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Environmental Principles of Global Sustainable Development

Planetary Boundaries


 Dr Alastair Smith

Module Leader

Term 2
10 weeks
10 weekly, 1 hour lectures
10 weekly, 1.5 hour workshops
Not available to students outside the School for Cross-Faculty Studies

Moodle Platform »

Please note: The information on this page relates to the 2019-20 academic year.

Principal Aims

This module allows you to investigate the range of perspectives on Sustainable Development from the field of Environmental Studies. It aims to equip you with the capacity to engage in academically-grounded and critical discussion of the world’s most pressing environmental issues, as outlined by the increasingly prevalent framework of the nine Planetary Boundaries (Image, left). Learning also includes employability skills for the persuasive communication of environmental policy to key decision makers: specifically through the creation of a Policy Briefing paper and a Policy Pitch.

Principal Learning Outcomes

Upon completing this module you will have acquired specific knowledge and understanding that allows you to:

  • Explain the main reasons for concern about the environmental health of our planet today, along with the causes, extent, relation to human activities, and impacts of anthropogenic activities over time;
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the importance of scientific knowledge in the consideration of environmental sustainability;
  • Critically appraise discourses of environmental decline and sustainability from an interdisciplinary perspective;
  • Demonstrate an understanding of key academic concepts, frameworks and theories used in relation to environmental sustainability;
  • Critically evaluate governance opportunities for greater global environmental sustainability;
  • Undertake academically rigorous research into environmental problems to produce policy and practice relevant proposals;
  • Persuade environmental decision makers about the merits of evidence-based policy, and practice articulating your proposals in written and oral formats.

Indicative Syllabus

  1. Introduction: The Natural Environment, Human Values and Conceptual Interpretation
  2. Constructing Knowledge of the Environment: Philosophy and Evidence
  3. Introduction to Ecological Principles and Processes
  4. Ecology and Biodiversity for Sustainable Development
  5. Stratospheric Ozone Depletion: International best practice for global change?
  6. Elementary Sustainability: Biogeochemical Flows and Intergenerational Justice
  7. The Sustainability Trump Card? Climate Change and Ocean Acidification
  8. “Water, water everywhere… [concentrated and reserved for the global elite]”
  9. Land-System Change: Loss of the natural world and its implications
  10. Speed Bumps and Sustainability? Chemical pollution & atmospheric aerosol loading.

NB: The specifics of session might vary with revisions in responses to research-led-scholarship and student feedback.