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Study information

Legal Response to Environmental Destruction

Module titleLegal Response to Environmental Destruction
Module codeLAW3016C
Academic year2023/4
Module staff

Dr Misan Afinotan ()

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

The protection of the environment is the pivotal concern of our age, and the manner in which law works with other disciplines to address environmental disruption is of fundamental importance. This module is designed for and open to everyone on the Penryn Campus. It has been created to give final year students, from any discipline, the skills to be part of an inter-disciplinary legal team that uses law and legal institutions creatively and effectively for the protection of the environment. This module gives you an understanding of international and domestic legal instruments and key court cases in relation to environmental destruction. It also gives you an ability to understand the role of evidence particularly expert evidence and to use them effectively in creating and using law to protect the environment. It gives you the experience of using the skills and knowledge that you have acquired in a mock ecocide mooting/trial session which you will take part in during the module.

This module is open to level 6 (final year) students across the Penryn campus. It has been designed for everyone interested in environmental law and policy, whether in research, practice or their professional work, irrespective of their discipline. There are no law pre-requisites for this module.

Module aims - intentions of the module

This cross-disciplinary module is designed and delivered in the knowledge that ‘interdisciplinarity’ lies at the heart of future legal and regulatory solutions to environmental challenges. By bringing together both Law and non-Law students across the Cornwall campus, the module aims to provide an exciting opportunity for you to collaborate across disciplines to generate genuinely new and innovative legal and regulatory solutions to environmental destruction including those based on the proposed international crime of ecocide. It aims for you to have ‘hands-on’ experience of being part of an interdisciplinary legal team by taking part in a simulated international criminal mooting/trial session on environmental destruction where you can demonstrate the knowledge and skills you have acquired in the module.


In terms of the substantive content, the overall aim of this module is to provide you with an understanding of environmental destruction, its evidential complexities, and the various legal responses to it, both nationally and internationally; to equip you with the skills to critically evaluate the effectiveness of these legal frameworks, and to facilitate the generation of new research, ideas, legal and policy solutions to environmental destruction.


Specific aims include:

  1. To introduce students to the concept of evidencing environmental destruction and its impact on individuals, communities, and the planet.

  2. To explore the various national and international legal frameworks that have been established to address environmental destruction, including case law, legislation, and treaties.

  3. To analyse the effectiveness of these legal frameworks, including their strengths and weaknesses, and the challenges that arise in their implementation.

  4. To examine the role of legal actors, such as judges, lawyers, expert witnesses, and international organizations, in the response to environmental destruction, and the impact of their actions on the environment.

  5. To develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills, by engaging students in case studies and practical exercises that apply legal and evidential frameworks to real-world environmental issues.

  6. To encourage interdisciplinary thinking and teamwork, by drawing on scientific, social, and economic perspectives to construct a legal response to environmental destruction.

  7. To foster an appreciation for the importance of ethical considerations in the response to environmental destruction, including the rights of future generations and the need for a just transition to a sustainable future.

  8. To provide students with the skills to communicate complex issues related to environmental destruction in a legal context.


Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

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

  • 1. Demonstrate a thorough understanding of the role of evidence in legal responses to environmental destruction.
  • 2. Critically evaluate environmental law, evidence and procedure combating environmental destruction.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

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

  • 3. Assimilate and engage effectively with a range of primary and secondary legal resources in your writing
  • 4. Coherently develop relevant interdisciplinary legal arguments and analyses.

ILO: Personal and key skills

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

  • 5. Collaborate in an interdisciplinary team to develop legal and policy strategies for tackling environmental problems;
  • 6. Use appropriate evidence to support analysis and argument;
  • 7. Demonstrate effective and accurate written communication skills in a manner appropriate to the context;

Syllabus plan

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


The concept of evidence of environmental destruction

Air Pollution/Climate Change

Water Pollution

Land Pollution

Relevant International and domestic legal instruments and court cases .

The role of legal actors, including judges, lawyers, expert witnesses, victims, and international organizations

Evidencing environmental destruction, including different types of evidence and different types of environmental destruction


Presenting an effective argument based on environmental law and evidence.

