BA Politics and Modern History / Course details

Year of entry: 2019

Course unit details:
The Crisis of Nature: Issues in Environmental History

Unit code HSTM20592
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 2
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by Centre for History of Science, Technology & Medicine (L5)
Available as a free choice unit? No

Overview

Pandemics, overfishing, mass extinctions, plastics, disasters, disappearing forests - both the popular media and scientists today speak in terms of a major environmental crisis. In this course you will explore the following questions: How new are these concerns? What are the origins of environmental thinking? Indeed, what is meant by "nature"? What is thought to be the ideal relationship of the human species to the rest of the world? And do we have anything to learn from other cultures or from our own past?

Aims

Pandemics, plastics, global warming, mass extinctions, disappearing forests – both the popular media and scientists today increasingly speak in terms of environmental crisis. The aim of this course is to explore the following questions: How new are these concerns? What are the origins of environmental thinking? Indeed, what is meant by “nature”? What is thought to be the ideal relationship of the human species to the rest of the world? And do we have anything to learn from other cultures or from our own past?

Learning outcomes

By the end of this unit, a student taking this unit will be able:

  • to analyse environmental movements and environmental legislation in the light of key scientific and ethical issues
  • to see the global connections that link environmental changes and pay particular attention to how modern technology has changed our relationship with nature on a worldwide scale
  • to analyse the many cultural and historical constructions of nature and to explore ideas about relations between nature and culture
  • to be familiar with a wide range of perspectives on the environment – social, cultural, scientific and political

Syllabus

  • Origins and meaning of “nature”
  • Invention of the environment
  • Risk Society
  • Environmental health
  • Climate Crisis
  • Overfishing
  • Catastrophes
  • Food chains and GMOs
  • Plastics
  • Crises in the Media

One lecture and one seminar per week. Seminars are based on debate on set problem (not assessed).

Employability skills

Analytical skills
Critical reading, essays - all based on analytical readings of sources
Group/team working
Seminars would involve non-assessed debates between teams.
Innovation/creativity
Students develop different interpretations to problem questions - on occasion work on highly localized problems even on campus (light saving proposals on basis of observations). In sessions, developing argument for maximum impact on jury. Jury creatively interprets defense and prosecution groups.
Leadership
During seminars, group leaders are in charge of leading the group in the debate
Oral communication
Seminars discussions, debates
Problem solving
Essays may require finding a solution to a problem: e.g. what is the key environmental issue on the campus of University of Manchester?
Research
Primary and Secondary
Written communication
Essay and exam; short summaries when required

Assessment methods

1000 word essay (50%); exam (50%)

Recommended reading

  • Cronon W (1996) Uncommon Ground. W.W.Norton
  • Douglas M (1984) Purity and Danger. London : Ark
  • Soule M & Lease G (1995) Reinventing Nature: Responses to Postmodern Deconstruction. Island Press
  • Vladimir Jankovic (2010) Confronting the Climate. New York

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Assessment written exam 2
Lectures 12
Seminars 12
Independent study hours
Independent study 74

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Vladimir Jankovic Unit coordinator

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