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The 'Anthropocene'

Module titleThe 'Anthropocene'
Module codeGEO2234
Academic year2023/4
Module staff

Dr Tom Roland (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Description - summary of the module content

Module description

We are living through an era in the Earth’s history in which humankind has become the dominant driver of change – the ‘Anthropocene’. It is hoped that by understanding the causes and effects of anthropogenic climate and environmental change a more sustainable future can be forged for human society and non-human nature alike. In this module we will: i) place the Anthropocene within the context of past environmental and climate changes; ii) examine the extent, magnitude and severity of human influence across the Earth system, from the atmosphere to the biosphere; and, iii) explore possibilities to mitigate and/or live with the current and ongoing climate crisis and environmental breakdown. We will challenge ourselves to think about our past, present and future roles in the Anthropocene, as individuals and as a collective, and our potential as agents of change as we seek to address the biggest challenge humankind has ever faced.


Module aims - intentions of the module

In the first half of this module we aim to provide you with insight into the origins and causes of the Anthropocene, as a process, era and concept. You will learn about the fundamental changes taking place across the Earth system as a result of anthropogenic climate and environmental change, and explore the techniques available to monitor and quantify these. We will consider the evolution of the environmental and ecological influence of humans, from localised ecosystem engineers through to modifiers of the Earth system.

In the second half of the module, we will look to the future of the Anthropocene and consider a series of approaches offering potential and/or partial ‘solutions’ to the climatic and environmental challenges facing us and our planet in the years, decades and centuries to come. In doing so, we will explore possibilities provided through rewilding as well as by novel ecosystems, and we will look beyond western scientific approaches for opportunities to reframe our thinking on sustainability and environmental conservation.

The module also aims to highlight the importance of informed and well-presented scientific communication, and to consider the potential of ‘citizen science’ to increase engagement and understanding with environmental and climatic issues. Ultimately, this module aims to help you develop and extend your awareness of the challenges facing us in the Anthropocene, and provides you with the knowledge and skills to reconsider the role you play in the future of our planet.

The module will enable you to develop skills to enhance your employability potential and career development by providing you with:

  • an up-to-date knowledge of the ongoing climate and environmental crises
  • insight into approaches to climate change mitigation and environmental conservation/restoration
  • an appreciation of the contested and provisional nature of environmental knowledge
  • an opportunity to develop skills in the communication of scientifically-informed opinions through written and digital communication

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

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

  • 1. Summarise the causes of anthropogenic climatic and environmental change in the Anthropocene
  • 2. Outline the environmental and ecological effects of human activities over a range of timescales
  • 3. Discuss various methods and approaches proposed to address current and future climatic and environmental challenges

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

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

  • 4. Evaluate a diverse range of techniques and approaches involved in collecting and analysing geographical information
  • 5. Identify a diverse range of approaches to the generation of knowledge and understanding
  • 6. Outline the nature of change within the Earth system and its physical environments, and their relationships to human societies over a variety of timescales
  • 7. Discuss reciprocal relationships between physical and human environments

ILO: Personal and key skills

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

  • 8. Communicate ideas, principles and theories effectively and fluently using written communication and through the production of audio-visual media
  • 9. Identify, acquire, analyse and synthesise information from a range of sources
  • 10. Develop a sustained and reasoned argument
  • 11. Undertake and develop independent/self-directed study/learning to achieve consistent, proficient and sustained attainment

Syllabus plan

Syllabus plan

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

  • Defining the Anthropocene
  • The Earth’s human history
  • The Great Acceleration
  • The Climate Crisis: anthropogenic climate change
  • Environmental breakdown: the biosphere in the Anthropocene
  • Polluted Earth
  • Water, food and energy security
  • Rewilding
  • The New Wild: invasive species and novel ecosystems
  • Indigenous ecologies
  • The Future of the Anthropocene

The module will also include workshops on popular science writing and documentary making.

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 Teaching20Lectures
Scheduled Learning and Teaching8Student-led seminars, and documentary screenings and discussion
Scheduled Learning and Teaching4Assessment workshops
Scheduled Learning and Teaching2Student-led workshop
Guided Independent Study14Research, reading and preparation for workshops and seminars
Guided Independent Study102Research, reading and preparation for module assessments


Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Regular group workshops/seminars (formative) based on a series of key issues and guided readings.Class discussions, practical exercises between 10 minutes and one hour in durationAllIn-class feedback from lecturer
Documentary ‘storyboard’ plan1 pageAllOral and written feedback to group

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
Documentary project408-12 minutes (dependent on group size)AllWritten
Popular science article601500-wordsAll written


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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Documentary projectNarrated PowerPoint presentationAllAugust Ref/Def
Popular science articlePopular science articleAllAugust 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 or submit a further assessment as necessary. If you are successful on referral, your overall module mark will be capped at 40%.


Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Basic reading:

  • Thomas, J.A., Williams, M., Zalasiewicz, J. (2020) The Anthropocene: a multidisciplinary approach. Polity.
  • McCorriston, J., Field, J. (2020) Anthropocene: A New Introduction to World Prehistory. Thames & Hudson.
  • Lewis, S.L., Maslin, M.A. (2018) The Human Planet: How We Created the Anthropocene. Pelican.
  • Ellis, E.C. (2018) Anthropocene: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford University Press

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

  • ELE: 

Module has an active ELE page

Key words search

Anthropocene, climate change, climate crisis, environmental breakdown, pollution, microplastics, rewilding, invasive species, novel ecosystems, indigenous ecology, science communication.

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date