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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Geosciences : Geography

Undergraduate Course: Problematising Environment and Society (GEGR10142)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Geosciences CollegeCollege of Science and Engineering
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 4 Undergraduate) AvailabilityNot available to visiting students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryEnvironmental studies is often framed as a practical field in which we know the problem and seek the solution. In this course, we will step back from these assumptions to critically examine different explanations for the fundamental, underlying social cause(s) of environmental problems. We focus on problem definitions and their relationship with different proposals for solutions. This problem-solution coupling will help students to more deeply understand and evaluate competing approaches to solving environmental problems.
Course description This course will help students to understand different and often competing explanations for the fundamental, underlying social cause(s) of environmental problems. We will focus on problem framings, including consideration of how environmental problems are defined, who is deemed responsible, and who should do what to solve the problem. This problem-solution coupling will help students to evaluate, adapt and justify different approaches to solving environmental problems. For example, some have argued for market-based solutions while others see capitalism as the root of environmental problems. Some believe private property is the problem, while others see it as the solution. Some advocate for individual consumption choices while others encourage developing environmental ethics. While some of these frames complement each other, others are contradictory: not all problem frames can be correct. Each week students will read an overarching summary and examples of texts providing a different problem frame. These texts will include both environmental classics and contemporary news or policy documents that exemplify the frame. Students will work to understand the logic of the problem frame each week, as well as its assumptions, strengths and weaknesses. Course structure: 1. Social Explanations for Environmental Problems 2. The Sky is Falling! Technology is Causing the End of Humanity! 3. In Defense of Modernity: Science, Technology and Innovation will Save Us! 4. The Tragedy of the Commons: ¿Freedom in a commons brings ruin to all!¿ 5. The (Regulated) Commons is the Solution! 6. Bring on the Leviathan! (Big) Government as the Solution 7. The Market is the Solution! 8. We Must Love the Earth! (Or: Individual Actions Will Save Us!) 9. Capitalism is the Cause of Environmental Problems! 10. Inequality is the Cause of the Crisis!
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2022/23, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  41
Course Start Semester 1
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Lecture Hours 22, Seminar/Tutorial Hours 10, Feedback/Feedforward Hours 6, Other Study Hours 2, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 156 )
Additional Information (Learning and Teaching) 2 film screenings (Other Study Hours)
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) This course will be assessed through TWO coursework assignments: assignment 1, 'Contemporary Problem Frames' (30%) and assignment 2, 'Solving an Environmental Problem' (70%). For assignment 1, students will find an example of a text that exemplifies one of the problem frames from the course and analyse the argument found in the text, as well as assumptions absent from the text (length: 1000 words). The final essay asks students to use an example of a real world environment problem, and construct an argument for how it can be solved. This analysis can draw across multiple frames, with particular attention to the complementarity (or not) of different frames (length: 3000 words)

Assessment deadlines:
Assignment 1, 'Contemporary Problem Frames' - Week 6
Assignment 2, 'Solving an Environmental Problem' - Week 11
Feedback All students will receive written feedback on their individual assignments, with grades provided, for their course assessments. Students will also be able to request meetings to discuss the feedback provided about their assessments. The class will also be provided general feedback on their assessments, highlighting elements that could use improvement as well as where they succeeded.
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Explain why environmental problems are social problems and vice versa
  2. Identify explanations in real world texts that explain the social root(s) of environmental problems and their embedded assumptions
  3. Assess proposed environmental problems and solutions
  4. Analyze how different problem framings complement or contradict each other
  5. Deepen students¿ understanding of their own view of environmental problems and solutions
Reading List
Lawhon, Mary. Environment and Society (Open Educational Resource) Selections from: Carson, Rachel Silent Spring; Ehrlich, Paul The Population Bomb; Hardin, Garret The Tragedy of the Commons; Ecomodernist Manifesto; Barry, Wendell Faustian Economics; Klein, Naomi This Changes Everything; selected recent articles from international media outlets
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills 1) Critically analyse environmental theories and concepts, 2) Evaluate real-world environmental solutions 3) Coordinate work and timing to meet course deadlines. 4) Construct written arguments within conventional academic writing style.
Course organiserDr Mary Lawhon
Tel: (0131 6)50 8516
Course secretaryMiss Beatrice Iba
Tel: (0131 6)51 4517
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