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The Geopolitics of Environment and Resources


  • Credit value: 30 credits at Level 7
  • Convenor: Kai Heron
  • Assessment: a 5000-word essay (90%) and 500-word learning journal (10%)

Module description

This module's main focus is on the relationship between population, environment and global politics. It combines a critical, theoretical approach with attention to case studies, analysis of recent public policy documents and empirical data.

It is interdisciplinary in terms of its sources: it draws in particular on normative and critical political theory, political geography, political economy, international relations, critical geopolitics, demography, sociology and gender studies.

The course aims to provide you with the skills and materials needed to understand the trajectories of current demographic and environmental change, and to appreciate the tensions and contradictions they generate in the geopolitical realm through relationships between and across states and regions.

Specifically, this module seeks critically to explore the political interactions between notions of scarcity and abundance, nature and society, the human and the nonhuman, population growth and control, and conflict and cooperation in the exploitation of natural resources at a planetary level. Throughout, it aims to pose normative questions about controversial issues and to look critically at some of the answers that have been given by examining their underlying assumptions and the interests invested in them.

The module will familiarise you with theoretical frames of analysis which shed light on the race, class and gender aspects of population control and environmental degradation. The most recent literature on how environmental and social pressures are managed in urban and rural contexts will also be covered in weeks on urban ecologies and extractivism.

There are opportunities in the course to undertake your own case studies of geopolitical, population and environmental occurrences and debates in particular countries.

Learning objectives

By the end of this module, you will:

  • be familiar with the main concepts and theories applied to the study of population, environment and global politics
  • be conversant with debates concerning demographic and environmental change
  • develop critical analysis skills by learning to analyse the relations between scales (e.g. international, local) and to historicise concepts and problems
  • be able to assess the validity of analytical distinctions, and produce well-sourced, argument-driven essays.