Postgraduate Course: Principles of Environmental Sustainability (PGGE11060)
|School||School of Geosciences
||College||College of Science and Engineering
|Credit level (Normal year taken)||SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate)
||Availability||Not available to visiting students
|Summary||The course is designed to identify and explore the principles that are widely recognised to form the core of sustainable development, and to investigate the extent of the environmental issues currently faced by society. It also aims to examine the underlying driving forces for environmental change, in terms of population growth, technological change, market economics and consumption patterns. The course encourages a strongly interdisciplinary approach to the understanding of sustainable development and seeks to foster critical thinking and debate.
1. Introduction. What is sustainable development?
In the first class the objectives, structure and approach of the course are outlined. We begin by briefly reviewing the rise of environmental concern since 1950. Some core principles of sustainable development are introduced, with an account of how they were elaborated through international policy processes.
2. Conflicting worldviews of environment and development
We examine debates surrounding sustainable development, and consider what underlies them. Disagreement can often be traced back to differing worldviews, particularly regarding forms of development and understandings of how nature works.
3. Sustainability indicators and the integration principle
We consider the need to integrate decision-making in environmental, economic and social spheres to make development more sustainable. Integrated policy making requires information to monitor the state of society, economy and environment. We examine various 'sustainability indicators' that have been designed for this purpose.
4. Environmental limits and the sustainability principle
We examine whether there are environmental limits to the scale of the human economy. What evidence is there that limits are being approached and where do they lie? James Lovelock's Gaia hypothesis is introduced as a way of understanding how humanity depends upon the activities of organisms on Earth to maintain stable and habitable conditions. We consider the 'services' provided by biodiversity and the arguments for its protection.
5. Climate change and the precautionary principle
We consider the development and application of the precautionary principle, with a focus on climate change. What are the risks that humanity faces, and what level of precaution should be applied in attempts to manage them? Geo-engineering, as a possible technique to 'fix' the climate, is examined as a case study.
6. Population, consumption and the equity principle
We examine the interplay between population trends and patterns of consumption in determining humanity's impact on the biosphere. Evidence of the scale of current global inequity is reviewed. Why do intra- and inter-generational equity matter to sustainable development and how can they be ensured?
7. The market and the polluter pays principle
In Northern industrialised economies, decisions about the allocation of resources have increasingly been left to market processes, yet these often lead to pollution and over-exploitation of natural resources. We consider how and why the market fails. The 'polluter pays' principle allows some failures to be corrected. We also debate the role of economic growth in sustainable development - is it a requirement or an impediment?
8. Engaging communities and the participation principle
Processes of community participation in decisions that shape people's lives are essential to sustainable development. We explore why, focusing on contemporary debates surrounding participation in land use decision-making in the UK and further afield.
[Guest speaker: Jayne Glass, University of the Highlands and Islands, Perth]
9. Envisioning a sustainable future
We consider what a future sustainable society might look like. Will we live much as now, but with electric cars and renewable energy, or will society shift towards more localized and resilient ways of living, with reduced levels of consumption of energy and materials? How will the quality of our lives change? What can we gain and what might we lose? This class is a chance for students to explore possible pathways towards sustainability and their implications.
10. Feedback and exam preparation
An opportunity for students to reflect on the course as a whole and provide feedback. Group discussion will be used to assist in preparation for the examination.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
|| Students MUST have passed:
||Other requirements|| None
Course Delivery Information
|Academic year 2015/16, Available to all students (SV1)
|Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info)
Lecture Hours 44,
Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4,
Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours
|Assessment (Further Info)
|Additional Information (Assessment)
||Coursework: one 2000-word essay, on a subject chosen from a list of several suggested topics.
Examination: students answer two one-hour essay questions, from a choice of five; examination to be held during semester 1 exam period (week 13 or week 14).
||Hours & Minutes
|Main Exam Diet S1 (December)||Principles of Environmental Sustainability||2:00|
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
- Understand the evolution of sustainable development and its contested meanings
- Engage more widely and deeply with relevant literatures
- Critically assess arguments and knowledge claims related to sustainability
- Link knowledge from different disciplines to gain insight into complex issues
- Articulate the core principles of sustainable development
|There is no textbook that covers the whole course, as a result of its broad, interdisciplinary approach. A detailed reading list will therefore be provided each week. Wherever possible, readings will be made available to students online, via Learn. The books listed below are relevant to the course, and will be referred to in some of the lectures. Beder (2006) will be referred to most extensively, as Chapters 1 to 6 clearly set out the most important principles of sustainable development. Dresner (2008) considers the evolution and meaning of sustainable development and therefore provides a solid grounding for the first two sessions of the course. Blewitt (2014) and Robertson (2014) are general introductory texts on sustainability covering a wide range of relevant topics, while Middleton (2013) gives somewhat stronger emphasis to the natural sciences. Hulme (2009), Jackson (2011) and Wilkinson and Pickett (2010) are recent books that have each made significant and distinctive contributions to the sustainable development debate, and should therefore be of interest to students of this course.|
Beder, S. (2006). Environmental Principles and Policies. An Interdisciplinary Introduction. Earthscan, London. ISBN: 1844074048.
Blewitt, J. (2014). Understanding Sustainable Development, Second Edition. Routledge, Abingdon. ISBN: 9780415707824.
Dresner, S. (2008). The Principles of Sustainability, Second Edition. Earthscan, London. ISBN: 9781844074969.
Hulme, M.M. (2009). Why We Disagree About Climate Change: Understanding Controversy, Inaction and Opportunity. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. ISBN: 9780521727327.
Jackson, T. (2011). Prosperity Without Growth: Economics for a Finite Planet. Earthscan, London. ISBN: 9781849713238.
Middleton, N. (2013). The Global Casino: An Introduction to Environmental Issues, Fifth Edition. Routledge, Abingdon. ISBN: 9781444146622.
Robertson, M. (2014). Sustainability Principles and Practice. Routledge, Abingdon. ISBN: 9780415840187.
Wilkinson, R.G., and Pickett, K. (2010). The Spirit Level: Why Equality is Better for Everyone. Penguin, London. ISBN: 9780241954294.
|Graduate Attributes and Skills
||1. Improved essay writing skills
2. Improved debating skills gained through group discussions
||Anyone wishing to enrol students from outside the School of GeoSciences should make a specific arrangement with the course organiser (Simon Allen: email@example.com; tel 0131 650 7215) as there is high demand for this course.
|Keywords||sustainable development; environmental change; sustainable lifestyles
|Course organiser||Dr Simon Allen
Tel: (0131 6)50 7215
|Course secretary||Mrs Karolina Galera
Tel: (0131 6)50 2572
© Copyright 2015 The University of Edinburgh - 18 January 2016 4:34 am