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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Social and Political Science : Postgrad (School of Social and Political Studies)

Postgraduate Course: Global Environment: Key Issues (PGSP11358)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Social and Political Science CollegeCollege of Humanities and Social Science
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThis course would give students a broad-based introduction to the political, normative and social challenges of global environmental change. It would cover core concepts and debates in social science and law, engaging students with key questions from across the disciplines. What does climate change mean for state sovereignty? Do we have environmental human rights? How has the relationship evolved between society and the natural world? What does sustainable development really mean? What is 'global' environmental law? To what extent is environmental science constructed by social interests?
Course description Course outline:

Introduction (EB)
Week 1: Global Environment and Social Science
Stresses the profoundly political and social dimension of global environmental challenges; explains the link to issues of power, sovereignty, justice, equality and political action; introduces students to key concepts and themes.

Indicative reading:
Clapp, J. and Dauvergne, P. (2011) Paths to a Green World. Chap 1 (Peril or Prosperity?)

Politics and Sustainability (EB)
Week 2: Global Environmental Politics: Context
Distinctive challenges posed by global environmental issues, and where they belong in debates on sovereignty and security. Themes illustrated with key environmental issues (climate, biodiversity).
Indicative reading:
Gabriela Kütting (ed), Global Environmental Politics. Concepts, Theories and Case Studies. (Routledge 2011)
Jennifer Clapp and Peter Dauvergne, Paths to a Green World. The Political Economy of the Global Environment, 2nd ed.( MIT, 2011).

Week 3: Global Environmental Politics: Actors
Key actors in global environmental politics, including states international organisations, business, NGOs, science and the media. Themes illustrated with key environmental issues (climate, biodiversity).

Indicative reading: [As for Week 2]

Justice and the Environment (EC)
Week 4: Human rights and the environment
Climate change as a human rights violation. The case for and against specifically environmental human rights? Do we have an interest in protecting the natural world, over and above what it contributes to our other fundamental interests?

Indicative reading:
Caney, S. (2005). "Climate Change, Human Rights, and Moral Thresholds". In: Human Rights and Climate Change, ed. S. Humphreys. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.
Nickel, J. (1993) "The Human Right to a Safe Environment: Philosophical Perspectives on Its Scope and Justification", Yale Journal of International Law, 18: 281-95

Week 5: Justice and the burdens of climate change
What would be a fair distribution of the costs of climate change mitigation, adaptation, and compensation? Explaining and comparing polluter pays, ability to pay, and beneficiary pays approaches.

Indicative reading:
Caney, Simon. (2005) "Cosmopolitan Justice, Responsibility, and Global Climate Change." Leiden Journal of International Law 18: 747-75.
Shue, Henry. (1999) "Global Environmental and International Equality." International Affairs 75 (3): 531-45.

Environmental Sociology (JW or colleague)
Week 6: Nature and society
The relationship between nature and human societies: the industrial revolution and emergence of modern dualistic understanding of society and nature.

Indicative reading:
Bell, M. (2008) An Invitation to Environmental Sociology Los Angeles: Pine Forge/Sage, third edition.
Yearley, S. (2005) 'The "end" or the "humanization" of nature?' Organization and Environment 18: 198-201

Week 7: Nature and exploitation
The concept of 'natural environment' as a resource for exploitation by humans, and scientific interventions in, and transformations of, 'nature'.

Indicative reading:
Yearley, S. (2008) 'Nature and the Environment in Science and Technology Studies', in Edward Hackett et al. (eds), The Handbook of Science and Technology Studies Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 921-947.
Yearley, S (2009) 'Sociology and climate change after Kyoto: what roles for social science in understanding climate change?' Current Sociology 57: 389-405.

Sustainable development (EB)
Week 8: Sustainable Development
Varying interpretations and meaning of this contested concept. Overview of its key dimensions and development at the international level, including role of United Nations and debates between developed and developing worlds

Indicative reading:
Adger, N and Jordan, A (eds) (2009) Governing Sustainability
Baker, S. (2006) Sustainable Development

Environmental Law (EM)
Week 9: The role of law in environmental sustainability
Legal tools and approaches to environmental protection; the evolution of international environmental law; and the emergence of 'global' environmental law

Indicative readings:
Gunningham. 'Environment Law: Regulation and Governance: Shifting Architectures' (2009) 21 Journal of Environmental Law 179
Catherine Redgwell, 'International Environmental Law', in M. Evans, ed., International Law (OUP, 2006) 657-88

Science and Technology (LD)
Week 10: Environmental Science and Technology
Introduction to ideas and methods from the sociology of science and technology that can help us to understand and analyse various interest groups involved in environmental situations. Focuses in particular on scientific knowledge and technology and how they are constructed by social interests and, in turn, contribute to wider social and political discussions of environmental issues.
Indicative readings:
Lorimer, J. (2008) 'Counting Corncrakes: the affective science of the UK Corncrake Census' Social Studies of Science 38.3: pp. 377¿405.
Bonneuil and Joly. (2008) 'Disentrenching Experiment: the construction of GM-crop field trials as a social problem' Science, Technology and Human Values 33.2: pp. 201¿229.
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 2018/19, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  30
Course Start Semester 1
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Seminar/Tutorial Hours 20, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 176 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) Issue Briefing: 1500 words (20%) (in time to allow time for feedback before next assessment); and Final Essay: 2500-3000 words (80%)
Feedback Not entered
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Acquire extensive, critical and detailed knowledge of fundamental concepts in social and political science, as they apply to current environmental debates.
  2. Engage critically with central questions and key thinkers in an ongoing academic and political debate, honing their skills in assessing and developing rigorous theoretical arguments.
  3. Exercise substantial autonomy and initiative in the preparation of research and coursework.
  4. Further develop their ability to present coherent, balanced arguments surrounding contemporary global environmental issues, in written and debate form.
  5. Acquire genuinely interdisciplinary insight into the multi-faceted political challenge of achieving global sustainability.
Reading List
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserDr Elizabeth Cripps
Tel: (0131 6)51 1948
Course secretaryMrs Gillian MacDonald
Tel: (0131 6)51 3244
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