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Unit information: World in Crisis? in 2019/20

Please note: Due to alternative arrangements for teaching and assessment in place from 18 March 2020 to mitigate against the restrictions in place due to COVID-19, information shown for 2019/20 may not always be accurate.

Please note: you are viewing unit and programme information for a past academic year. Please see the current academic year for up to date information.

Unit name World in Crisis?
Unit code GEOG16001
Credit points 20
Level of study C/4
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Professor. Neal
Open unit status Open




School/department School of Geographical Sciences
Faculty Faculty of Science

Description including Unit Aims

Global warming, burgeoning populations, unplanned urbanization, logging of tropical forests, loss of biodiversity, modification of gene pools, aging workforces, natural disasters, pandemics, pollution .... newspapers, television reporting, books and films portray a world undergoing radical changes. The concerned citizen is bombarded with information about these "crises" but may legitimately feel that finding a solution to the problems requires an extremely broad knowledge base and that in many areas our knowledge is incomplete. This unit is open to all undergraduates with an enquiring mind and will examine some of the issues that face humankind at the beginning of the 21st century and show how geographers approach the problems facing the modern world. The unit will take topics that are currently reported in the media and examine the realities and uncertainties behind these issues, focusing particularly on the tools available to address key questions. Our aim is to facilitate cross-disciplinary discussion and to promote an in-depth understanding of problems facing us all.


  • To introduce students to some of the major issues currently challenging the world and its decision-makers today
  • To provide an insight into how these issues are influenced by complex interactions between social, cultural, economic, physical and biological processes
  • To demonstrate how observations and modelling are used together to analyse specific issues
  • To demonstrate how geographers are investigating these issues and providing deeper understanding of the problems and potential solutions to the problems that face the 21st century
  • To give an insight into how policy and decision makers can be informed by these investigations

Intended Learning Outcomes

On completion of this Unit students should be able to:

  • Describe and discuss the key environmental problems challenging the world in the 21st century
  • Appreciate how many of these problems are inter-related
  • Understand how human/environment interactions create and influence these problems and often instigate crises
  • Explain how physical and social scientists are observing, modelling and seeking to predict the implications of these problems
  • Make use of electronic learning facilities for guided study and reflection.

The Unit will provide the students with the following transferable skills:

  • analytical skills, and specifically ability to analyse media presentations
  • organisational skills, specifically in maximising the benefit from the directed reading and tutorial support
  • self-motivation, because the course offers multiple opportunities for the student to go in depth into particular areas.

Teaching Information

  • Lectures, directed reading, open-door tutorials
  • 2 x 1 hour lectures per week (20 in total)
  • 4 x 1 hour open-door tutorial slots per month (4 hours total)

Assessment Information

An unseen 1.5 hour multiple choice examination at the end of the teaching block 100%

Reading and References

  1. IPCC (2007), Climate Change (2007) The Scientific Basis. Cambridge University Press
  2. Houghton, J. (2004) Global Warming: The complete briefing. 3rd Edition. CUP.
  3. Watkins, K. (2006) Overview: Beyond scarcity: Power, poverty and the global water crisis, Human Development Report 2006, United Nations Development Programme, p1-25.
  4. Janssen, M.A. and Ostrom, E. (2006) Governing Social-Ecological Systems. Handbook of Computational Economics. Elsevier.
  5. McCarthy et al. (2001) Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability. Cambridge University Press
  6. Roberts and Bellone (2006) The Globalization and Development Reader: perspectives on Development and Global Change. Blackwell Publishing