Introduction to Environmental Studies

University of Queensland

Course Description

  • Course Name

    Introduction to Environmental Studies

  • Host University

    University of Queensland

  • Location

    Brisbane, Australia

  • Area of Study

    Environmental Science, Environmental Studies

  • Language Level

    Taught In English

  • Course Level Recommendations

    Lower

    ISA offers course level recommendations in an effort to facilitate the determination of course levels by credential evaluators.We advice each institution to have their own credentials evaluator make the final decision regrading course levels.

    Hours & Credits

  • Host University Units

    2
  • Recommended U.S. Semester Credits
    4
  • Recommended U.S. Quarter Units
    6
  • Overview

    Course Description
    Environmental management with emphasis on social, cultural & managerial aspects.
     
     
    Learning Objectives
    After successfully completing this course you should be able to:
    1. describe major environmental processes that shape the biosphere with consideration for the influence and origins of humans
    2. describe some fundamental ecological principles and critically evaluate the relationship between biogeographic theory and terrestrial biodiversity conservation
    3. describe and evaluate different explanations for the origins of environmental values and their influence on environmental management
    4. discuss and evaluate sustainable development as a modern management paradigm within an historical context
    5. discuss and evaluate issues of ownership, and perceptions of ownership, and how they influence environmental management and policy
    6. discuss and evaluate the concept of the 'Tragedy of the commons'
    7. describe some approaches and tools used in environmental management
    8. discuss the emergence and importance of stakeholders and public participation in environmental management
    9. develop an overall capacity to approach and discuss environmental management issues in a holistic and structured fashion.
     
    Class Contact
    2 Lecture hours, 1 Tutorial hour
     
     
    Assessment
    Assignment 1: Environmental issues in context
    Type: Essay
    Learning Objectives Assessed: 4, 7, 9
    Due Date: Mid Semester
    Weight: 15%
    Length: 1000-1500 words
    Task Description:
    Assignments 1 and 2 must be based on one of the following three issue areas.
    1. Fish farming and aquaculture
    2. Local communities, economic development and World Heritage
    3. Shark culling and control in coastal areas
    Note: You may adopt a national or international focus with topics 1 and 3.
     
    Assignment 1
    Topic: Environmental issues in context: identifying social (including, cultural, political and institutional), economic, and biophysical (environmental) dimensions of a contemporary issue.
    Due date:Week 5
     
    Marks:15%
    Aims:
    • Identify and describe key social (including cultural, political and institutional), economic and biophysical dimensions of an issue and how these interact to influence and shape that issue,
    • improve your ability to read widely on a complex social/environmental issue and integrate the available information, and
    • provide early feedback on your written communication.
    Background:
    Frequently environmental issues are defined or viewed only as the physical expression of human activities. This is what Dovers (2005 pp41-42) describes as the ?substantive problem?. Frequently these physical expressions become the focus of attention. However, in environmental management what we rapidly realise is that there are very different views both underlying causes and what the appropriate policy response(s) ought to be to complex problems with multiple causes. This course attempts to give students a far more critical way of defining and thinking about environmental issues and their management context.
     
    To illustrate, consider the issue of ?land clearing?. There are a number of ways of defining the issue, and what the cause(s) may be. It could be stated as any of the following depending on a person?s particular position:
    • Inadequate laws to stop clearing,
    • Too restrictive government intervention that stymies development, economic opportunities and capacity to feed a growing population,
    • Poor incentives to change land use,
    • A financially and economically driven activity due to decreasing terms of trade for agriculture and declining profitability,
    • A largely historical problem that is now exaggerated by interests groups,
    • Failure of a market system that inadequately rewards good land management, or
    • A threat to biological diversity.
    These are all views that are expressed by different people. Alternative ways of seeing issues stems from the different background and the values and attitudes of individuals (covered in Module 4 and assignment 2), as well as the particular circumstances that an individual may face. In this course, you should gain the ability to look critically and impartially at an environmental issue in a range of ways, specifically the social, economic and physical, in order to ultimately develop better ways of managing and solving such issues. This assignment will be the first time that many students have attempted to look critically at an issue in such a way. Although challenging, this will be a very useful skill for your professional career even if not directly related to environmental management.
     
