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Humans and the Environment


  • Credit value: 30 credits at Level 4
  • Convenor: Dr Olivia Sheringham
  • Assessment: a 2000-word essay (60%) and fieldtrip report (40%)

Module description

In this module we introduce you to key approaches, theories and debates in the study of relationships between humans and the environment. We invite you to critically explore a range of different environments, including cities, rural areas and conservation sites, and address questions about environmental policies, decolonial ecologies and what sustainable futures might look like.

We will examine different understandings of nature, from something ‘out there’ to something that is integral to our existence. We will explore some of the contemporary tensions and debates between different kinds of natures, societies and ways of knowing, with reference to case studies related to specific environmental and social concerns, including climate justice, urbanisation, rewilding, sustainable food systems, indigenous resistances and contested questions surrounding environmental ‘governance'.

You will have the opportunity to become skilled in interpreting the complexity behind the use of the term 'nature' and 'natural' and how it is mobilised for political and scientific ends.

Indicative syllabus

  • Introduction
  • Humans/nature
  • Rewilding, wilding and wilderness
  • Humans/cities/postcolonialism
  • Library skills session
  • Encounters with wildlife
  • Environmental governance, gender and indigenous peoples
  • Sustainability transitions
  • Social and environmental justice futures

Learning objectives

By the end of this module, you will be familiar with:

  • key academic approaches and debates in the study of environmental policy and politics
  • key issues of concern in the interaction of humans and the environment
  • the institutional and policy-making context for environmental issues nationally and internationally
  • the contested understandings of 'nature' and the 'environment' and the significance of this for environmental politics.