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

Postgraduate Course: Foundations in Ecological Economics (PGGE11004)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Geosciences CollegeCollege of Science and Engineering
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThis course examines the principles of economics and how they might be applied to environmental and resource-use issues. The course should appeal to students who would like to obtain a grounding in economics from first principles so as to assist in decision-making and problem-solving. This course assumes no prior knowledge of economics.
Course description The purpose of this course is to provide students with a comprehensive introduction to ecological economics. This includes an examination of economic principles and how they can be applied to environmental and resource-use issues, as well as an examination of the policy implications of ecological economics.

No prior knowledge of either ecosystems or economics is assumed. This course should appeal to students who would like to obtain a grounding in how economic thought can be applied to assist in decision-making and problem-solving. As such, the course will strongly emphasize student discussion and peer-to-peer learning.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements There is a cap of 5 on the number of non School of GeoSciences students ¿ please contact the course secretary ( for available space prior to registering on this course.
Information for Visiting Students
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2019/20, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  56
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 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) Course Assessments
The full mark for this course will be based on a series of assessments of varying sizes and due dates

Formative Assessment Date
We will go through an EE problem in class, and discuss the process of analysing it in preparation for the associated assignment Week 1
Everyone will be asked to 1) locate a short video, podcast, poster, etc. that they feel explains a complicated idea clearly; 2) share it on the discussion board explaining why they think it¿s so effective; 3) comment on at least 2 other posts about the effectiveness of the examples provided Between class in week 8 and class in week 9

Sustainability concerns will be posted to the discussion board at various times throughout the semester as a warm up to the final challenge Various
We will run through a small example challenge in class prior to announcing the actual final challenge Week 12
Summative Assessment Value Due Date
Micro Ecological Economics Problem Analysis 30% 28th October at 12 noon
Macro Ecological Economics Primer 30% 2nd December at 12 noon
Final EE Challenge 40% 18th December at 12 noon

Information for all assessments:
¿ The rubrics used for each assessment are available on LEARN from the start of the course

¿ Plagiarism detection software will be in use throughout this course. Any suspected plagiarism will be submitted to the relevant persons in charge of investigating academic misconduct for their consideration. If you are not sure what plagiarism is read below:
o Guidance on avoiding plagiarism can be found here
o The procedure that will be followed if plagiarism is detected can be found here

¿ The problem analysis and the individual synthesis must be submitted through TurnItIn

¿ When referencing in any assignment, you should use the Harvard author-date style as documented in Cite Them Right online (Available online using your MyEd login details)

¿ References to extensive external reading of peer-reviewed literature are expected for the assignments

¿ Late submissions are subject to the 5% penalty per day, up to 5 days, after which point the essay will be given a score of 0 (as per Regulation 25 of the Taught Assessment Regulations)

¿ Exceeding the word count may result in a deduction from the face value mark on your assignments (»=5%)
o Unless otherwise stated, only the main text and in-text citations count towards the word count
o Exceptions to this include any effort to by-pass the word count limit (in which case these words will be included in the word count).

¿ Read strategically when preparing for these essays.
¿ Think about what type of information/evidence you need to find
¿ Keep short, focused electronic notes in a piece of software that is searchable and to which you can apply subject matter tags (e.g. Excel, OneNote, EverNote, DevonNote, Scrivener)
¿ Use an electronic reference manager (e.g. EndNote, Zotero, Mendeley, etc.)¿
Problem Analysis (max 2,500 words)

The purpose of this project is to apply ideas/concepts from (micro) Ecological Economics in the analysis of a particular micro-scale (i.e. sub-national) sustainability problem/area of sustainability concern.

The assignment will have 3 parts and you will be responsible for allocating the word limit across those 3 sections. Note that only the main body of the text and in-text citations are included in the word count (though obvious efforts to by-pass the word limit are subject to penalty as described above)

Part 1: The problem
In this part of the assessment, you will be required to introduce the problem you have selected. In order to do this, you will need to address the following questions:

o What is the problem?
o Why should we care about it (in terms the various dimensions of sustainability)?
o Why is this problem relevant to Ecological Economics?
This should be written in plain English, be well referenced, and demonstrate thorough investigation into the problem.

