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Geopolitics of Population and Environment: Futures


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

Module description

What is the future of geopolitics? Will the world descend, as the UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights warned in 2019, into a ‘climate apartheid’ scenario 'where the wealthy pay to escape overheating, hunger, and conflict while the rest of the world is left to suffer'? Might the world instead be transformed by a global Green New Deal that puts social and climate justice at its core? Or might we see a world transformed along other lines, such as degrowth, Indigenous demands for #LandBack, or abolitionism?

Through the geopolitics of population and environment, this module prompts us to ask such questions with a view to understanding the future direction of geopolitics. The module eschews disciplinary boundaries, drawing from critical political theory, political geography, political economy, international relations, critical geopolitics, anti-colonial studies and gender studies. It 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. In particular, the module emphasises how various global actors, social movements and theorists are responding to the world’s social and ecological crises by trying to bring into being new geopolitical configurations.

Indicative module syllabus

  • A Critical Geopolitics of the Future
  • Green Capitalism? Sustainable Development and Sustainability
  • Surplus Populations and Planetary (Eco-)Apartheid
  • Green New Deals
  • Degrowth
  • Food Security, Food Sovereignty and Agroecology
  • The Geopolitics of Rewilding and Conservation
  • Reproductive Justice
  • LandBack and Global Climate Justice
  • Racial Justice and Abolition Ecologies

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 future direction of geopolitics including sustainable development, agroecology, reproductive justice and degrowth
  • have developed skills of critical thinking, enquiry, synthesis, analysis and evaluation that can be employed on other modules studied at this level.