DV413      Half Unit
Environmental Problems and Development Interventions

This information is for the 2016/17 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof Timothy Forsyth CON.8.05


This course is available on the MPA in International Development, MSc in Accounting, Organisations and Institutions, MSc in African Development, MSc in Anthropology and Development, MSc in Anthropology and Development Management, MSc in China in Comparative Perspective, MSc in Development Management, MSc in Development Studies, MSc in Environment and Development, MSc in Global Politics, MSc in International Development and Humanitarian Emergencies, MSc in International Relations (Research), MSc in Population and Development, MSc in Public Policy and Administration and MSc in Regulation. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

Please note that in case of over-subscription to this course priority will be given to students from the Department of International Development and its joint degrees (where their regulations permit). This course is capped at 60 students.



Course content

This course is for MSc students who wish to study social and political aspects of environmental change and its implications for international development. The aim is to summarise the key current debates about ‘environment and development’ from perspectives of social and political theory with special reference to institutional theory, livelihoods, and inclusive policy interventions. 

The course is structured to analyse the challenges of making well-informed environmental interventions in the face of poverty and vulnerability, and then seeking practical solutions to these dilemmas.To begin with, the course considers the nature of environmental problems within a ‘development’ context, and what this means for environmental science and norms as applied in developing countries. Themes include assessing environmental science and expertise in development contexts, adaptation to population growth and resource scarcity; gender and environment; and vulnerability to ‘natural’ hazards. As the course progresses, it considers debates about policy interventions such as common property regime theory; theories of the state and environment (including resistance and social movements); community-based natural resource management and Sustainable Livelihoods; adaptation to climate change; forests; and urban environmental policy (these latter themes involve debates on multi-level, multi-actor governance involving the connections of local development and global environmental policy).



15 hours of lectures and 15 hours of seminars in the MT. 1 hour and 30 minutes of lectures in the LT.

This includes a ninety minute revision session in the LT.

Formative coursework

Students will have the opportunity to produce 1 essay in MT

Indicative reading

A detailed weekly reading list will be provided at the first course meeting. Students are not advised to buy a single textbook for this course but to read selectively and critically from various sources. The following books might be useful introductions.

Adams, W.M. 2009 Green Development: environment and sustainability in a developing world. 3rd ed. London: Routledge.

Forsyth, T. 2003. Critical Political Ecology: the politics of environmental science, London, Routledge.

Jones, S. and Carswell, G. 2004. The Earthscan reader in environment, development and rural livelihoods. London ; Sterling, VA : Earthscan.

Neumann, R. 2005. Making Political Ecology, London: Hodder Arnold.

Ostrom, E., Stern P.C., Diet, T., Dulsak, N. and Stonich, S. (eds.) 2002 The Drama of the Commons: Understanding Common Pool Resource Management. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.

L Schipper and I Burton (eds) The Earthscan Reader on Adaptation to Climate Change, Earthscan, 2008.


Exam (80%, duration: 2 hours) in the main exam period.
Essay (20%, 2000 words) in the LT.

Student performance results

(2012/13 - 2014/15 combined)

Classification % of students
Distinction 11.1
Merit 70.4
Pass 17
Fail 1.5

Teachers' comment

This course addresses social and political theory of environment and development, as currently practised by governments and development agencies.

Key facts

Department: International Development

Total students 2015/16: Unavailable

Average class size 2015/16: Unavailable

Controlled access 2015/16: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Self-management
  • Problem solving
  • Communication
  • Specialist skills