Public Environmental Politics

Module titlePublic Environmental Politics
Module codePOL2101
Academic year2018/9
Module staff

Dr Angela Cassidy (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Description - summary of the module content

Module description

Environmental issues continue to be one of the key – and fiercely contested – areas of policy formation and political debate in today’s society, as concerns widen over the severity and speed of environmental change as a consequence of human activities. In this course you will have the opportunity to explore the complex political processes surrounding environmental science, politics and policy; and investigate how these issues are contested and at times decided in today’s fast moving mass media and wider public sphere.  In so doing, you will learn about the historical development of environmental movements and green political thought. Throughout the course, we will engage with contemporary debates about environmental politics by interrogating claims and counter claims made in mass media coverage; and to critique the latest policy developments. There are no pre-requisites for the course, but it is recommended that you have a good background in politics, international relations and/or human geography to ensure successful completion.

Module aims - intentions of the module

This module aims to introduce the historical and contemporary character of environmentalism and sustainability as processes of public campaigning and political change. In so doing, it aims to introduce key scientific, philosophical and theoretical debates on the environment, alongside real world developments environmental policy and politics. It will equip students with the key skill to help them critically evaluate scientific and policy claims made in mass media coverage of environmental issues. The primary context will be the UK and the European Union, but the international scene will always be in evidence.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Understand the origins and evolution of green political thought
  • 2. Critique the different ways in which environmental issues have been framed in public and policy arenas
  • 3. Analyse the role and perspectives of multiple actors and perspectives on in environmental policy
  • 4. Display knowledge of the complexities of addressing environmental policy across policy sectors and governance scales
  • 5. Evaluate critically policy and public initiatives to tackle environmental problems
  • 6. Recognise the difficulties of achieving meaningful environmental debates and global policy agreements

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 7. Think critically, analyse debates and present coherent arguments about environmental politics
  • 8. Evaluate the effectiveness of and barriers to policy interventions
  • 9. Understand processes of political contestation in the modern public sphere via lobbying, mass media, public engagement and policy formation

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 10. Evaluate ideas and debates
  • 11. Demonstrate critical media literacy skills – search for, contextualize and evaluate mass media content
  • 12. Present written material in a coherent and accessible manner
  • 13. Work collaboratively in a group to produce a short film and evaluate others’ performance
  • 14. Contribute productively and co-operatively to class discussions

Syllabus plan

Syllabus plan

Whilst the module’s precise content may vary from year to year, it is envisaged that the syllabus will cover some or all of the following topics:


-       Histories of environmental politics and green political thought.

-       Roles of the public sphere, mass media and environmental communication

-       Campaigning: environmental social movements and NGOs

-       Environmental publics, participatory governance and science-policy interfaces

-       Policy frameworks: sustainable development?

-       Policy instruments: regulation, markets & values

-       Environmental governance in the UK and EU

-       Global environmental politics

Throughout the course, these conceptual lenses will be used to help students investigate and understand topical issues in environmental politics such as air pollution, water, waste, land management; biodiversity, energy and climate change.

Learning and teaching

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activities1111 x 1 hour lectures
Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activities1010 x 1 hour seminars
Guided Independent Study60Reading
Guided independent study39Assignment preparation: conducting research, critical analysis of literature & media content, and writing the case study
Guided independent study30Groupwork; preparation of video and writeup


Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Group project – producing an environmental briefing film, to be presented towards the end of the course. 10 minutes each1-11; 13Oral
Contributions to class discussionThroughout course1-11; 14Oral
Environmental politics news scrapbook & class discussion Throughout course – assessed via oral contribution Students will be asked to voluntarily submit their scrapbooks as an appendix to summative assessments.1-11; 14Oral/written

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Case study investigation report602,500 words1-12Written & oral with returned essay
Briefing notes to accompany video + reflective diary of groupwork 401000 words (briefing notes) 1000 words (reflective diary)1-12Written & oral with returned essay


Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Case study investigation reportCase Study (2,500 words)1-12August/September reassessment period
Briefing notes to accompany video + reflective diary of groupworkBriefing notes + diary (1000+1000 words)1-12August/September reassessment period


Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Core Texts:


Anderson, A (2016) Media, environment and the network society. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan



Connelly, J., Smith, G., Benson, D. & Saunders, C. (2012) Politics and the Environment. Routledge, Oxford.


Hansen, A. (2010). Environment, media and communication. Routledge.


Hilton, M., McKay, J., Crowson, N., &; Mouhot, J.(2013). The Politics of Expertise: How NGOs Shaped Modern Britain. Oxford: Oxford University Press.


Roberts, J. (2010). Environmental Policy. Routledge.


All are available as ebook editions from the library


Suggested readings will be listed for each seminar topic. Ideally, you should be aiming to read at least three items for each seminar (including the main reading). For your essays, you should be consulting a minimum of eight pieces.


Please keep in mind that module reading lists are only indicators of some relevant reading materials and you should browse the library shelves to find alternative sources that may give you a different perspective.


Much of the material we cover in this module can be accessed through journals. Journals can be accessed and read online at:


Some of the main journals relevant to this module are: Global Environmental Change, Environmental Politics, Environment and Planning A/C, , Climate Policy; Environmental Communication; Public Understanding of Science


ELE – College to provide hyperlink to appropriate pages

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

House of Commons EAC:

United Nations Environment Programme:

European Union:


For media sources, check the Library resources at Box of Broadcasts, Gale News Vault and Nexis are particularly useful.


Web of Science allows you to conduct searches of all the major academic journals. You can find details of the Web of Science at:


Also google scholar is useful, particularly for finding OA copies of material not available through the library:


If you have any further questions please consult the Library staff.

Module has an active ELE page

Key words search

Environmental politics; environmental policy; science policy; politics of media; public engagement

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date