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2023/24 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

GEOG2062 Sustainability: Living Within Limits

20 creditsClass Size: 150

Module manager: Prof Jon Lovett

Taught: Semesters 1 & 2 (Sep to Jun) View Timetable

Year running 2023/24

This module is mutually exclusive with

GEOG2661Social Ecological Systems

This module is approved as a discovery module

Module summary

This module provides a broad outline of what is meant by resources and how humans have used and abused them. Over the course of the year students will consider how resources, once seen as an inexhaustible supply, are increasingly treated as constrained and limited. It will examine issues of equity both in the current generation and intergenerational. Lectures will familiarise students with key concepts and topics; while seminars will provide additional supporting material. Semester 1 is taught using lectures and seminars and semester 2 is based on the online course `Environmental Challenges¿ on the FutureLearn platform.


On completion of this module, students should be able to ...
i) an understanding of both scientific and policy principles in relation to natural resources (including ecosystem services) and their management;
ii) an appreciation of the issues around supply and demand of natural resource over the long term, approaches to resource management in different contexts, application of alternative management instruments, and examples of sustainable resource management initiatives;
iii) an understanding of the key debates in resource management, such as the 'limits to growth' versus 'technological innovation';
iv) an ability to explore the alignment of different interest groups to certain interpretations of scientific evidence and how this influences policy making and implementation in private, public and third sector activities;
v) an understanding of concepts that connect human and physical geography and the practical application of integrated approaches to natural resource management;
vi) skills in critical appraisal, decision-making and effective action in a resource-constrained world.

Learning outcomes
Knowledge and Understanding
The essential connections between physical and natural sciences, the social sciences and humanities
The diversity of global environments and the operation of, and inter-relationships between physical and biological systems over a wide range of spatial and temporal scales
Patterns and processes of environmental change and their inter-relationships with human activities
Spatial patterns and relationships in human phenomena at a variety of scales
The geography of places and their constitution by environmental, economic, social and political processes, and the influence of places on these processes
The geographies of difference and inequality
Contemporary debates about globalization and global interconnections
The role of changes in technology, markets and the operation of state interventions in influencing spatial patterns of economic activity

Skills outcomes
Cognitive skills
Abstraction and synthesis of information from a variety of sources
Assessment and critical evaluation of the merits of contrasting theories, explanations, policies
Critical analysis and interpretation of data and text
Developing reasoned arguments
Solving problems and making reasoned decisions
Practical/professional skills
Plan, design, execute and report geographical research both individually and as part of a team
Collect, interpret and synthesise different types of quantitative and qualitative geographical data
Recognise the ethical issues involved in geographical debates and enquiries
Key skills
Learn in familiar and unfamiliar situations
Communicate effectively (in writing, verbally and through graphical presentations)
Identify, retrieve, sort and exchange geographical information using a wide range of sources
Work as part of a team and to recognise and respect the viewpoints of others
Manage time and organise work effectively


The module addresses natural resources and the environment and how humans have used and abused them. We consider how resources, once seen as an inexhaustible supply to be mined, are increasingly treated as constrained and limited. The module considers population, resource and pollution trends; natural resource appraisal and management, and natural resource policy making. It also examines issues of equity both in the current world and inter-generationally.

Semester one shows how human-environment geographers have contributed to understanding of environmental impact since the 1960s, including the realisation that impacts, in for example deforestation and air pollution, impose real limits on human development. It examines how human-environment relationships can be controlled by better policies, but that these may suffer poor implementation. Natural resource scarcity projections are contrasted with explanations of how impacts can be limited by market forces, although imperfectly. Political and economic solutions are compared by exploring how the concept of sustainable development has developed within the UN system (including the SDGs and carbon neutrality goal), and by environmental and ecological economists. The current dominant (‘neo-classical’) economic approach to natural resources is examined, addressing resource use rates, pollution control options, and approaches to valuation of natural resources and ecosystem services. Failure of this neo-classical economic perspective to adequately recognise issues of justice, and planetary limits is addressed.

Semester two comprises five two-week massive open online courses (MOOC) that comprise the ‘Environmental Challenges’ programme on the FutureLearn platform. Classroom sessions use active participatory learning to enhance understanding of topics covered in the Environmental Challenges programme. The topics build upon the Semester one content. The five topics are addressed through digital content, and seminars: Justice in Natural Resource Management, Rights and Values in Ecosystem, Services; Hierarchy in Property Rights; Human Impact in the Natural Environment; and Scarcity and Conflict in the Natural Environment. The courses provide a professional learning experience and enable you to engage with a global learning community. By completing each two-week course, you will have achieved 14 hours of ‘Continuous Professional Development’ (CPD) time, totalling 70 hrs for all five courses. A certificate can be downloaded from the FutureLearn platform for each course.

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Class tests, exams and assessment50.502.50
Independent online learning hours45.00
Private study hours130.50
Total Contact hours24.50
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)200.00

Private study

55 hours¿ preparation for the Semester 1 word essay and 57.50 hours for the Semester 2 essay. Preparation will also be required for the
seminars totaling 17.5 hours. The 45 hours of online learning also include reading and engagement with the online discussions.

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

MCQs are available at the end of each of the five MOOC courses and can be used for formative self-assessment. Half an hour has been allocated for completion of each of the MCQ tests.
Student progress will also be monitored in the seminars.

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Report2500 words50.00
Report2000 words50.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)100.00

Normally resits will be assessed by the same methodology as the first attempt, unless otherwise stated Report: A 2500 word report: topic given out in Semester 1 to be submitted in week 12. Report: A 2000 word report based on one of the skills components from the five online courses to be submitted in week 24.

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 28/04/2023 14:56:05


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