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Geographies of Environment and Sustainability

Module titleGeographies of Environment and Sustainability
Module codeGEO1310
Academic year2018/9
Module staff

Dr Karen Bickerstaff (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Description - summary of the module content

Module description

Are you interested in understanding how Geographers think about and research environmental issues such as climate change and managing domestic waste? Through this module you will explore the Geographical themes that emerge in contemporary environmental issues. Taking an inter-disciplinary approach (framing challenges, understandings and potential solutions through integrating agendas), we will investigate the ways in which human and physical geographers have come to understand the dynamics of environmental issues in terms of their physical, economic, social, cultural and political complexities. You will gain an introduction to issues of environmental risk and sustainability and then progress on to examine, and apply these ideas, to specific environmental problems or dilemmas.

Module aims - intentions of the module

The module aims to:

  • introduce a range of key concepts and debates related to the identification and management of environmental risk
  • chart the development of environmental philosophy and politics in the recent past, and the meaning and construction of ‘sustainable development’ as defined and practiced by natural and social scientists
  • use concepts of ‘ environmental risk’ and ‘sustainability’ to analyse a series of contemporary environmental issues ┬áthat are embedded in current research on climate change, glacial hazards, consumerism and waste

The module seeks to develop the following graduate attributes:

  • interpersonal skills through small group in-class discussions
  • confidence in understanding and analysing contemporary environmental challenges

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Discuss key geographical approaches to risk and sustainability and understand their relationship to contemporary environmental issues
  • 2. Outline the principles and concepts of sustainability and interpret these in relation to its conceptual and political development
  • 3. Articulate the ways in which Geography and Geographers approach the inter-disciplinary challenges posed by research a theme such as sustainability

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 4. Illustrate and discuss the contested and provisional nature of knowledge and understanding
  • 5. Illustrate the diversity of approaches to the generation of knowledge and understanding
  • 6. Outline the nature of change within natural systems and their relationship to human societies
  • 7. Give examples of reciprocal relationships between physical and human environments
  • 8. Explain the significance of spatial relationships as influences upon physical and human environments
  • 9. Understand and evaluate different perspectives on risk and sustainability, and their practical implications for policy and for the public

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 10. Communicate ideas, principles and theories effectively and fluently
  • 11. Develop a sustained and reasoned argument
  • 12. Identify, acquire, analyse and synthesise information from a range of sources
  • 13. Undertake independent/self-directed study/learning (including time management) to achieve consistent, proficient and sustained attainment

Syllabus plan

Syllabus plan

Whilst the module’s precise content may vary from year to year, it is envisaged that the syllabus will cover some or all of the following topics:

  • Introduction to the Geographies of Environment and Sustainability
  • Theme 1: Understanding and managing environmental risk
  • Theme 2: Environmentalism and sustainability
  • Theme 3: Science and public communication for climate change
  • Theme 4: Environmental hazards: learning from the past to manage the future
  • Theme 5: Public participation and managing waste sustainably

Learning and teaching

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching21Lectures
Scheduled Learning and Teaching1Revision session
Guided Independent Study8Preparation for formative essay plans in class
Guided Independent Study128Reading for examination


Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay plan500 wordsAllIn-class feedback from lecturer

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Key concept review501500 wordsAllWritten
Seen examination501 hourAllOral feedback from pastoral tutor


Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Key concept reviewKey concept reviewAllAugust Ref/Def
Seen examinationSeen examinationAllAugust Ref/Def

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%) you will be required to redo the relevant assessment. If you are successful on referral, your overall module mark will be capped at 40%.


Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • Baker, S. (2006) Sustainable Development (Routledge, London). (Also as an e-book).
  • Connelly, J. and Smith, G. (2003) Politics and the Environment (Routledge, London). (Also as an e-book).
  • Lupton D (1999) Risk : Key Ideas (Routledge, London) (Also an e-book)
  • Taylor-Gooby and Zinn J (2006) Risk in Social Science (Oxford University Press, Oxford) Ch 2 and 5. (Also an e-book)
  • Roberts, J. (2004) Environmental Policy (Routledge, London). (Also as an e-book).

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Module has an active ELE page

Key words search

Geography, sustainable development, sustainability, environmental risk.

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date