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Unit information: Apocalypse or Ecotopia? in 2021/22

Unit name Apocalypse or Ecotopia?
Unit code POLI30037
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

Description including Unit Aims

Over the last three decades, prominent geologists and – increasingly – social scientists, have argued that the Earth is entering a new geological era: the Anthropocene. Human activity, they argue, has altered the Earth’s climatic and other natural systems to the extent that the geo-physical make-up of the planet and its atmosphere has been irrevocably changed. In this unit we explore the political, social, cultural, economic and ecological causes and consequences of this transformation, and ask whether humanity currently stands on the precipice of ecological ‘apocalypse’ or whether an ‘ecotopian’ future is both pragmatically possible and normatively desirable.

Throughout the unit we apply core environmental concepts, such as ‘the tragedy of the commons’, ‘limits to growth’ and ‘ecological footprints’ to case-study analyses from the global North and South in order to critically evaluate the value of distinct strands of green political thought to political theorising in the Anthropocene. In doing so, we simultaneously interrogate and critique dominant, liberal environmentalist and ecological modernisation responses to a range of ecological problems, including climate change, deforestation, land degradation and biodiversity loss.


• To encourage student understanding of, and interest in, a range of ecological problems, including the causes and consequences of these problems.

• To develop student appreciation of the connections between environmental theory and philosophies, policy and practice, and the range of actors that have input into these processes.

• To enhance understanding of the complexity of the relationship between the environment, economics, politics and socio-cultural factors.

• To extend student key skills in independent research, group work, essay writing and ICT.

Intended Learning Outcomes

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

1. Demonstrate understanding of a range of ecological problems, including the causes and consequences of these problems.
2. Evaluate the connections between green political theory and political responses to ecological problems.
3. Analytically apply core concepts to case study examples.
4. Develop key skills in independent research, group work, presenting, essay writing and ICT

Teaching Information

One 1 hour lecture per week

One 2 hour seminar per week

Assessment Information

Summative Assessment 1: Group Conference Poster (20%)

This assessment comprises two elements, which are equally weighted:

i) Group based research, design and production of a conference poster
ii) 15 minute group presentation / Q&A

This assessment assesses ILOs 1, 3 and 4.

Summative Assessment 2: Essay, 3000 words (80%)

This assessment assesses LOs 1, 2 and 4.


If this unit has a Resource List, you will normally find a link to it in the Blackboard area for the unit. Sometimes there will be a separate link for each weekly topic.

If you are unable to access a list through Blackboard, you can also find it via the Resource Lists homepage. Search for the list by the unit name or code (e.g. POLI30037).

How much time the unit requires
Each credit equates to 10 hours of total student input. For example a 20 credit unit will take you 200 hours of study to complete. Your total learning time is made up of contact time, directed learning tasks, independent learning and assessment activity.

See the Faculty workload statement relating to this unit for more information.

The Board of Examiners will consider all cases where students have failed or not completed the assessments required for credit. The Board considers each student's outcomes across all the units which contribute to each year's programme of study. If you have self-certificated your absence from an assessment, you will normally be required to complete it the next time it runs (this is usually in the next assessment period).
The Board of Examiners will take into account any extenuating circumstances and operates within the Regulations and Code of Practice for Taught Programmes.