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Geopolitics of Population and Environment: Crises and Contradictions


  • Credit value: 15 credits at Level 7
  • Convenor and tutor: Kai Heron
  • Assessment: a 3000-word essay (90%) and participation (10%)

Module description

Today’s world-system is wracked by a series of demographic and ecological crises of unprecedented proportions. Growing ‘surplus populations’, planetary heating, ecological collapse, and escalating gendered, classed and racialised inequality. This module interrogates these ‘crises and contradictions’ through a critical geopolitics of population and environment. It combines a critical, theoretical approach with attention to case studies, analysis of recent public policy documents and empirical data. The module consciously eschews disciplinary boundaries, drawing from critical political theory, political geography, political economy, international relations, critical geopolitics, anti-colonial studies and gender studies. 

This module provides 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. It emphasises the ‘crises and contradictions’ the world faces today.

Indicative module syllabus

  • An Introduction to Critical Geopolitics
  • The Population Question in Historical Perspective
  • Environment: Global Heating and Ecological Collapse
  • Race, Class and Gender in Geopolitical Analysis
  • Extractivism
  • Urban Ecologies
  • Land Grabs, Expropriation and Primitive Accumulation
  • The Anthropocene?
  • The Politics of Carbon
  • The Environmental Geopolitics of Pandemics

Learning objectives

By the end of this module, you will:

  • be able to compare, apply and, where appropriate, synthesise the main theoretical approaches to the study of geopolitics, population and environment
  • have a specialised understanding of issues and debates in critical geopolitics, particularly relating to demographic and ecological shifts
  • understand issues in evaluating geopolitical events, and be able to weigh up incomplete and contradictory evidence
  • be able to make analytical and evidence-based contributions to debates about the risks and benefits various geopolitical events and processes including extractivism, climate change and demographic policy
  • have developed skills of critical thinking, enquiry, synthesis, analysis and evaluation that can be employed on other modules studied at this level.