    Task:
    Your assignment is to identify and describe key social (this includes cultural, political and institutional aspects), economic, and biophysical (environmental) dimensions of the issue that you have chosen. Each of these dimensions should be addressed by explaining how they influence the issue and are influenced by the issue. Another way of thinking about this is what are the drivers that are shaping the issue, and how do the components of the issue then effect, or drive, other aspects. Some discussion of the interactions across dimensions should be included (see the marking criteria). The word ?institutional? mentioned above can create confusion for those not familiar with it. What it means is the formal and informal rules, constraints or enforcement that shape people actions and activities in the context of the issue (see Dovers and Connor 2004 p 11). Frequently the term is more specifically applied to the formal and informal organisations of people acting in environmental management or other arenas (see for example Lane and Robinson (2009)). These rules and organisations vary from place to place, culture to culture and time to time. So to some extent there will be overlap between culture, institutions, politics etc.
     
    To do well, and get the most from this assignment you should aim to provide a written report based on extensive reading and synthesis of that literature. The written report should be treated as though you are providing advice to a senior decision maker (this could be any level of government, an NGO or private sector organisation) in order to clarify the nature of the issue that they may have to deal with. Your report should be between 1000 and 1500 words. Your assignment must be based on one of the three topics used for the two written assignments for ENVM1501 this year.
     
    Requirements for submission:
    Submission will be via ?Turn it in? through the Blackboard site for the course. Note that hard copies are no longer required.
     
    Expectations:
    The report will be marked on the criteria and standards linked in this ECP with the following expectations in mind. Your assignment should:
    • contain evidence of wide reading and that you have gained an ability to integrate information rather than simply reproducing information,
    • contain a wide range of cited references including, quality academic literature, media articles, and some relevant web sites ,
    • be written in excellent English, with a style and written expression appropriate to a professional report, and
    • be well structured with a clear flow of ideas.
     
    Suggested outline for Assignment 1:
    Introduction:
    Make sure that your introduction:
    • conveys the aim of the assignment to the reader and convinces them that it is something worth investigating,
    • briefly introduces the issue under investigation, and
    • provides an outline of how the assignment is to be structured.
    Body of the assignment.
    I suggest using sub-headings based on the key ideas you draw from the literature. Make sure that there is a logical flow and links between the sections and paragraphs.
     
    Conclusion
    Be sure to match your conclusion to the aim of the assignment (ie. Show how you achieved or demonstrated the aim). DO NOT PROVIDE SOLUTIONS to the environmental issue you have chosen.
     
     
    Assignment 2: Environmental values
    Type: Essay
    Learning Objectives Assessed: 3, 4, 9
    Due Date: Late Semester
    Weight: 30%
    Length: 1500-2500 words
    Task Description:
    Assignments 1 and 2 must be based on one of the following three issue areas.
    • Fish farming and aquaculture
    • Local communities, economic development and World Heritage
    • Shark culling and control in coastal areas
    Note: You may adopt a national or international focus with topics 1 and 3.
     
    Assignment 2
    Topic: Environmental values: exploring values in relation to a contemporary environmental issue
    Due date: Week 10
    Marks: 30%
    Aims:
    • Identify and describe human values in relation to environmental issues,
    • Demonstrate that you can identify how values shape people?s positions on environmental issues, and
    • Improve your ability to critically review and analyse an environmental issue.
    Background:
    Individuals exhibit behaviours, attitudes and beliefs that are driven by their environmental values, environmental philosophy or environmental ethics (for the purpose of this course we can use these terms interchangeably, although there are distinctions. Good summaries of can be found in Stern and Dietz 1994, and Dietz, Fitzgerald and Shwom 2005, and the relationship between environmental philosophy and ethics is outlined online by Brennan and Lo (2011) at the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy). However, most people are unaware of environmental values as their influence is generally subtle, and mediated through attitudes and contextual factors (Stern et al. 1995). Our values exert a powerful influence on what we consider ?right? and ?wrong?, how we view an issue, whether we perceive a problem, and thus how we consider an issue should be resolved (de Groot and Steg 2007).
     
