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Unit information: Politics of the Environment in 2016/17

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Unit name Politics of the Environment
Unit code POLI31556
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
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 green theories and philosophies, and the key debates surrounding the politics of the environment. We begin by tracing the history of environmentalism and ask: is there an environmental crisis? International responses to climate change are critically assessed and evaluated before students are introduced to green theories and philosophies, such as ecologism, deep ecology and Gaia. The key concepts of ‘limits to growth’ and ‘the tragedy of the commons’, and the relationship between poverty and the environment are analysed through case study examples. 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 critically explore key concepts within green political theories and philosophies 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 have the following:

  • Appreciation of the connections between environmental theory and philosophies, policy and practice, and the range of actors that have input into these processes.
  • Understanding of the complexity of the relationship between the environment, economics, politics and socio-cultural factors.
  • Awareness of the impacts of environmental degradation, particularly to the global South.
  • Development of key skills such as evaluation, presentation, speaking and listening, independent research, essay writing and examination preparation.

Teaching details

Either 1 hour lecture and 2 hour seminar, or 3 hour seminar per week, depending on cohort numbers.

Assessment Details

Formative (0%): 1500 word portfolio of independent learning tasks

Summative (100%: 3000 word essay

Both assessments assess all of the intended learning outcomes.

Reading and References

1. Barry, John (2012) The Politics of Actually Existing Unsustainability, Oxford: OUP.

2. Bluhdorn, Ingolfur and Walsh, Ian (2015) The Politics of Unsustainability, Abingdon: Routledge

3. Chesek, Janet et al (2013) Global Environmental Politics, Boulder CO: Westview Press.
4. Dryzek, John et al (2013) Climate Challenged Society, Oxford: OUP
5. Dobson, Andrew (2007) Green Political Thought, 4th Edition, London; New York: Routledge.