drawing upon their specialist research experience to illustrate how environment-development challenges are being tackled in practice. 

The module covers a wide geographical, historical, and thematic scope, with case-study examples, readings, discussions and exercises that address current issues and tools central to understanding, assessing and addressing both promising and sub-optimal environment and development outcomes.


To encourage and foster in students the ability and confidence to:

• develop robust, well-informed and evidence-based critiques of key theories and conceptual frameworks that relate to environmental theorising, management and evaluation within a developing world context,

• critically appraise how environmental concerns are conceptualised in a range of settings in both the  Majority World and the Global North, 

• examine the roles played by different institutions, actors and stakeholders in the inter-related fields of environment and development

• apply their critical reasoning skills to researching cross-cutting issues relating to global environmental change, including the ability to analyse, evaluate and synthesise complex and multi-layered processes and phenomena.

• construct and explore detailed case study-based analyses of environmental problems in selected Majority World and the Global North country contexts

• generate critical analyses of policy and programmatic responses to environmental challenges

Assessable learning outcomes:

By the end of the module students should be able to:

1. Identify, evaluate and synthesise information and knowledge drawn from a range of disciplinary and interdisciplinary perspectives

2. Generate critical, theoretically-informed perspectives on topical issues in environment and development in converging global (developed/developing country), regional and local contexts

3. Develop and articulate rigorous, robust yet balanced arguments on how key stakeholders, including states, multilateral/bilateral organisations, the private sector, non-governmental organisations and civil society influence the Environment and Development agenda in specific countries and globally

4. Synthesise and critically appraise the relationships between global environmental change and development, with particular regard to their inter-relationships, in specific case-study areas.

Additional outcomes:

Students will utilise and hone the following skills:

• communicate their findings and conclusions clearly and coherently in (essay) writing and in presentations to academic staff and their peers

• engage in critical discussion of other people’s ideas and presentations

• demonstrate good academic practice in use, citation and referencing of source material

• use appropriate bibliographic sources and search tools to identify and evaluate literature relevant to a given topic

• engage in group work, thereby learning about their own knowledge acquisition and transmission strategies and about fostering co-operative, peer-to-peer learning techniques

• peer and self-assessment

Outline content:

(as several of these classes are offered by guest lecturers whose availability for 2017/18 is not yet confirmed, these topics are indicative and subject to change)

Part 1:

1. Environment and development: Wicked problems and policy challenges in the 21st century

2. Theories and conceptual framings of nature and environmental change, including the essentials of biodiversity and its conservation

3. Systems thinking in interdisciplinary contexts: conceptual models linking economic growth and development with GEC

4. The Tragedy of the Commons – understanding collective action and the global commons

5. NGOs and their impacton/in the Majority World 

6. The Role of the Private Sector in Global Environmental Change and Development

7. Urban Environmental Governance and Management

8. Trends and Transitions: demographic, health, nutrition, waste management, information

9. Extractive and regenerative industries – mining, OR agriculture, OR oil and gas

10. The Global E&D situation 30yrs from now – what use scenarios?

Part 2: 

1. Introduction: How to tackle case-study-centred research and analysis. Case-study 1: Livestock Production Systems: Environments, Livelihoods and ‘Efficiency’

2. The Renewable Energy Agenda in selected developing countries

3. Managing water resources in trans-boundary Rivers: Arenas of Conflict and Cooperation in the Indus River Basin

4. Environmental Change and Development in the Amazon Basin

5. The Politics of climate change adaptation: flooding, displacement and planned resettlement in the Lower Zambezi River valley, Mozambique

6. Class Debate: Trade-offs relating to Biodiversity Conservation on a Planetary and Local Scale – the case of Virunga National Park


7. Small-scale Gold Mining in the Amazon: Challenges for Research and Practice

8. Difficult and overlooked institutional issues in natural resource management – examples from fisheries co-management, with special reference to Bangladesh

9. Taking Environmental Management seriously in the wake of extractive industry activities

10. Bringing it all together – What are the key ingredients of a Low Carbon, ‘Transition Economy’?

Brief description of teaching and learning methods:

The module comprises a series of lectures, guest speaker seminars and external visits. In the Autumn term, lectures are taught using a diverse set of materials to illustrate theories and concepts; use is made of video clips and other media, and group discussions/seminars are centred on both academic texts and popular media. Additional individual study and extensive preparation (reading, watching assigned video clips) prior to lectures is required to ensure participation in class. Students will be expected to make individual presentations on selected topics which will be provided at the start of the module. These presentations fall outside the weekly two-hour teaching session. Wherever relevant, students are strongly encouraged to reflect and draw up-on their own prior experience and professional practice.

Spring term will be similar in format but will allow students to explore key topics in greater depth through the use of critical readings, discussions, and group-based work. Several seminars will be led by outside specialist speakers drawn variously from NGOs and the private sector, thus allowing students to gain a wider perspective on the issues being examined. Students are actively encouraged to attend seminars, guest lectures and workshops around the University and to report back on these seminars.

The information on contact hours and the split between lectures, seminars and external visits is provisional at this stage and will be confirmed at the beginning of the module.

Contact hours:
  Autumn Spring Summer
Lectures 15.5 14
Seminars 4.5 4
Demonstration 4 2
External visits 6 6
Guided independent study 70 74
Total hours by term 100.00 100.00
Total hours for module 200.00

Summative Assessment Methods:
Method Percentage
Written assignment including essay 70
Oral assessment and presentation 10
Class test administered by School 20

Other information on summative assessment:

Autumn term: 

(i) A compulsory oral presentation on the essay topic will constitute 10% of the final mark (typically to be presented around Week 5)

(ii) A 2,000 word essay with the topic selected from a list of topics to be provided by the module convenor at the start of the module. Any changes to essay topics need to be put to the module convenor in writing/email and only taken as acceptable if the module convenor confirms in writing/email. The essay counts for 40% of the final mark and is to be submitted by the last week of Autumn term

Spring term: 

(i) Class test on key concepts learned in Autumn Term. This will count 20% of the final mark. The test will be timetabled outside of the lecture time in the second week of Spring Term.

(iv) An ‘open book’ written report in class on ‘How would you approach the following issue?’ (30%) This will be timetabled to take place outside of lecture times but in the final week of Spring Term.

Formative assessment methods:

Penalties for late submission:
Penalties for late submission on this module are in accordance with the University policy. Please refer to page 5 of the Postgraduate Guide to Assessment for further information:

Length of examination:

Requirements for a pass:
Attainment of 50% mark overall.

Reassessment arrangements:
By coursework: submission of a written assignment.

Additional Costs (specified where applicable):

Specialist clothing, footwear or headgear: strong boots/Wellington boots for outdoor fieldtrips


Last updated: 31 March 2017

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