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Module titleCatastropolis
Module codeGEO3469
Academic year2022/3
Module staff

Dr Geoff Main (Lecturer)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Description - summary of the module content

Module description

The 21st century has seen four distinct and intertwined trends: 1) increasing numbers of people living in urban centres; 2) increasing numbers of disasters; 3) increasing numbers of people affected by disasters and 4), increasing cost of disasters. This has resulted in the emergence of the Catastropolis era: disaster entangled with urbanisation. By 2030, at least 61% of the global population will live in cities. 1 in 14 global cities are already exposed to violent forces of the Earth. Urbanisation can increase exposure and vulnerability, creating new patterns of risk, while also providing opportunities for reducing risks that are amplified by human activities. This module adopts an interdisciplinary perspective to explore the Catastropolis era through the lenses of urban and hazard geographies. This module requires no prior skills or experience and is particularly suitable for interdisciplinary pathways.

Module aims - intentions of the module

This module aims to provide students with an in-depth understanding of the Catastropolis era: the concepts, challenges, and potential solutions. Through our interdisciplinary approach, we examine the interactions between vulnerability, risk, resilience and the urban environment, how the urban is both a threat and an opportunity, and how cities and us as individuals can attempt to prevent the continued rise of Catastropolis.

The module will introduce you to relevant academic and professional skills which can be utilised and drawn on in a wide range of professions and occupations. These skills will include:

The value of interdisciplinarity to explore significant cross-cutting global issues;

The ability to integrate and apply knowledge, ideas, and methods from across disciplinary boundaries;

Competence in articulating and presenting evidence, principles, and theories in a variety of formats and in a manner appropriate to the intended audience;

Working effectively individually and within a group setting.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

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

  • 1. Clearly articulate the processes that have given rise to the geographical spread and expansion of cities in general, and as applicable to case study cities
  • 2. Describe and critically evaluate theories and concepts of environmental risk
  • 3. Describe and critically evaluate the policies that specific cities are developing/have developed in order to mitigate the effects of Catastropolis
  • 4. Describe the multifaceted forces of wounding impacting urban environments through time and scale.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

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

  • 1. Describe in detail and analyse essential facts, combined with theory, across two subdisciplines of geography/environmental science
  • 2. Analyse and evaluate independently and collaboratively a range of research-informed and ‘grey’ literature, synthesising examples into a variety of formats
  • 3. With minimal guidance, utilise established techniques of analysis, investigation and enquiry with reference to primary literature, reviews, ‘grey’ literature and other sources data

ILO: Personal and key skills

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

  • 1. Communicate ideas, principles and theories effectively and fluently
  • 2. Develop a sustained and reasoned argument with sound and convincing conclusions
  • 3. Articulate ideas and arguments using a variety of formats in a manner appropriate to the intended audience
  • 4. Work within groups as well as independently
  • 5. Effectively manage deadlines

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:

  • Cities and Environmental Risk
  • Vulnerabilities of the City
  • Disastrous Cities
  • Hot Urbanism
  • The Resilient City
  • Nature and the City

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 Teaching 10Lectures
Scheduled Learning and Teaching 10Workshops
Scheduled Learning and Teaching 10Forum
Scheduled Learning and Teaching 4Field trip(s)*
Guided Independent Study 10Reading and preparatory work for workshops
Guided Independent Study 106Reading, research and writing for assessments
*Module field trips may have to be moved online/replaced in the event of continued COVID-19 lockdown/social distancing regulations.


Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Engagement in class discussion OngoingAllOral
Weekly reflectionOngoingAllOral

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
Group Poster Presentation301000 words (equivalent)/ 5 minute presentation with Q&A1, 3-6, 8-12Written & Oral
Individual Report702000 words AllWritten


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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Poster Presentation Poster Presentation 1, 3-6, 8-12August Ref/Def
Report Report AllAugust 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 sit a further examination. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of referral will count for 100% of the final mark and will be capped at 40%.


Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • Alexander, D. (2000). Confronting Catastrophe: New Perspectives on Natural Disasters. Terra and Oxford University Press.
  • Alexander, D. (2016). How to write an Emergency Plan. Dunedin Academic Press.
  • Muir-Wood, R. (2016). The Cure for Catastrophe. One World Publications.
  • Pelling, M. (2012).Ã?¢ï¿½Ã?¯The vulnerability of cities: natural disasters and social resilience. Routledge.
  • Susser, J. & Schneider, I. (2003). Wounded Cities: Destruction and Reconstruction in a Globalised World. Routledge.

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Module has an active ELE page

Indicative learning resources - Other resources

  • Online TED Talks and other online material 

Key words search

Geography, urbanisation, cities, risk, hazards, disasters, resilience, vulnerability, wounding. 

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date