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Unit information: The Politics of the Environment in 2020/21

Unit name The Politics of the Environment
Unit code POLI20018
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Parrott
Open unit status Not open




School/department School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law


The unit introduces students to the key debates surrounding the politics of the environment. International responses to climate change and the ecological crisis are critically assessed and evaluated, before students are introduced to key issues such as peak oil, food security and sea-level rise. Throughout the unit, case studies examples from the global North and South are utilised to analyse and assess the ways in which political actors have engaged with and organised for change around key issues related to the politics of the environment. The unit considers in depth the linkages between the environment and political, economic, social and cultural forces, and questions whether the environment should be considered as 'politics' or 'security'. The unit concludes by investigating strategies for green change and the range of actors that may be involved in these processes.


• To provide an introduction to some of the key debates surrounding the politics of the environment.
• To provide an assessment of the significance of environmental problems and evaluate current international responses to these.
• To explore key concepts within environmental politics through case study examples.
• To consider strategies for green change.
• To highlight the linkages between environmental issues and political, economic, social and cultural forces and encourage an interest in and critical understanding of the politics of the environment.

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of the unit, students will be able to:

• Show awareness of the key debates and actors that influence the politics of the environment.
• Critically evaluate responses to different environmental problems.
• Demonstrate understanding of the complexity of the relationship between the environment, economics, politics and socio-cultural factors.
• Utilise different conceptual frameworks to explore the relationship between human activity and its environmental consequences.
• Develop skills in critical discussion and writing articulately, concisely and persuasively.

Teaching details

The unit will be taught through blended learning methods, including a mix of synchronous and asynchronous teaching activities

Assessment Details

Summative Assessment: 3000 essay (100%)

The essay assesses all learning outcomes.

Reading and References

Chasek, P. S., Downie, D. L. & Welsh Brown, J., (2017) Global Environmental Politics: Dilemmas in World Politics, Seventh Edition, Boulder CO: Westview Press.

Dryzek, John (2013) The Politics of the Earth: Environmental Discourse, Oxford: OUP.

Dryzek, John, Norgaard, Richard and Schlosberg, David (2013) Climate-Challenged Society, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Gabrielson, Teena, Hall, Cheryl, Meyer, John and Schlosberg, David (2016) The Oxford Handbook of Environmental Political Theory, Oxford, OUP.

O'Neill, Kate (2017) The Environment and International Relations, Cambridge: CUP.