BAEcon Development Studies

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Environmental Politics

Course unit fact file
Unit code POLI20982
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 2
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


Course content

This course provides an introduction to one of the mainstays of the contemporary political agenda: the politics of the environment.

Indicative course content:

1.       The political origins of environmental problems

2.       Environmental philosophy and ideologies

3.       Environmental movements and protest

4.       Environmental NGOs

5.       Political parties and the environment

6.       Capitalism and environmental politics

7.        Environmental governance

8.       Environmental citizenship

9.       The environment as a challenge to existing political systems


This course will introduce students to some of the key historical, theoretical and practical dimensions of environmental politics and policy. In particular, it explores:

  • the political nature of environmental problems and controversies;
  • the diverse historical, political, and cultural  dimensions of contemporary environmental problems and controversies;
  • connections between local and global environmental issues;
  • Challenges posed by environmental issues to political institutions;
  • power relations between world regions, nation states and social groups within political communities; and
  • the various strategies and tactics used for environmental advocacy, protest and change.

Emphasis is placed on the complexity of contemporary environmental problems and on developing the skills necessary to analysing and responding to them effectively, both as a student of politics and as a citizen


Learning outcomes

On completion of this unit successful students will be able to demonstrate:  

1. Understanding of the range of perspectives on environmental issues  
and how environmental issues maybe understood as political issues  

2. An ability to apply theoretical tools in the analysis of environmental problems and controversies  

3. A capacity for research and reasoning.  

Transferable skills and personal qualities

This is a highly relevant course for students wishing to develop and demonstrate skills that can be applied in a wide range of different jobs and voluntary roles as well as in active citizenship. It could be particularly useful for people considering careers in the civil service, journalism, think tanks, research and policy, teaching, and charitable and activist organisations. Our focus on argumentation, both written and verbal, across all work in the course should make it a particularly good opportunity for you to develop a core critical skill that will be valuable to you in numerous aspects of your life.

Assessment methods

60% research essay; 2,400 words, due at end of semester.

20% review; 800 words; due mid-semester.
20% weekly discussion board posts (non-anonymous); 800 words. 


Feedback methods

Politics staff will provide feedback on written work within 15 working days of submission.

Students should be aware that all marks are provisional until confirmed by the external examiner and the final examinations boards in June.

For modules that do not have examination components the marks and feedback for the final assessed component are not subject to the 15 working day rule and will be released with the examination results.

You will receive feedback on assessed essays in a standard format. This will rate your essay in terms of various aspects of the argument that you have presented your use of sources and the quality of the style and presentation of the essay. If you have any queries about the feedback that you have received you should make an appointment to see your tutor.

On assessments submitted through Turnitin you will receive feedback via Blackboard. This will include suggestions about ways in which you could improve your work in future. You will also receive feedback on non-assessed coursework, whether this is individual or group work. This may be of a more informal kind and may include feedback from peers as well as academic staff

Recommended reading

Preliminary reading:

Stevenson, Hayely (2017) Global Environmental Politics: Problems, Policy and Practice. Cambridge University Press.

Dryzek, John (2015) The Politics of the Earth: Environmental Discourses (3rd edition). Oxford University Press. 


Core reading for the course

Doyle, Timothy, Doug McEachern and Sherilyn MacGregor (2015) Environment and Politics (4th edition). London and New York: Routledge. E-book available

Weston, Anthony (2009) A Rulebook for Arguments (4th edition). Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company.

Study hours

Independent study hours
Independent study 170

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Robert Watt Unit coordinator
Sherilyn MacGregor Unit coordinator

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