Part 2: System Analysis (1 system diagram + explanation/justification)
For this part of the assessment, you will have to analyse the dynamics of the system surrounding the selected problem and then represent it in the form of a systems dynamics modelling stock-flow diagram. You should consider a range of problem drivers (e.g. environmental, social, economic, political, behavioural, historical, cultural/value, etc.), the key system components, and the key things impacted.

This diagram (i.e. its components, their connections, feedback loops, etc.) will need to be well justified with the use of references from high quality source material. Specifically, you will need to annotate your diagram with citations, and provide in addition to the diagram itself, a written justification of the design of your diagram. This justification should provide the evidence supporting the included selection stocks, flows, variables, and feedback loops.

Part 3: Leverage Points
For this part of the assessment, you will need to answer the following question: Thinking as an Ecological Economist, what are the most important leverage points in the system (and why), and what types of interventions might be well suited for use at those leverage points?

You will need to justify your assessment both of the leverage points and of the relative suitability of the interventions discussed. In order to accomplish this, you will have to draw on a range of theoretical and empirical literature. You should also consider what you have learned so far in the semester (e.g. about environmental systems, human well-being, human behaviour, government and non-government policy interventions, the perspective of conventional economics, and the goals/philosophy of Ecological Economics).

Macro Ecological Economics Primer (max 2500 words)

The purpose of this assignment is synthesis across the topics and concepts covered in class that are relevant to ¿macro¿ Ecological Economics. The focus of the assignment is answering the following multi-part question:

¿What are the most significant concepts pertaining to macro Ecological Economics that every aspiring sustainability professional should know?¿ (Note that this implies the following: Why are they so important, and how do they relate to each other?)

You may provide your answer in one of the following formats:

1. Written document ¿ e.g. essay, report, concept map/knowledge model, poster, primer, cartoon, etc.
2. Podcast/Video (with a full/complete transcript that is no more than 2500 words of content)

Note: if you choose option (2) you may want to look into what equipment you could borrow from the university to facilitate your project. If you choose option (2), you will need to host your podcast/video within your university OneDrive account, and set it up so that anyone with the appropriate URL may view it. Your transcript will need to be submitted through TurnItIn, and your transcript must have a hyperlink to this URL within it, so that the CO can access your submission to listen/view it. It is your responsibility to ensure that the CO can access your submission, and that link will need to remain active until the external examiner has validated the course marks in February of the following semester.

Regardless of whether you pick option (1) or option (2), please be aware of the following:

1. Your submission should probably not use the sub-questions as headers. To do so is likely to lead you to listing ideas, rather than analysing and critically appraising them, and may make it hard for you to get beyond the point of presenting superficial information. It will probably work much better to think about what the most important points are that you want to communicate, and to then work backwards thinking about what information is necessary to provide to best support and communicate those ideas

2. Be creative and think about how you can most effectively communicate complex ideas. Whatever means of communication you feel best enables you to do that is the one you should use. That said, you are responsible for the full design and implementation of the project.

3. You should not wait to start planning and executing your project until the end of the semester.

4. You should review all of the ¿macro¿ related material covered in the process of creating your submission. Use this assignment as a chance to cement your understanding of a topic area that can be hard to get to grips with at first.

5. Whatever you choose, don¿t forget that depth and synthesis across topics are both key. Regardless of how awesome a submission may be visually, for example, if the content only shows a superficial understanding, it won¿t score very well in comparison to a less aesthetically pleasing submission that could only have been produced with significant depth of understanding.

6. Show your own ownership over the material! Bringing in new source material and coming up with your own structure is valuable. Don¿t just mimic the lecture content and key reading!

7. This is individual work and you need to work on it individually.

8. Give credit as an academic should to avoid an accidental plagiarism case. Regardless of the format you pick, because this is an academic assessment at the MSc level, you must still follow appropriate academic rules pertaining to quoting, referencing, giving credit etc., even if under normal circumstances an output of the type you chose to create would not contain many (if any) references. If you choose a podcast/video format, you will have to think carefully about how you give credit to your sources in both the ¿performance¿ component and the transcript element.

