Timetable information in the Course Catalogue may be subject to change.

University Homepage
DRPS Homepage
DRPS Search
DRPS Contact
DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Geosciences : Ecological Science

Undergraduate Course: Sustainability, Society and Environment (ECSC08010)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Geosciences CollegeCollege of Science and Engineering
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 8 (Year 1 Undergraduate) AvailabilityNot available to visiting students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThe following topics will be developed to enable students to devise their own set of principles for understanding sustainability issues which should be of value in decision-making in their future careers.

- This course will first explore the rise of the environmental agenda in the 1960s and in particular the main events which brought it to public and scientific attention. In this context the natural processes which support life on earth will be discussed, together with the requirements for human well-being.

- The concepts of 'sustainability' and 'sustainable development' etc will be discussed in the context of the history of the concepts as well as the terms themselves and their contemporary significance.

- The commonly cited principles of sustainability (e.g. inter-generational equity, precautionary principle etc) will be explored together with the limitations imposed by physical and natural laws.

- The possible responses (scientific, technological, economic, political, social and personal) will be reviewed and their potential to bring about desired change will be discussed.

- Through examination of international, national, and local agreements on sustainability, students will critically review the motivations for, and implementation of, such policies.

- Approaches to dealing with particular issues encountered in professional life (such as environmental reports, environmental management systems, energy management, recycling, impact on biodiversity) will be considered.

- Opportunities will be provided for course members to review individual ethics and consider the implications of adopting the principles of sustainability to professional practice.
Course description Please note that these are tentative and subject to potential change.
The course will be held in Semester Two of the academic year with lectures on Mondays and Wednesdays from 3.10 pm to 4.00 pm, and tutorials scheduled at various times at both KB and Drummond Street area (you will be assigned to a tutorial group automatically, which you can request to change). You are expected to arrive punctually for all lectures and tutorials and to contribute to the discussion in the tutorials.

Tutorial 1: Measuring Sustainability: Critical Evaluation of UK Government's Indicators
Tutorial 2: a. How to write an academic-style essay
b. How sustainable? Evaluation of your own lifestyle and discussion
Tutorial 3: A sustainable feast - designing a sustainable menu for a 3-course meal

You will remain with the same tutor and have the same tutorial time for the duration of the course, so be sure that your assigned tutorial session works with your other commitments. If you need to ask to change tutorial please contact the Timetabling Team - details on how to do this will be included on the course Learn page under 'Announcements'.

The order of lectures and topics indicated below are tentative and subject to change
Week 1, Lecture 1: Introduction and overview
Week 1, Lecture 2: Why Sustainability?
Week 2, Lecture 3: What is sustainability? The principles of sustainable development
Week 2, Lecture 4: Measuring sustainable development
Week 3, Lecture 5: Climate change - causes and evidence
Week 3, Lecture 6: Water - distribution, use and needs
Week 4, Lecture 7: Climate change - impacts, mitigation and adaptation
Week 4, Lecture 8: Ecosystems and habitat - ecosystem change, conservation and restoration
Week 5, Lecture 9: Pollution - air, land, water
Week 5, Lecture 10: Waste and recycling
Week 6, Lecture 11: Energy - fossil fuels
Week 6, Lecture 12: Energy - renewable energy
Week 7, Lecture 13: Guest lecture
Week 7, Lecture 14: Food - from field to table
Week 8, Lecture 15: The role of innovation in sustainability
Week 8, Lecture 16: Liveable cities
Week 9, Lecture 17: Products
Week 9, Lecture 18: Personal and environmental ethics
Week 10, Lecture 19: Good news for a change
Week 10, Lecture 20: Tools and approaches for sustainability: 1. Eco-efficiency
Week 11, Lecture 21: Tools and approaches for sustainability: 2. Sustainable consumption
Week 11, Lecture 22: Course review and exam preparation
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2023/24, Not available to visiting students (SS1) Quota:  125
Course Start Semester 2
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Lecture Hours 22, Seminar/Tutorial Hours 3, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 171 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 70 %, Coursework 30 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) Assessment of SSE comprises an examination and a coursework element. To pass SSE overall you need to attain at least 40% in the course work AND 40% in the degree examination. The examination counts for 70% of the overall mark and the coursework for the remaining 30%.

The coursework is designed to prepare you for the tutorials and to produce material on which you can be given feedback so you can improve your essay writing and analytical skills. Participation in the tutorials is considered a very important part of the course.

The coursework assessment consists of the following components:

¿ Attendance at tutorials two and three. If you submit your coursework but do not attend the corresponding tutorial and do not have a valid reason for missing it, your mark for the tutorial will be restricted to 40.

¿ Three 1,200 word essays which act as preparation for the tutorials as well as drawing up the discussion in the tutorials. The first does not count towards your overall mark. It will be marked but its main role is to give you feedback to enable you to improve your two subsequent assessed essays. It can also be used as evidence of having achieved the learning outcomes of the tutorials if you have to miss the others because of illness or another valid reason. The second and third essays each contribute 15% to your final mark (i.e. 30% overall).

Assessment deadlines
The deadline for submission of course work are as follows:
Assignment 1: by 12 noon on Thursday 9th February 2023 (week 4)
Assignment 2: by 12 noon on Thursday 16th March 2023 (week 9)
Assignment 3: by 12 noon on Thursday 6th April 2023 (week 11)
Feedback Verbal feedback will be given during tutorial classes. Formative feedback will be provided on Assignment 1 and summative feedback will be provided on assignment 2 and 3, as well as exam assessment at the end of the course.

Examples of School policy on feedback and marking can be found here:
Exam Information
Exam Diet Paper Name Hours & Minutes
Main Exam Diet S2 (April/May)2:00
Resit Exam Diet (August)2:00
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Demonstrate a broad knowledge and understanding of key environmental challenges at the global and national scales.
  2. Understand the meanings of the term 'sustainable development' and comprehend why it is difficult to implement in practice.
  3. Appreciate the key aspects of a range of environmental and sustainability challenges.
  4. Examine how sustainability impacts upon their own life and how it might relate to their future life and career.
Reading List
Core Text:
Robertson, M. (2015) Sustainability Principles and Practice, Routledge, Oxon.

Additional Useful Resouces:
Berners-Lee, M. (2010), How Bad are Bananas? The Carbon Footprint of Everything, Profile Books, London.
MacKay, D. (2009), Sustainable Energy ? Without the Hot Air, UIT Press, Cambridge. Available to download for free at:
Diamond, J., (2006). Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Survive Penguin Books.
Middleton, N., (2008). The Global Casino: An introduction to Environmental Issues. (4th edition). Hodder Education. (the 3rd edition is also useful)
Mulligan, M. (2015), An Introduction to Sustainability: Environmental, Social and Personal Perspectives, Routledge.
Reay D, (2005). Climate Change begins at Home: Life in the two-way street of global warming. London: Macmillan.

These give a good overview of the key issues in the course and provide supplementary material to the content delivered in lectures. Additional references specific to particular topics may also be provided by the individual lecturers.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
Course organiserDr Ondrej Masek
Tel: (0131 6)50 5095
Course secretaryMiss Francesca Nadal Finnegan
Tel: (0131 6)50 4842
Help & Information
Search DPTs and Courses
Degree Programmes
Browse DPTs
Humanities and Social Science
Science and Engineering
Medicine and Veterinary Medicine
Other Information
Combined Course Timetable
Important Information