The effectiveness of legal frameworks and the challenges that arise in their implementation in relation to environmental protection.

Written opinion piece/advice on environmental destruction.

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 & Teaching Activities1510 x 1.5-hour lectures
Scheduled Learning & Teaching Activities105 x 2-hour tutor-led seminars and workshops
Scheduled Learning & Teaching Activities66 x 1-hour student-led or facilitated team meetings
Scheduled Learning & Teaching Activities4Participation in simulated environmental court case
Guided Independent Study35General reading for the module
Guided Independent Study30Mooting/trial preparation
Guided Independent Study50Assessment preparation

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Mooting/Trial (in groups¬)5 minutes1-7Group feedback

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
Presentation25500 words1-7Individual written or oral feedback
Written Legal Advice752000 words1-7Individual written feedback

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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Presentation (500 words)Presentation (500 words)1-7August/September reassessment period
Written Legal Advice (2000 words)Written Legal Advice (2000 words)1-7August/September reassessment period

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Essential textbooks:


Recommended additional resources:


  • Damien Short and Martin Crook (eds), The Genocide-Ecocide Nexus (Routledge, 2022).
  • Yuliya Zabyelina & Daan Van Uhm (eds), Illegal Mining: Organized Crime, Corruption, and Ecocide in a Resource-Scarce World (Palgrave Macmillan, 2020)
  • Spapens, White, and Kluin (eds), Environmental Crime and Its Victims: Perspectives Within Green Criminology (Ashgate, 2014)
  • Avi Brisman, Nigel South, and Rob White (eds), Environmental Crime and Social Conflict: Contemporary and Emerging Issues (Ashgate, 2015)
  • Fisher, Lange, and Scotford, Environmental Law: Text, Cases & Materials (2nd edn, Oxford: OUP, 2019)
  • Toine Spapens, Rob White and Marieke Kluin (eds) Environmental Crime and its Victims: Perspectives Within Green Criminology (Ashgate, 2014).


Sample journal articles & contributions to edited volumes:


  • Tim Lindgren, ‘Ecocide, Genocide and the Disregard of Alternative Life-Systems (2017) Vol. 22, No. 4, The International Journal of Human Rights, 525
  • Polly Higgins, Damien Short, and Nigel South, ‘Protecting the Planet: A Proposal for a Law of Ecocide (2013) Vol 59, Crime Law Soc Change, 251.
  • Philip. M. Fearnside, ‘Land-Tenure Issues as Factors in Environmental Destruction in Brazilian Amazonia: The Case of Southern Pará (2001) Vol. 29, No. 8, World Development, 1361
  • S. Humphreys, ‘Competing claims: human rights and climate harms’ in Humphreys (Ed.), Human Rights and Climate Change (Cambridge University Press, 2010) Chapter 1 p37-66.
  • Adam Branch and Liana Minkova, ‘Ecocide, the Anthropocene and the International Criminal Court’ (2023) Vol. 3, No. 1, Ethics & International Affairs, 51.
  • L. Rajamani, ‘The 2015 Paris Agreement: Interplay Between Hard, Soft and Non-Obligations’ (2016) 28 Journal of Environmental Law 337–358.
  • C. Reid and W. Nsoh, 'The Privatisation of Biodiversity?' (Edward Elgar, 2016) Chapter 9: Reflections pp.253-260.
  • Venn ‘Social Justice and Climate Change’ in T. M. Letcher (Ed.) Managing Global Warming: An interface between technology and human issues (Elsevier, 2018) Chapter 24 pp.711-723.
  • Yamineva and Romppanen, ‘Is Law Failing to address Air Pollution? Reflections on international and EU developments’ (2017) RECIEL, 26(3) 189-200.

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

  • ELE
  • Electronic journals and databases such as EUR-Lex, West law, Lexis Nexis, Hein Online etc.
  • Those provided for and distributed to the students by the ESI and local environmental initiatives

Key words search

Environmental Destruction, Pollution, Ecocide

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


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NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


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Last revision date