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Unit information: Geographies of Nature and Environment in 2020/21

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Unit name Geographies of Nature and Environment
Unit code GEOG20015
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 4 (weeks 1-24)
Unit director Dr. Jackson
Open unit status Not open

GEOG10003 Key Concepts in Human and Physical Geography and
GEOG10002 Geographical History, Thought and Practices



School/department School of Geographical Sciences
Faculty Faculty of Science


‘Geographies of Nature and Environment’ will introduce second-year
undergraduate students to key aspects in the human geographical study of
global environments and nature. The unit aims to address the epistemology
and semantic production of ‘nature’ and ‘the environment’, as well as
analyse key factors underlying how geographical drivers of natural and
environmental change are differently understood. Emphasis will be given to
the historical, cultural, political, and economic study of environments and
nature from the early-modern period to the present. The focus will be on the
Global North and the Global South, with geographical emphases on earlymodern
Europe and historical and contemporary nature/environment issues
in the Americas; historical and contemporary environmental change and its
human responses in polar regions, South Asia and the Pacific; and, different
approaches to understanding and relating to nature and environment from
around the globe. Specific geographical contexts of study may include
analysing indigenous and non-western approaches to nature and
environment, change in historical and contemporary wetlands and riverine
environments, plant and forest ecologies, animal geographies, island and
coastal geographies, carbon, energy and extractive landscapes, polar and
cold climate geographies, and urban geographies.

Intended learning outcomes

Upon successful completion of this unit, students will be able to:

1. Assess contemporary theoretical and empirical debates in the human
geographical analysis of global environments.
2. Communicate the geographical complexities of defining and describing
global environmental issues.
3. Integrate historical, cultural, political, and economic analyses of global
environments to understand its varied geographical significance and
4. Critically evaluate historical and contemporary societal responses to
environmental change, as well as geographical debates in environmental
history, environmental humanities, political ecology, and decolonial
5. Communicate the significance of key factors underlying geographical
drivers of environmental issues.
6. Demonstrate the inter-disciplinary nature of studying human geographies
of nature and environment, in their historical and contemporary aspects,
and so further an awareness of relevant conceptual and empirical
research in cognate disciplines.
7. Demonstrate analytical and conceptual skills in written work.

The following transferable skills are developed in this Unit:

•Written and oral communication
•Discursive analysis of multiple and interdependent textual forms
•Lateral, critical and analytical reasoning
•Planning and implementing applied research projects

Links between learning outcomes and methods of assessment:

  • The assessments will test students’ applied understanding and academic scholarship on the critical geographies of nature and environment, and will require them to be conversant with key themes, concepts and case studies covered in lectures, readings, discussions, films, etc.
  • The assessments will require students to use written communication, critical reasoning, and organisational skills to demonstrate the relationship between concepts/theories and empirical material, and to make effective use of wider literatures to support critical arguments.

Teaching details

The unit will be taught through a blended combination of online and, if possible, in-person teaching, including

  • online resources
  • synchronous group workshops, seminars, tutorials and/or office hours
  • asynchronous individual activities and guided reading for students to work through at their own pace

Assessment Details

Summative assessment will be comprised of two coursework-based papers, one due in TB1 and 1 due in TB2. Details below: 1 x 2,000-word essay (34%) [ILOs 1-7], due TB1. The first essay will assess the first taught component (the first one-third) of the unit. 1 x 2,000-word essay (66%) [ILOs 1-7], due TB2. The second essay will assess the second and third taught components (the second two-thirds) of the unit. Responses to the essay questions for the second assignment will require synthetic analysis across the second and third taught components.

Reading and References

Essential Readings
Warde, P., Robin, L., and Sörlin, S. 2019. The Environment: A History of the
Idea. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.
Wrigley, E. A. 2010. Energy and the Industrial Revolution. Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press.
Haraway, D. 2008. When Species Meet. Minnesota: University of Minnesota
Descola, P. 2013. Beyond Nature and Culture. Chicago: University of
Chicago Press.
Green, L. ed. 2013. Contested Ecologies: Dialogues on Nature and
Knowledge in the Global South. Cape Town: HSRC Press.
Stuhl, A. 2016. Unfreezing the Arctic: Science, Colonialism, and the
Transformation of Inuit Lands. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.