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BSc Biology with Science & Society / Course details
Year of entry: 2023
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Course unit details:
Crisis of Nature: Issues in Environmental History
|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?||Yes|
Exploring a series of modern environmental crises - from pollution to overfishing to extinction to climate change - this unit will investigate the origins, nature and future of environmental thinking and its socio-economic consequences. We will work to untangle the narratives that led to the emergence of the 'environment' as an object worth protecting and will ask questions: who speaks on behalf of the environment, who acts on its behalf, and what matters in the attempts to solve environmental issues? Rather than diagnosing the crisis, the unit will instead challenge you to discover the deep-seated sources of human actions that resulted in a shattering of global ecological balance as well as the birth of environmental stewardship.
You will be asked to think locally and globally, working to understand how different scales of problems and magnitudes of risks determine the availability of policies.
The unit encourages you to think creatively and you will be encouraged to produce original analyses and challenge preconceptions.
UCIL units are designed to be accessible to undergraduate students from all disciplines.
UCIL units are credit-bearing and it is not possible to audit UCIL units or take them for additional/extra credits. You must enrol following the standard procedure for your School when adding units outside of your home School.
If you are not sure if you are able to enrol on UCIL units you should contact your School Undergraduate office. You may wish to contact your programme director if your programme does not currently allow you to take a UCIL unit.
This unit aims to familiarise you with the fundamentals of environmental history and to provide an introduction to environmental activism and policy, using case studies that include ocean crisis, plastic pollution, environmental health, man-made disasters and food security.
The unit explores key environmental issues and trends during the last two hundred years, examining the cultural and economic histories of 'nature', and their relation to the emergence of risk society and the politics of environment. It investigates the origins of key environmental crises and analyses how societies define risk and sustainability, produce waste and conceptualise cleanliness.
On successful completion of the unit, you will be able to:
- Explore environmental issues in the light of their historical, scientific, economic and ethical background
- Describe the connections that link environmental changes and how culture and technology have influenced our relationship with nature globally
- Analyse the political and cultural origins of the environmental movement and environmental regulation
- Interpret the ideas and ideology that underpin environmental politics and use this knowledge to analyse a local environmental issue
- Prepare a written report integrating a range of viewpoints
In addition, for 20 credits:
- Research and write a literature-based review, including material from scientific, historical and social contexts
- What is ecology?
- What counts as pollution and waste?
- The rise of risk
- Climate crisis
- Food security
- Ocean's decline
- Urban sprawl
- Species extinction
- War and environment
Teaching and learning methods
- 11 Lectures
- 11 Seminars (or debates, depending on the numbers)
- 2 Hour Examination
- 78 Hours of Independent Study
Knowledge and understanding
Understand and analyse environmental issues in the light of scientific, economic and ethical issues
Understand the global connections that link environmental changes and understand how technology has changed our relationship with nature on a worldwide scale.
Critically examine the political and cultural origins of the environmental movement and environmental regulation in the late 20c.
Examine the cultural and historical constructions of nature and to explore ideas about relations between nature and culture
Develop interpretive skills in understanding the premises of environmental politics
Enhance their creativity in identifying local environmental issues policies
Work in groups in presenting a case study or opinion
Evaluate a judgment or an argument and to work in real-time to present her/his criticism
Find and critically assess primary and secondary sources
Write, with full scholarly apparatus, a report on their individual research project
- Analytical skills
- Develop analytical skills and ability to translate academic arguments into practical action
- Group/team working
- Work in teams and collaborate on providing answers to specific, ad-hoc, questions raised in the readings, lectures and seminars
- Develop ability to identify problems and think creatively in the solution process development
- Oral communication
- Improve presentational skills and oral communication
- 1500 word essay (50%)
- 1500 word field report (50%)
- 1500 word essay (25%)
- 1500 word field report (25%)
- 3000 word project (50%)
When applicable, students receive feedback on weekly basis for their debates.
They receive internal feedback from their peers during debates and seminar discussions.
Students receive feedback from unit coordinator about their essay ideas in a passim form before submission and a fortnight following their Blackboard uploads.
Oral feedback on project outlines is given during office hours and full feedback in GradeMark following the submission.
Exams are thoroughly annotated and can be inspected.
Students give feedback to their learning process in debating and seminar environments, combining their ongoing and targeted research with the lecture-based frameworking.
Student who need feedback come to office hours and communicate via email.
- Douglas M (1984) Purity and Danger. London : Ark
- Soule M & Lease G (1995) Reinventing Nature: Responses to Postmodern Deconstruction. Island Press
|Scheduled activity hours|
|Assessment written exam||2|
|Independent study hours|
|Vladimir Jankovic||Unit coordinator|