    Frequently, at the core of many debates and differences of view around environmental issues are different sets of values. Unfortunately, these values and their role are rarely acknowledged. Usually the discourse of an environmental issue is framed in the realms of ?facts?, ?logic?, ?rational thought? and ?technological? science, which precludes any analysis of values (see for example Welcomer et al. 2000). In order to better understand the social construction and views of environmental issues this assignment is designed to give you a brief introduction to environmental values and to assist you to explore how they may expressed in an environmental issue. The capacity to explore environmental issues at this deeper level will be important for you in any career that deals with people and their environments.
     
    Task:
    Provide a written assignment that shows evidence of how different peoples? (individuals and groups) views of the issue you have chosen vary, and how this may be linked to their underlying (environmental) values. You are to provide a written report based on extensive reading and synthesis of that literature. Your report should be between 1500 and 2500 words. Your assignment must be based on one of the three topics used for the two written assignments for ENVM1501 this year. See the suggested structure for ideas on how to address the assignment.
     
    Requirements for submission:
    Submission will be via ?Turn it in? through the Blackboard site for the course. Note that hard copies are no longer required.
     
    Expectations:
    The report will be marked on the criteria attached to the ECP with the following expectations in mind. Your assignment should:
    • contain evidence of wide reading and an that you have gained an ability to integrate information rather than simply reproducing information,
    • contain a wide range of cited references including, quality academic literature, media articles, and some relevant web sites,
    • be written in excellent English, with a style and written expression appropriate to a professional report, and
    • be well structured with a clear flow of ideas.
     
     
    Suggested outline for Assignment 2:
    Introduction:
    Make sure that your introduction:
    • conveys the aim of the assignment to the reader and convinces them that it is something worth investigating,
    • briefly introduces the issue under investigation, and
    • provides an outline of how the assignment is to be structured.
    Body of the assignment (consider a series of subheadings).
    A relatively brief but well researched overview of environmental ethics/values should be incorporated at the early part of the body. The remainder of the body should demonstrate how different stakeholders? and positions in the issue illustrate a range of environmental values, with the purpose of showing how the issue is constructed differently because of the fundamental differences in people (This exercise should help in your professional development to avoid judging other people?s perceptions of an issue as right or wrong).
     
    Conclusion
    Be sure to match your conclusion to the aim of the assignment. DO NOT PROVIDE SOLUTIONS to the environmental issue you have chosen and do not be tempted to indicate which environmental values are right/wrong or more/less enlightened.
     
     
    Assignment 3: Internet based discussion series
    Type: Reflective essay
    Learning Objectives Assessed: 9
    Due Date: End of Semester; however, Online postings need to be submitted throughout the semester
    Weight: 15%
    Task Description: Reflective essay based on discussion series
     
    Aim:
    • To develop skills in critically reading literature from a diverse range of disciplines.
    • Develop capacity to explore multiple perspectives on what can be seemingly straightforward topics.
    • Expose students to some of the underlying themes in many environmental issues.
    • Develop skills in research and the ability to communicate in a professional style your views on a complex matter based on reading and critical thought.
    • Provide an opportunity for students to explore some concepts from the course in more detail.
    Format:
    The item for direct assessment is the reflective essay (see below). You must also submit a detailed list of all postings made throughout the semester that includes the posting number date and time, and the title where relevant. This is important should we wish to quickly check any of your postings.
     
