SOEE2371 People, Sustainability, and the Environment

Reading List
  • Taught: Semesters 1 & 2 View timetable
  • Credits: 20
  • Class Size: 100
  • Module Manager: Dr Stephen Whitfield
  • Email:
  • Pre-Requisite Qualifications: Applicants from this module should have completed at least one Level 1 module from the Creating Sustainable Futures Discovery Theme or an equivalent Level 1 module with a significant sustainability content
  • This Module is approved as a Discovery Module

Discovery module overview

Module Summary

Module Summary

This module provides an understanding of the relationships between human needs and the environment, focusing in particular on the world’s poor. It explores different perspectives on the goals of improving human wellbeing and environmental conservation, particularly the extent to which these might be complementary, compatible or contradictory goals, and how this intersects with broader social phenomena such as globalisation, gender and property rights . The module considers how different disciplines and approaches from across the social and natural science view the relationships between people, sustainability and the environment. The first semester of this module considers different concepts within this relationship, whilst the second considers different disciplinary perspective on it.


By the end of the module you should be able to:

  • - analyse the complex interrelationships between human wellbeing, poverty and the natural environment, including cause/effect relationships across scales from the local to the global and placing the issues within the wider debates surrounding sustainability.
  • -understand, appreciate and critically analyse the different approaches brought by different disciplines and perspectives from across social and natural sciences to the issue of human needs and the environment


  • - Definitions of ‘poverty’, ‘development’ and ‘property’ and examination of the assumptions underlying them; -Approaches to understanding environment and poverty relations, such as political ecology, political economy, livelihoods frameworks, ecosystem services, valuing natural resources, biodiversity conservation, ethnographic approaches, participatory methods and approaches.

Skills Outcomes

The module places considerable emphasis on:

  • - recognising and using subject-specific theories, paradigms, concepts and principles;
  • - analysing, synthesising and summarising information critically, including prior research;
  • - applying knowledge and understanding to address familiar and unfamiliar problems;
  • - recognising the moral and ethical issues of investigations and appreciating the need for professional codes of conduct;

The module places moderate emphasis on:

  • - referencing work in an appropriate manner;
  • - communicating appropriately to a variety of audiences in written, verbal and graphical form.

The module places some emphasis on:

  • - collecting and integrating several lines of evidence to formulate and test hypotheses;
  • - receiving and responding to a variety of information sources (eg textual numerical, verbal, graphical).

Assessment and teaching

Assessment and teaching


Assesment type Notes % of formal assesment
Assignment 2,000 word 50
Total percentages (Assessment Coursework) 50


Exam type Exam duration % of formal assessment
Standard exam (closed essays, MCQs etc) 2 hr 0 mins 50
Total Percentage (Assesment Exams) 50

Private Study

48 hours - background reading for seminars
38 hours - preparation for exam
37 hours - preparation for research paper
40 hours - background reading per lecture (20 x 2 hours).

Progress Monitoring

Formative feedback will be provided in workshops and seminars.

Teaching methods

Delivery type Number Length hours Student hours
Lecture 21 1 21
Seminar 6 1 6
Private Study Hours 173
Total Contact Hours 27
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits) 200

Reading List

Reading List
Cornwall, A. and Vera, S. (eds) (2006) Spaces for change? Participation, inclusion and voice. London: Zed books.
United Nations Development Programme (2005) World resources 2005 ; the wealth of the poor: managing ecosystems to fight poverty. Washington D.C.: World Bank.
Jones, S. and Carswell, G. (2004) The Earthscan Reader in Environment, Development and rural livelihoods. London: Earthscan.
Johnson, P., Mayrand, K. and Paquin, M. (eds) (2006) Governing global desertification: linking environmental degradation, poverty and participation. Aldershot: Ashgate.
Zimmerer, K.S. and Bassett, T. (eds) (2003) Political ecology: an integrative approach to geography and environment-development studies. London: Guilford Press.
Bass, S. (2005) Reducing poverty and sustaining the environment: the politics of local engagement. London: Earthscan.
Pound, B., Braun, A., McDougall, C. and Snapp, S. (2003) Managing natural resources for sustainable livelihoods. Uniting science and participation. London: Earthscan.
Sachs, J. (2005) Investing in development: a practical plan to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. London: Earthscan.
Lal, R., Uphoff, N., Stewart, B. and Hansen, D. (eds.) (2005) Climate change and global food security. London: Taylor and Francis.
Allen, T. and Thomas, A. (eds) (2000) Poverty and development into the 21st century. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
World Development Report (2003) Sustainable development in a dynamic world. Transforming institutions, growth and quality of life. Washington DC: World Bank.
Sayer, J. and Campbell, J. (2004) The science of sustainable development: local livelihoods and the global environment. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Middleton, N. and O?Keefe, P. (2003) Rio plus ten: politics, poverty and the environment. London: Pluto Press.
DFID (2002) Poverty and environment. London: DFID
Brocklesby, M. and Hinshelwood, E. (2001) Poverty and the environment: what the poor say: an assessment of poverty environment. Linkages in participatory poverty assessments. London : Department for International Development.
Clarke, R., Lamb, R. and Ward, D. (eds) (2002) Global environment outlook 3: past, present and future perspective. London: Earthscan.
Hollander, J. (2004) The real environmental crises: why poverty, not affluence, is the environment?s number one enemy. London: University of California Press.
Adams, W.M. (2001) Green Development: environment and sustainability in the South. London: Routledge.
Brock, K. and McGee, R. (eds) (2002) Knowing poverty: critical reflections on participatory research policy. London: Earthscan.
Sayer, J. (eds) (2005) The Earthscan reader in forestry and development. London: Earthscan.
Plummer, J. and Taylor, J. (2004) Community participation in China: issues and processes for capacity building. London: Earthscan.

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