9. All submissions, regardless of type, will be assessed using the qualitative rubric shown later in the syllabus

Ecological Economics: Final Challenge (max 3,000 words)

In lieu of a final exam, the semester will end with a final challenge. Here is what you need to know:

¿ The challenge topic will be announced during the first week of December

¿ In the final challenge, you will be presented with a specific sustainability issue. It could be a micro-scale problem or a macro scale problem or sustainability concern pertaining to a product/supply chain or a concern related to policy. Regardless, you will be tasked with researching and analysing this sustainability concern in order to answer a number of specific questions from the perspective of an Ecological Economist.

The purpose of this is to enable you, through your submission, to showcase your depth of knowledge about Ecological Economics and your ability to draw on what you have learned in the course analyse a real world sustainability issue.

¿ You may be asked questions such as¿

o What is the background/context to this problem? Why does it matter?

o Based on what information you¿ve managed to find, what is your best guess at how the system diagram for this problem looks?

o What concepts/ideas from Ecological Economics are most appropriate/useful to draw on when seeking to understand the problem?

o From an Ecological Economics perspective, and considering what you have learned about the system and the problem, what are the most significant dimensions of this problem?

o From an Ecological Economics perspective, what are the most important/significant information gaps associated with this problem (and why are they so significant? What are the implications of filling those research gaps?)

o What is the most important insight that adopting an Ecological Economics perspective gives you with respect to this specific issue (that would otherwise be lacking if analysed from a different perspective)?

o Etc.

¿ The best way to prepare for this challenge is to take notes of the reading and the lectures throughout the semester, and to regularly review and tidy them up, getting any lingering questions answered, so that you may review all your notes in a cohesive way easily at the end of the semester. You may want to do this by hand or electronically (e.g. using a programme like Evernote). Either way, you will benefit in the end from doing this systematically such that you are creating clear study guides for yourself as we move through the course.

¿ You will have 2 weeks to submit, making the due date 12 noon on 18th December

Note: those of you taking Environmental Valuation (EV) will have your capstone project due shortly after this. You must plan accordingly for this coincidence of deadline throughout the semester.

In this class, that means not waiting until early December to consider how you would approach the final challenge or to compile your notes and review the content. You need to be ¿ready to go¿ when the challenge is announced.

In EV, this means that you should not wait until December to start the capstone. Instead, you should pick the context for your EV capstone early in the semester (e.g. before week 3), and you should begin drafting sections of that and finding the required literature throughout the semester, as you learn about each of the methods covered, leaving only the final revisions until the end of December.

¿ Much like the macro EE primer, you are responsible for picking the format for presenting your analysis. All the guidance provided for the macro EE primer related to referencing, plagiarism, how to submit multi-media assignments, etc., applies in the final challenge too
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Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Obtain a solid understanding of the key concepts in ecological economics, and how they relate to each other.
  2. Acquire a critical understanding of the consequences of economic activity occurring on a finite planet, and be introduced to, and be able to assess, the relevance of the laws of Thermodynamics to economic activity.
  3. Understand what is meant by stock-flow and fund-service resources, and will be able to apply these concepts to resource use to better understand the nature of resource use dilemmas.
  4. Gain insight into the interaction between industry structure and the environment.
  5. Be able to analyse different types of market failures and how these market failures relate to the environment.
Reading List
Throughout the course of the semester, this course will use the following text book:

Daly, Herman E., and Joshua Farley. 2011. Ecological Economics: Principles and Applications. Washington DC: Island Press (2nd Edition).

Prior to each class, students must complete the reading and homework specified in the course outline, as the purpose of the lecture is to discuss and advance concepts, not to introduce them.

Note: The amount of required text-book reading varies each week, but on average, students should expect to be reading 9.5 text book pages per day, 5 days per week, for the duration of the semester.

In addition to the assigned text book readings, students will be required to consult peer-reviewed journal articles for the essay and concept map assignments. Students will be responsible for finding these journal articles and will also be responsible for balancing the reading of these articles with the required text book reading.
Additional Information
Course URL
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
KeywordsFoundations in Ecological Economics,Ecological Economics,Socio-Ecological systems,Sustainability
Course organiserMs Corinne Baulcomb
Tel: (0131) 535 4031
Course secretaryMrs Elspeth Martin
Tel: 0131 535 4198
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