Skip to Content


Last modified: 22 May 2019 17:07

Course Overview

You will be trained in broad environmental thinking required to understand the complex nature of contemporary environmental problems. The main purpose of the course is to work towards a sufficiently deep understanding of society's relationship with the environment to appraise and start to address so-called wicked (i.e. impossible to fully comprehend, insoluble and chaotic) problems.

The course will follow a textbook to allow immersion in the author's ways of thinking. During the first three weeks, key aspects of human-environment relationships will be developed through lectures and subsequent discussion. During the last two weeks, students will be engaged in the co-production of knowledge by preparing and presenting worked out case studies themselves as starting point for debate on focal 'objects of concern (e.g. the return of the wolf, uranium in society, e-waste).

Course Details

Study Type Undergraduate Level 3
Session Second Sub Session Credit Points 15 credits (7.5 ECTS credits)
Campus None. Sustained Study No
  • Professor Rene Van Der Wal

What courses & programmes must have been taken before this course?

  • Either Programme Level 3 or Programme Level 4
  • Any Undergraduate Programme (Studied)

What other courses must be taken with this course?


What courses cannot be taken with this course?

Are there a limited number of places available?


Course Description

In this course students develop an understanding of the diverse and complex relationships Western societies hold with their environment. The first three weeks of teaching concerns unfolding topics succinctly covered by the textbook Environment and Society (Robbins, Hintz and Moore, second edition 2014), thereby furthering their understanding and critical thinking around the key 'political ecology' dimension Population and Scarcity, Markets and Commodities, Institutions, Environmental Ethics, Risks and Hazards, Political Economy and Social Construction of Nature. During the last two weeks of teaching concerns lectures created and presented by students themselves on chosen 'Objects of Concern'. Nine of those are covered by the textbook so that all students will be able to familiarise themselves with each of them, and those students that selected a Concern working this up to provide the deeper and richer levels of understanding and generating debate around those.

Contact Teaching Time

Information on contact teaching time is available from the course guide.

Teaching Breakdown

More Information about Week Numbers

Details, including assessments, may be subject to change until 31 August 2023 for 1st half-session courses and 22 December 2023 for 2nd half-session courses.

Summative Assessments

All written assignments are brief texts of various sorts, designed to deepen engaging with the complex nature of society-environment relationships (70% of overall course mark). Presentation of own teaching, as part of a small group, is a one-off occurrence (20% of mark) and parting in discussion expected throughout the course (10% of mark). There is no final exam.

Formative Assessment

There are no assessments for this course.


Students will receive individual feedback on each assessment through MyAberdeen. Also, during presentations and discussions students will receive informal, verbal feedback.

Course Learning Outcomes

Compatibility Mode

We have detected that you are have compatibility mode enabled or are using an old version of Internet Explorer. You either need to switch off compatibility mode for this site or upgrade your browser.