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MSc Environmental Governance

Year of entry: 2021

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Course unit details:
Political Ecologies

Unit code GEOG70951
Credit rating 15
Unit level FHEQ level 7 – master's degree or fourth year of an integrated master's degree
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by Geography
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


This unit examines the relationship between the political and economic dynamics of capitalism on the one hand and the dynamics of environmental change on the other. Particular attention will be paid to the political nature of socio-ecological transformations. The political ecology of capitalism will be explored through a range of case studies from around the world. Furthermore, the relationship between capitalism, planetary urbanization and combined and uneven socio-ecological transformation will be explored with an eye towards identifying the political possibilities opened up by the environmental condition the world is in.


The unit aims to:

  1. Examining the Political Economy of the Environment
  2. Interrogating the history and present condition of Political Ecology
  3. Examining the Political possibilities of Environmental Concerns
  4. Exploring specific case-studies
  5. Examining the relationship between Global Environmental Change and Planetary Urbanization
  6. Introducing the politics and ecologies of the Anthropocene
  7. Examining Political-Ecological Movements


Teaching and learning methods

This is additional to that identified by the Scheduled Activity Hours and Assessment Methods fields.

  • Presentations
  • Group Discussions


Knowledge and understanding

  • Understand the relationship between capitalist development and ecological change.
  • Be able to mobilize the methodologies of political ecology in a concrete socio-ecological environment.
  • Evaluate different perspectives of political ecology
  • Understand the relationship between political ecology and environmental politics

Intellectual skills

  • Think critically and independently
  • Analyse and evaluate different kinds of argumentation
  • Make connections between theoretical arguments and real-world cases
  • Assess the merits of contrasting theories and their policy implications
  • Read advanced academic literature

Practical skills

  • Develop, articulate and sustain logical, structured and reasoned arguments in both written and oral contexts
  • Build skills in public presentations and public debating

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • Inter-personal communication
  • Motivated and self-directed learning
  • Critical thinking and argumentation

Employability skills

¿ Analytical skills ¿ Presentation skills ¿ Policy Analysis ¿ Report Writing

Assessment methods

Leading Group Discussion and active participation (20%)

Final Essay, 3,000 words that incorporates oral feedback from the seminar presentation. The essay will relate to one of the themes/readings discussed in the course (80%)


Feedback methods

  • Oral feedback on leading group discussion in week of presentation.
  • Written feedback through Blackboard.

Recommended reading

Perreault T, Bridge G. and J. McCarthy (Eds.) Handbook of Political Ecology, Routledge, London and New York

Heynen, N., Kaika M., and E. Swyngedouw) (Eds.) In the Nature of Cities – Urban Political Ecology and the Politics of Urban Metabolism, Routledge, London and New York

Harvey, D. (2007) Limits to Capital, Verso, London

Harvey, D. (1996) Justice, Nature and the Politics of Difference. Blackwell, Oxford

Ernstson, H. and Swyngedouw E. (Eds.0 (2018) Interrupting the Anthropo-Obscene. Routledge, London


More detailed reading will be provided as part of the course unit handbook.

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 22
Independent study hours
Independent study 120

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Henrik Ernstson Unit coordinator
Erik Swyngedouw Unit coordinator

Additional notes

 Unit level
This identifies the intellectual demands of the unit. This refers to the level of study being undertaken for a given course unit, as opposed to the year in which a student will take it. For instance many programmes include the ability for students to take a maximum of 20 credits at a lower level within a given year, and in this instance the student may be a 2nd Year student, but taking 20 credits at 'Unit Level' 1.

The level should normally mimic the naming convention of the unit Catalog Nbr (the first numeric defining the unit level), and in many instances may match the level at which students taking the course unit are activated in, within the specific study Term (ie. 2nd Year student taking a level 2 unit). This will not always be the case (ie. year abroad students, visiting students, etc.).

 FHEQ level (Framework for Higher Education Qualifications)

Credit Level descriptors are used to help work out the level of learning in individual course units, in the format of National Guidelines. They are guides that help identify the relative demand, complexity and depth of learning, and learner autonomy expected at each level.

Eight Credit Levels are used, of these 4 to 8 represent the types of learning undertaken in Higher Education. Levels 4, 5 and 6 correspond to years 1, 2 and 3 of an undergraduate degree, whilst level 7 of the FHEQ relates to Masters level learning. Level 8 refers to learning at Doctorate level.

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