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Environmental Principles of Global Sustainable Development


 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 »

Expected Student Workload

At Warwick 1CAT = 10 expected/predicted hours of student work.

Therefore, the module is planned to provide 150 hours of student work effort overall: including all learning and assessment tasks.

Each task will be explicitly associated with the number of expected / suggested hours, and these are distributed across the timetable to maximise the responsibility taken to avoid any unreasonable workload spikes (defined as more than 10 hours of work for one module in a given week).

These working times should never be taken as indisputable "laws of physics", but they might be useful to help plan your learning as you progress through the module.

The detailed plan for student working time can be found here:

Environmental Principles 15 CAT

Something on the environmental principles, of truth, indifference, the future, and a hopeful message for action:

Please note: The information on this page relates to the 2021-22 academic year.

Principal Aims

This module allows you to investigate a range of perspectives on Sustainable Development from the perspective of interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary 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 well as associated policy responses at a range of geographical scales. Furthermore, it aims to establish skills for the creation and the persuasive presentation 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.

Employability Skills

Through this module, you will develop a number of different skills that are sought by employers which will support your professional development. We have highlighted this to enable you to identify and reflect on the skills you have acquired and apply them throughout your professional journey including during the recruitment processes whether this on an CV/application form or at an interview.

  • Planning and organising skills through prioritising multiple deadliness including assessments and group tasks.
  • Undertake effective independent research and critical analysis
  • Design and create strategic communication materials targeted at a specific audience
  • Create persuasive and engaging documentary written communication through mixed media including the use of images to produce a professional Policy Briefing
  • Create and deliver persuasive and engaging oral communications needed for a Policy/Elevator Pitch as well through through group discussions.

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.