What you will study
The module consists of three blocks and a project:
Block 1: Biodiversity and conservation
Your presence on planet earth is entirely dependent on biodiversity. Living organisms produce the oxygen in the air you breathe, recycle nutrients and water and make up your food. The sheer variety of form, function, colour and beauty in nature – a record of evolutionary history – has inspired people for the duration of human existence and continues to enrich our lives and our culture. Nevertheless, life on earth is under threat and needs urgent action. In Block 1, you’ll explore biodiversity, starting with that around you – even on your dinner plate – and move on to look at the nature of global diversity. You’ll examine past, present and future threats to species, and investigate solutions to the ongoing biodiversity crisis. By the end of the block – and based on the latest research in biodiversity and conservation – you’ll have an understanding of the diversity and importance of life on earth, and the ability to evaluate threats to it and propose potential solutions.
Block 2: Climate change
You need to take an interdisciplinary approach to understand climate-change science and politics. You’ll be introduced to the role and workings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and to their summary of the science. This will lead on to the study of international environmental treaties, culminating in the 2015 Paris Agreement. You’ll learn how to access key data on the status of national emissions, using the UNFCCC's website, and interpret its significance. You’ll also gain a good understanding of the workings of a key set of climate change research and policy tools: integrated assessment models. These bring to life the implications of economic and rights-based approaches to the issue of climate equity. The topic raises big questions about our relationship with ‘distant others’, future generations, and the non-human living world. In addition to text, you’ll work with interactive online content, including the world’s first interactive map of a UN climate change conference and a media-rich timeline of environmental history. To conclude the block, you’ll rehearse the role of an environmental journalist, researching and writing your own article, again supported by specially commissioned interactive materials.
Block 3: Food security
The quest for global food security has brought into discussion the need for feeding an expected 9–10 billion people, by 2050, with adequate and nutritious food for a healthy life. With this aim in the background, you’ll explore multiple facets of food security: limits to food production, landscape management, and policies for access to food. This block will build on the concepts that previous blocks introduced you to – i.e. drivers of biodiversity gains and losses, and the challenge posed by climate change to our food production and management systems. You’ll build on your knowledge of earth’s natural resources (normally gained in previous modules) and expand further on the management conflicts and synergies with earth and its human inhabitants.
The project involves three stages threaded throughout the module. First, in Block 1, you’ll study introductory material on a) the biodiversity of the food you eat and b) on the benefits provided to us by trees in our environment – you’ll choose one of these threads as the focus for your project work. You’ll collect your own data to carry out a mini-project using practical and investigative work. Second, alongside Block 2, you’ll design an investigation, analyse data and report on your findings in a manner appropriate for a variety of audiences. This will involve group work to explore several different aspects of the topic before presenting your findings as a group. There are likely to be 6–10 students in your group. Thirdly, alongside Block 3, you’ll carry out an individual project from beginning to completion by applying all of your research skills acquired earlier in this module. This project will form a major part of the end-of-module assessment, including a presentation as a web post.
You will learn
This module will:
- develop your understanding of the environmental choices we face and the multiplicity of perspectives from which they can be addressed
- develop the practical skills needed to acquire primary data, analyse it statistically, gather qualitative evidence and communicate your findings effectively
- provide you with an opportunity to focus on a real-world issue, discuss perspectives with your fellow students, design your own investigation and present your findings via a web post.
This module will equip you with skills relevant to the fields of sustainability planning and environmental assessment, which are rapidly developing areas of employment.