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

Postgraduate Course: Human Dimensions of Environmental Change (PGGE11249)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Geosciences CollegeCollege of Science and Engineering
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityNot available to visiting students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryWelcome to Human Dimensions of Environmental Change. We live in a new geological age the Anthropocene in which human activity is having a profoundly damaging and potentially irreversible impact upon the planet. This course interrogates various dimensions of environmental change from three analytical perspectives from foundational environmental social sciences: social-ecological systems theory, political ecology, and natural resource and environmental economics. These different bodies of work would tend to diagnose different root causes of problems of environmental change, rely on different narrative interpretations of change, and ultimately prescribe different solutions. The course will consistently make use of these different lenses for analysis of a range of thematic environmental change challenges, and in doing so, will illuminate both theoretical and applied implications of these approaches. The themes we address in the course include: land use change, climate change, biodiversity and water.
This course provides an introduction to the human dimensions of environmental change, and allows students to develop a deeper understanding of the three approaches we use to understand these dimensions. In so doing, we invite students to critically engage with environmental change in the Anthropocene.
The course is taught in an interactive manner in which student-led interrogation of the three analytical perspectives, and what they reveal about the human dimensions of environmental change, is key to achieving the learning outcomes. The teaching team will facilitate student learning and students are encouraged to lead discussions and class exercises to deepen their understanding of the material.

Course description Week 1: Course introduction
Weeks 2-4: Lectures, discussions and exercises on the three analytical perspectives
Weeks 5-7: Lectures and student-led discussions on the three themes of environmental change: Land use change, Climate Change and Biodiversity
Week 8: Water (Summative student-led presentation interrogating water issues from 3 analytical perspectives)
Week 9: Critical reflection of the three analytical perspectives, Essay Q&A
Week 10: Facilitated discussion of peer review of essay plans
Week 11: Course wrap up

Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2020/21, Not available to visiting students (SS1) Quota:  42
Course Start Semester 2
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 196 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) Coursework: 100%

Group presentation (30% of marks, including 10% peer-mark). Interrogating an environmental change issue from a theoretical stance.

Essay (70% of marks, composed of 10% (of module mark) reflective statement on use of peer feedback): Examine an environmental change issue from a theoretical stance developed in HDEC and evaluate the extent to which it illuminates human dimensions of the issue of environmental change. 2000 words; 500 (additional) words on reflective statement regarding use of peer feedback. The choice of topic should differ from that chosen for the presentations. The assignment requires students to critically appraise the theoretical lens adopted and show how other approaches might make up for its weaknesses.

Summative presentation: week 8
Summative essay: two weeks after week 11
Formative student-led session: week 4 OR week 5 OR week 6 (depending on group number)
Formative essay plan: week 9
Formative essay plan peer critique: week 10

Feedback Continuous feedback on student understanding of concepts and themes will be provided through discussions in each class.
Peer feedback on essay plans will be given in week 10 and general feedback on the plans will be discussed at this session.
Feedback on the summative group presentation will be provided, with a view to this feeding forward into the individual summative essay.
Feedback on the summative essay will be provided after submission.
Students can use office hours to request personal feedback on their understanding of the course material.
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Engage critically with contemporary environmental change from a social science perspective;
  2. Be conversant with a range of environmental change issues and the human dimensions of these;
  3. Apply, critique and compare a range of analytical perspectives on environmental change issues;
  4. Demonstrate skills in group work and in verbal communication through presentations and in written communications through essays;
  5. Give appropriate and constructive academic feedback to a peer and use feedback to develop their own work.
Reading List
Outline reading list:

NB - there will be a fully referenced electronic reading list to accompany the course available from Welcome Week.

Adams, W.M. 2001. Green Development: Environment and Sustainability in the Third World. London: Routledge

Adger, W.N., Katrina Brown and Mike Hulme 2005 Redefining Global Environmental Change, Global Environmental Change 15.1 pp1-4.

Adger, W. N. 2000 Social and ecological resilience: are they related? Progress in Human Geography 24(3), 347-364.

Adger, W.N., Benjaminsen, T.A., Brown, K., Svarstad, H. (2001) Advancing a Political Ecology of Global Environmental Discourses. Development & Change 32, 681 715.

Adger, W. N., S. H. Huq, K. Brown, D. Conway and M. Hulme (2003). "Adaptation to climate change in the developing world." Progress in Development Studies 3(3): 179-195.

Berkes, F., et al. (2003). Navigating Social-Ecological Systems: Building Resilience for Complexity and Change. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.

Blaikie, P. M. and H. C. Brookfield (1987). Land Degradation and Society. London, Routledge.

Costanza, R., R. d'Arge, R. de Groot, S. Farber, M. Grasso, B. Hannon, K. Limburg, S. Naeem, R. V. O'Neill, J. Paruelo, R. G. Raskin, P. Sutton and M. van den Belt (1997). "The value of the world's ecosystem services and natural capital." Nature, 387(6630): 253-260.

Fairhead, J., Leach, M. (1995) False Forest History, Complicit Social Analysis: Rethinking Some West African Environmental Narratives. World Development 23, 1023 1035.

Folke, C. (2006). "Resilience: The emergence of a perspective for social-ecological systems analyses." Global Environmental Change 16(3): 253-267.

Forsyth, T., 2003. Critical Political Ecology. The Politics of Environmental Science. London: Routledge

Hulme, M, 2010 Why we disagree about climate change, Cambridge: CUP

Jackson, T. (2009) Prosperity without growth: economics for a finite planet London: Earthscan

MEA (2005) Millennium Ecosystem Assessment: Ecosystems and Human Well-being: Synthesis., Press, I., Washington, DC

Norgaard, R. B. (2010). "Ecosystem services: From eye-opening metaphor to complexity blinder." Ecological Economics, 69(6): 1219-1227.

O'Brien, K. and R. Leichenko (2000). "Double exposure: assessing the impacts of climate change within the context of economic globalization." Global Environmental Change 10: 221-232.

Pearce, D. W. and E. Barbier (2000). Blueprint for a sustainable economy. London, Earthscan.

Pearce, D. W., et al. (1989). Blueprint for a green economy. London, Earthscan.

Turner, R. K., et al. (1993). Environmental economics: an elementary introduction, Johns Hopkins University Press.

Walker, B and Salt, D 2006 Resilience thinking, Island Press
Vitousek, P.M., Mooney, H.A., Lubchenco, J., Melillo, J.M. (1997) Human Domination of Earth's Ecosystems. Science 277, 494-499.

The Guardian (29th August 2016) The Anthropocene epoch: scientists declare dawn of human-influenced age.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
Keywordsenvironmental change,human dimensions
Course organiserDr Clare Barnes
Tel: (0131 6)50 2287
Course secretaryMs Kathryn Will
Tel: (0131 6)50 2624
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