    Four discussion topics will be posted on the web site (Blackboard) for this course. Each topic will be introduced with a paragraph or two capturing its importance and relevance to issues of environmental management. References to relevant readings are posted with each topic. The topics shall remain open for discussion throughout the semester. Staff will be reading the discussion postings and engaging in the discussion as often as possible to provide advice and feedback as well as probe ideas further.
     
    Task (what is the assessment?):
    You are to engage in all of the discussion topics throughout the semester, as frequently as you wish. The assessment will be based on a short reflective essay on what you have learned from the discussion series. Each student is to write a two page reflective essay of the discussion series indicating what they have learned from the interaction, and from the topics. This reflective essay should particularly focus on new insights you gained, challenges and alternative points of view that were raised and the relationships between the topics that you noticed. Keep the following in mind:
    • I am looking for quality contributions (in the discussion series) that show evidence of reading and critical thought. Your responses must be clear and properly referenced, including reference to other students? contributions. This means that your views and opinions must be well argued and preferably based on reading, observations and reflection.
    • Each contribution may be as long as you wish; however, keep in mind that long rambling contributions are unlikely to be read by other students. Look for clarity and try to keep your contributions as concise as possible.
    • Any student who abuses this discussion series will receive zero for this piece of assessment, and depending on the severity of the abuse may face further action (see the rules below). Abuse means making rude comments or comments of a personal nature or using inappropriate language (eg. sexist, racist, derogatory etc).
    • To pass this component of the assessment you must have contributed at least once to all of the discussion topics by the end of the last teaching week. If less than four contributions are posted then it will be deemed that this piece of assessment is incomplete and the maximum grade for the course will be a 4.
    • As with all assessment, read the assessment criteria carefully.
    Due dates: Your reflective essay is to be submitted electronically at the end of the last teaching week by 5:00pm. Please note that you should be making notes towards this assessment throughout the semester ? it will make the reflective essay more thoughtful and easier to develop.
    The topics:
    • The theory of island biogeography and conservation in fragmented landscapes.
    • Environmental values.
    • Tragedy of the commons.
    • Levels of empowerment and autonomy.
    Standards, expectations and rules:
    The guiding principle for this piece of assessment is simply to maintain courtesy, respect and consideration at all times for all other students.
    • The discussion series is designed to improve your skills in high quality professional debate based on information and critical thinking. For this reason, abbreviations and mobile phone ?SMS text chat? are not appropriate (for a benchmark consider you were discussing the topic in an electronic format with a professional in your field).
    • There are to be no comments of a personal or private nature (this does not exclude personal observations or experiences of an issue that is relevant to the discussion).
    • Contributions should be based on reflection, literature and current affairs when appropriate. Personal views and opinions are encouraged, but must be based on your reading and understanding of the literature and reflection on other students? comments. In the absence of reference material, ideas must be fully explained in order to justify your position or ideas. Speculation and creativity are encouraged, but be sure that other people can follow your logic and that what you are speculating has not been written before in the readings or by other students.
    • Plagiarism is not acceptable (see plagiarism warning earlier in the course profile).
    • Any deviation from these rules will result in zero for this assessment.
    Book prize: There is an annual book prize for the best reflective essay.
     
     
    Final examination
    Type: Exam - during Exam Period (Central)
    Learning Objectives Assessed: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9
    Due Date: Examination Period
    Weight: 40%
    Reading: 10 minutes
    Duration: 120 minutes
    Format: Short answer, Short essay
    Task Description: The examination will assess your understanding of concepts discussed and developed throughout the course. Material covered in assignments 1 and 2 will receive little attention in the examination.
    Format: Two hours in the examination period. Short and long answer questions.
     
    Sample questions and previous exams are available on the course web site. These sample questions are designed to help focus your learning and study for the examination. The final questions in the examination will be in keeping with the sample questions and past examinations. However, the final examination questions may vary from the sample questions. If you have researched and attempted the sample questions there will be no surprises in the examination.

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