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Study information

Nature, Development and Justice

Module titleNature, Development and Justice
Module codeGEO2131
Academic year2019/0
Module staff

Dr Louisa Evans (Convenor)

Dr Catherine Butler (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

Socio-economic development and the state of the natural environment are two major concerns in contemporary policy, politics, and public activism. The pursuit of ‘development’ is a well-established, enduring goal across the world.  Equally, environmental action, especially that which is directed at ‘sustainability’, has become a vital part of local, national and international agendas. This module examines the contours of development and environmentalism as commonly defined and practiced, focusing on implications for social and ecological justice at different scales. It charts the historical and spatial trajectories of development and sustainability discourse and practice, and explores the increasingly interconnected character of social and ecological justice. The module also investigates approaches and practices that counter and offer alternatives to established but problematic framings of development, sustainability, and justice. A range of themes addressed within research of the teaching staff– such as poverty, wellbeing, inequality, conservation, sustainability, food, energy, de-growth, and climate change – are examined to facilitate an empirically grounded and theoretically informed engagement with ethical, political, and practical issues concerning development and environmentalism in the contemporary world. This module is suitable for students of Geography and cognate social sciences.

Module aims - intentions of the module

The principal goal of the module is to cultivate a critical understanding of ideas and practices of mainstream development and environmental action with a specific focus on studying and evaluating implications for social and environmental justice. Using insights and case examples from ongoing staff research as well as the wider literature, it will investigate domains where development and environmental challenges intersect in order to grasp the multi-layered and complex character of key concerns of our time. This will include an examination of key assumptions, concepts, and interventions associated with conventional development and environmentalism that have been critiqued within contemporary research. The module is directed at evaluating established understandings of and approaches to development and environmentalism, and also surveys alternative visions and practices that strive for greater social and ecological equity.

The module will equip you with the knowledge and skills to engage in an informed manner with contemporary social-ecological challenges and provide a foundation for employability in the development and environmental sectors. Specifically the module will support development of knowledge and skills through extended writing tasks and in-class activities that will seek to develop the following graduate attributes:

  • Ability to comprehend and synthesise in-depth debates around the development-sustainability-justice nexus
  • Confidence in assessing the robustness of scientific evidence and argumentation.
  • Confidence is using and linking scientific theories and concepts, and in understanding the nature of empirical and applied research.
  • Ability to critically analyse and articulate the contested ideas that characterise sustainable development and justice.
  • Abilities for and interest in pursuing independent learning and development.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

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

  • 1. Demonstrate familiarity with key theoretical and applied literature relating to development, nature and social and environmental justice in the contemporary world
  • 2. Critically discuss the concepts, assumptions and processes that underpin development and sustainability agendas
  • 3. Reflect on the interconnected nature of social and ecological justice and demonstrate a clear understanding of the complexity of current development and environmental challenges
  • 4. Evaluate mainstream and alternative approaches to development and environmental issues

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

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

  • 5. Illustrate and discuss the contested and provisional nature of knowledge and understanding
  • 6. Explain the significance of scale in understanding real-world phenomena
  • 7. Source, evaluate and use relevant theoretical and applied literatures, and non-academic materials that are required for academic inquiry into contemporary issues

ILO: Personal and key skills

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

  • 8. Communicate ideas, principles and theories effectively and fluently by written and oral means
  • 9. Develop a sustained and reasoned argument
  • 10. Identify, acquire, analyse and synthesise information from a range of sources
  • 11. Undertake independent/self-directed study/learning (including time management) to achieve consistent, proficient and sustained attainment
  • 12. Acquire a foundation and knowledge-base for further research, policy and political engagement with ongoing debates and programmes on socio-ecological justice and for employability in the development and environmental sectors.

Syllabus plan

The module will entail lectures on key concepts and literatures and lectures with class discussions on thematic areas. Indicative lecture topics are:

  • Development, poverty and wellbeing
  • Nature, society, and development
  • Justice and environment
  • Food and hunger
  • Climate change, energy transitions and justice
  • Environmentalism of the poor
  • Sustainable development
  • Dilemmas in conservation
  • Participation and environmental activism
  • Environmental governance
  • Re-thinking development

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 Teaching22Lectures and class discussions
Guided Independent Study98Reading
Guided Independent Study30Research (mainly web-based) using non-academic sources such as policy documents, media reports, websites and blogs

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Summary of chosen Book for Book review assignment 500 wordsAllWhole-class feedback in assessment lecture

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
Book review502000 wordsAllWritten
Essay502000 wordsAllWritten

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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Book reviewBook review (2000 words)AllAugust Ref/Def
EssayEssay (2000 words)AllAugust Ref/Def

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%) you will be required to sit a further examination or submit a further assessment as necessary. If you are successful on referral, your overall module mark will be capped at 40%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • Adams, W. M. 2009. Green development: Environment and sustainability in a developing world (3rd ed.), London: Routledge (print and electronic copies available)
  • Harvey, D. 1996. Justice, Nature, and the Geography of Difference, Oxford: Blackwell (print copies available)
  • Desai, V. and Potter, R. (Eds.) 2014. The companion to development studies, 3rd Edition. London: Routledge. (print and electronic copies available)
  • Lele, S. 1991. Sustainable development: A critical review. World Development, 19(6), 607–621
  • Martinez-Alier. J. 2014. The environmentalism of the poor. Geoforum 54: 239–241
  • McMichael, P. 2012. Development and Social Change: A Global Perspective. Los Angeles, London: Sage. (print only)
  • Nussbaum, M. 2000. Women and Human Development: The Capabilities Approach. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. (print and electronic copies available)
  • Peet, R., and Watts, M. (Eds.). 2004. Liberation ecologies: Environment, development, social movements, London and New York: Routledge. (print and electronic copies available)
  • Walker, G. 2012. Environmental Justice: Concepts, Evidence and Politics, London: Routledge (print and electronic copies available)

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

ELE page:

Key words search

Development, environment, nature, social justice, ecological justice

Credit value15
Module ECTS


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