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MA Education for a Sustainable Environment

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Political Ecologies

Course unit fact file
Unit code GEOG70952
Credit rating 15
Unit level FHEQ level 7 – master's degree or fourth year of an integrated master's degree
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by Geography
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


This unit examines the relationship between the political and economic dynamics of capitalism and the state 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.


  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

  • 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
¿ Policy Analysis ¿ Report Writing
Oral communication
Presentation skills
Written communication
Report Writing
Policy analysis

Assessment methods

  • 500 word essay on set reading, including key issues and questions for plenary group discussion (20%)
  • Final 3000 word essay. The essay will relate to one of the themes/readings discussed in the course. A list of possible essay titles is provided (80%)

Feedback methods

  • Oral feedback on leading group discussion in week of presentation
  • Written feedback through Blackboard on both units of assessment

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
Seminars 22
Independent study hours
Independent study 128

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Nate Millington Unit coordinator
Erik Swyngedouw Unit coordinator
Mark Usher Unit coordinator

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