Environment: Science and Society

This information is for the 2017/18 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Michael Mason STC.510 and Prof David Jones STC.417


This course is compulsory on the BSc in Environment and Development and BSc in Environmental Policy with Economics. This course is available on the BA in Geography, BSc in Geography with Economics and BSc in International Relations. This course is available as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit and to General Course students.

Course content

This course examines debates concerning the nature, cause, and effects of, and alternative solutions to, the key natural environmental degradation and pollution problems faced by human societies. It highlights the role of science in environmental understanding and governance.

The course consists of three sections, although the specific content, order and relative proportion of teaching may change with staff availability. Part A: Introduction and Themes: this introduces students to social scientific perspectives on scientific knowledge and environmentalism. Part B: Environmental Risk and Science: this section examines the physical science basis of current regional and global environmental risks, including geohazards and global atmospheric pollution. Part C: Science and Environmental Governance: this final section of the course examines how environmental science is incorporated in global environmental governance. The course concludes with an examination of the notion of sustainability science.


20 hours of lectures and 9 hours of classes in the MT. 18 hours of lectures and 9 hours of classes in the LT.

This course has a reading week in Week 6 of both MT and LT.

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to produce 3 essays in the MT and LT.

Indicative reading

No one book or small group of books adequately covers the themes considered in the course, and separate reading lists are provided for each distinct part of the syllabus. Basic reading material includes; T. Forsyth, Critical Political Ecology; The Politics of Environmental Science, 2003; A. Goudie (Ed), The Human Impact Reader, 6th edition, 2006; M. K. Hill, Understanding Environmental Pollution, 1997; J. Houghton, Global Warming: The Complete Briefing, 5th edition, 2015; M. Hulme, Why We Disagree About Climate Change, 2009; A.M. Mannion, Dynamic World: Land Cover and Land-Use Change, 2002; G. T. Miller (Ed), Living in the Environment, 2000; K. Smith, Environmental Hazards, 2001; United Nations Environment Programme, UNEP Yearbook 2015, 2015; M. Whitehead, Environmental Transformations, 2014.


Exam (75%, duration: 3 hours) in the main exam period.
Essay (25%, 2000 words) in the LT.

Student performance results

(2014/15 - 2016/17 combined)

Classification % of students
First 30.9
2:1 48.9
2:2 13.8
Third 4.3
Fail 2.1

Key facts

Department: Geography & Environment

Total students 2016/17: 38

Average class size 2016/17: 13

Capped 2016/17: No

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

PDAM skills

  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication

Course survey results

(2014/15 - 2016/17 combined)

1 = "best" score, 5 = "worst" score

The scores below are average responses.

Response rate: 69%



Reading list (Q2.1)


Materials (Q2.3)


Course satisfied (Q2.4)


Lectures (Q2.5)


Integration (Q2.6)


Contact (Q2.7)


Feedback (Q2.8)


Recommend (Q2.9)