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Unit information: Politics of the Environment in 2015/16

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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 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Flint
Open unit status Not open




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

Description including Unit Aims


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 Information

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

Assessment Information

2,000 word summative essay (25%)

2 hour summative exam (75%)

Both assessments assess all of the intended learning outcomes.

Reading and References

  • Dobson, A., Green Political Thought, 4th Edition, London; New York: Routledge, 2007
  • Conca, K., Alberty, M. & Dabelko, D.B (eds), Green planet Blues: Environmental Politics from Stockholm to Johannesburg, Boulder CO: Westview Press, 2004
  • Dalby, S., Environmental Security, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2002
  • Dryzek, J.S. & Schlosberg, D. (eds), Debating the Earth: The Environmental Politics Reader, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2003
  • Lomborg, B., The Skeptical Environmentalist: Measuring the Real State of the World Cambridge University Press, 2001
  • Porter, G., Welsh Brown, J. & Chasek, P.S., Global Environmental Politics, Boulder CO: Westview Press, 2006