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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Geosciences : Postgraduate Courses (School of GeoSciences)

Postgraduate Course: Human dimensions of environmental change and sustainability (PGGE11130)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Geosciences CollegeCollege of Science and Engineering
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate)
Course typeDissertation AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThe course will provide an introduction to a range of important environmental and sustainability topics, with a focus on their human dimensions. Human dimensions encompass the societal, political, economic, technological and cultural aspects of managing and responding to contemporary environmental change and sustainability problems. The course is organised around expert lectures on core topics. The topics covered are deliberately broad, including climate, food, land, energy, water and biodiversity. The topics provide the context for small group discussions and class debate exploring common features of environmental change and sustainability problems; assessing their societal origins and implications, and exploring cross-cutting issues of interdisciplinarity and the science-policy interface.
Course description W1 Introduction and Course Overview
W2 Climate Change
W3 Science-Policy Interface
W4 Biodiversity
W5 Global Change
W6 Land
W7 Food
W8 Energy
W9 Water
W10 Group Poster Presentations
W11 Course Summary and Exam Preparation
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2016/17, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  36
Course Start Semester 1
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Lecture Hours 44, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 152 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 50 %, Coursework 50 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) 50% Coursework (25% individual policy brief, 25% group poster); 50% Exam

Posters - Group task [assessed 25% of final mark]. Students will work in small groups to prepare a poster presentation. Each group will develop and present a case study on a sustainability topic. Students will be expected to draw on knowledge and insight from: course lectures and discussions; suggested readings; and additional resources they have identified from their own research. Each group will develop their case study throughout the semester, including in class discussions, culminating in poster presentations by the group during Week 10 of the course (21st November 2016). Further instructions will be provided separately.

Policy Briefs - Individual task [assessed 25% of final mark].
Preparation of a short policy brief on a sustainability topic, to be submitted Monday 7th November 2016. Further instructions will be provided separately.

Final written examination [50% of final mark]

Feedback Not entered
Exam Information
Exam Diet Paper Name Hours & Minutes
Main Exam Diet S1 (December)Human dimensions of environmental change and sustainability2:00
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Gain insights into a range of contemporary environmental change and sustainability topics;
  2. Learn about the societal, political, economic, technological and cultural aspects of managing and responding to contemporary environmental change and sustainability problems;
  3. Develop a critical understanding of the diverse arguments about sustainability, and ways to theorise them;
  4. Develop skills in group work, poster presentations, writing policy briefs and reviewing academic and policy documents to summarise, evaluate and gain a deeper understanding of particular environmental change and sustainability topics and debates.
Reading List
Dryzek, J. S. & D. Schlosberg. (1998). Debating the Earth: the environmental politics reader. Oxford University Press.

Hajer, M. A. (1995). The politics of environmental discourse: ecological modernisation and the policy process. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Leach, M., J. Rokstrom, P. Raskin, I. C. Scoones, A. C. Stirling, A. Smith, J. Thompson, E. Millstone, A. Ely & E. Arond (2012). Transforming innovation for sustainability. Ecology and Society, 17 (2), 11.

Middleton, N. (2003). The Global Casino: An Introduction to Environmental Issues. 3rd Edition, London: Hodder Arnold.

Proctor, J.D. (1998) The meaning of global environmental change: retheorizing culture in human dimensions research. Global Environmental Change, 8(3), 227-248.

Rockström, J., W. Steffen, K. Noone, Å. Persson, F. S. Chapin, E. F. Lambin, T. M. Lenton, M. Scheffer, C. Folke & H. J. Schellnhuber (2009). A safe operating space for humanity. Nature, 461 (7263), 472-475.

Urry, J. (2011). Climate Change and Society. London: Polity Press.

Stern, P.C., Young, O. R. & Druckman,D. (eds) (1992) Global Environmental Change: Understanding the Human Dimensions. The National Academies Press, US; downloadable for free from

[Additional readings will be detailed in the course handbook]
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
Special Arrangements This course is often over-subscribed. Please notify the course secretary ( during induction week if you wish to take this course.
KeywordsPGGE11130 Environment,sustainability,science-policy interface,interdisciplinarity
Course organiserDr Calum Macleod
Tel: (0131 6)51 4447
Course secretaryMrs Paula Escobar
Tel: (0131 6)50 2543
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