Environmental Science and Society

TBC for Autumn 2018

Price: TBC

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Module co-ordinator Jonathan Chenoweth
Other contributors Stephen Morse
  Jhuma Sadhukhan
  Matthew Leach
  Ian Christie
  Chris France
Number of credits 15
Number of ECTS credits 7.5
Module availability Semester 1
Overall student workload 150 hours
Units of assessment Weighting towards module mark (%)
Group work report completed in class 20%
Individual post-module assignment 80%

Alternative sssessment: Alternative case study (group assessment), alternative set of questions (post-module assignment).

Qualifying condition(s): A weighted aggregate mark of 50% is required to pass the module.

Pre-requisite/Co-requisites: None

Module overview

This module seeks to provide students with the physical science and social science introduction that other modules in the Centre for Environment and Sustainability subsequently build upon.

Module aims

This module aims:

  • To introduce key theoretical concepts in the physical and natural sciences and their importance for sustainable development
  • To outline the underlying science behind specific environmental problems such as climate change, ozone depletion and biodiversity loss
  • To give an overview of the scientific approaches to diagnosis, analysis and solution of environmental problems
  • To introduce the complex interactions between scientific knowledge, uncertainty and public policy.

Learning outcomes

Key: C-Cognitive/Analytical; K-Subject Knowledge; T-Transferable Skills; P- Professional/ Practical skills.

On completion of this module, students will be able to:

  • Recognise the importance of science to the debates on sustainable development (C)
  • Be able to articulate the scientific dimensions of policy responses to environmental problems (K)
  • Be able to identify the complexities of sustainable development inherent in the science / policy interface.(K)
  • Be able to carry out a basic environmental risk assessment (P).

Module content

Indicative content includes:

  • Ecology and biodiversity
  • Thermodynamics of ecosystems and human systems
  • Pollution science
  • The science of climate change
  • The science of ozone depletion
  • Environmental risk assessment
  • Scientific uncertainty and the development processes for environmental policy.

Methods of teaching/learning

The teaching and learning strategy is designed to encourage active, problem-based learning. The module will encourage students to explore and critically evaluate theoretical perspectives, and consider their application to case studies.

The learning and teaching methods include:

  • Lectures and class discussions (25 hours)
  • In-class assessed group work (7 hours)
  • Independent study (118 hours).

Assessment strategy

The assessment strategy is designed to provide students with the opportunity to demonstrate the ability to conduct research in the scientific literature and thus build upon concepts introduced in the module’s lectures.

The summative assessment for this module consists of:

  • Ten-page group work report completed during module week (20% of module marks)
  • 3000 word individual post-module coursework consisting of short-answer questions (80% of module marks).

Formative assessment and feedback

Students will receive qualitative feedback (and marks) on the group work report prior to the submission of the individual post-module coursework.

Essential reading


Recommended reading

Moran, E.F. (2010) “Theories and Concepts from the Social Sciences” in Environmental social science: human-environment interactions and sustainability, WileyBlackwell, Malden, pp25-48.

Moran, E.F. (2010) “Theories and Concepts from the Biological Sciences” in Environmental social science: human-environment interactions and sustainability, WileyBlackwell, Malden, pp49-69.

Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (2005). “Summary for decision makers” in Ecosystems and human well-being: Synthesis. Washington D.C.: Island Press, pp1-24.

Moore, G.S. (1999) “Ecosystems and energy flow” in Living with the Earth: Concepts in Environmental Health Science, Lewis Publishers, London.

Moore, G.S. (1999) “Air, Noise and Radiation” in Living with the Earth: Concepts in Environmental Health Science, Lewis Publishers, London.

IPCC (2014) “Summary for Policy Makers” in Climate Change 2014: Synthesis Report. Contribution of Working Groups I, II and III to the Fifth Assessment Report of the 3 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, eds R.K. Pachauri and L.A. Meyer. IPCC, Geneva.

Sonnemann, G., Castells, F., and Schuhmacher, M. (2004) “Environmental Risk Assessment” in Integrated Life-cycle and risk assessment for industrial processes, Lewis Publishers, London.

Frantzen, K.A. (2002) “Environmental Risk Management” in Risk based analysis for environmental managers, Lewis Publishers, London.

Lawler, A. (2010), “Collapse? What collapse? Societal change revisited”, Science, 330(6006), pp907-909.

Adler, R. (2014), “We can build a sustainable world – if you want it”, New Scientist, 2976, 2 July 2014, pp30-33.

Background reading


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Centre for Environment and Sustainability
Arthur C Clarke building, Floor 2
University of Surrey