What you will study
Are you interested in global environmental issues and sustainability; how living and non-living things interact; how humans are changing the planet and are now responding to the difficult challenges this brings? If you’re looking for a single module that offers a general introduction to studying the environment, then this is the module for you. It provides the ideal foundation for a range of environment, science, social science and technology qualifications or you can study it on its own.
Our interconnected world is changing so fast that people have to work hard to understand and address the environmental issues generated by rapid economic and technological development. Studying this module will enable you to explore how and why different parts of the world are changing; and how people, plants and animals are living within their changing environment. The module will show you how people are striving to manage and protect the many features of the world that we all share. It will help you to make sense of some of the stories that you hear and read about in the media, from biodiversity loss and wildlife extinctions to plans for new greener cities. By the end of the module, you’ll be more able to follow the debates about sustainability and our environment, and play an active part in addressing some of the great environmental challenges of the day.
Studying this module will provide you with the knowledge and skills to help you become more informed about both the causes and concerns of environmental change. It will take you to some of the most fascinating but also important parts of the planet in terms of understanding environmental change.
The module has six blocks – each block focuses on major environmental concepts illustrated by the places you’ll examine.
Block 1: Setting out from Home
This block is an introduction to the module and to studying. It will start as a personal journey that will equip you with powerful ideas about the place of humanity on a dynamic planet. It will sketch out how we’ve come to understand the most pressing issues of biodiversity loss and climate change. We’ll ask you to carry out your own carbon footprint exercise and consider individual action to reduce your footprint. Using the framework of ‘I/we/they’, we’ll introduce actions at all scales to understand environmental issues and responses – and develop your understanding later in the module.
Block 2: Arctic Approach
This block explores the Arctic – a place that has long fascinated scientific researchers, artists and adventurers. It will help you explore different ways of seeing and knowing about environmental change. We think of the Arctic as a kind of early warning system for global warming and climate change. This block will give you a sense of the different ways in which the scientists who now work there – and the societies who have been living there for centuries – investigate, communicate and experience environmental change.
Block 3: Nile Limits
The Nile river basin is a diverse area of many contrasts. This block explores some of these contrasts and the interdependencies between people and their environment. These can give rise to unintended consequences or conflict, which are also prominent themes. You’ll consider relationships through three important topics. The first focuses on water, including the use of water as a resource. The second focuses on the environmental, social and economic impacts of a fishing industry. The third focuses on wildlife conservation and the mountain gorilla, exploring the tensions between balancing conservation with local community development.
Block 4: Amazon Life
This block uses excerpts from the BBC series I Bought a Rainforest to explore the global and local importance of the Amazon region. You’ll develop an understanding of the Amazon’s ecosystems and the services it provides, including its role as a carbon store and as home to some the world’s richest biological diversity. You’ll also consider some of the complexities inherent in trying to protect the Amazon’s rainforest and the challenges facing its Indigenous people.
Block 5: China Rising
The block begins with the geography and political history of China. It brings up to date the economic story of the scale and speed of change in China, including urbanisation, consumption and the rise of the middle class. This block focuses on a few key social and economic issues pertinent to an environmental perspective – particularly in energy and resource use and the transformation of agriculture and diet. You’ll explore environmental degradation and responses to it, including recent shifts towards reducing energy consumption and increasing energy from renewables.
Block 6: Cities and Towns
The majority of the world’s population is now urban, with most people living and working in cities and towns. This block will help you to make sense of urban areas, and understand the importance of cities and towns in responding to climate change (and other changes). Urban areas rely on the movement of natural resources, people and goods. They are epicentres of resource use and producers of waste and pollutants. They need effective water, energy and transport systems to be healthy and workable. You’ll explore ideas and actions that different levels of society can take – revisiting the framework of ‘I/we/they’ – to help make cities and towns more resilient, liveable and sustainable.
You will learn
By studying a range of subjects, drawn from the natural sciences, technology and the social sciences, you’ll become more aware of the contributions each discipline makes to our understanding of environmental issues and concerns. You’ll also explore how people from these different fields bring together their various perspectives to help understand the many interactions between the environment, organisations, and human cultures and values. This sharing of different approaches can lead to new ways of thinking about environmental problems, balancing alternative interpretations and conflicting interests, and generating new solutions.
At the same time as studying the environment, you’ll also develop your reading, writing, numeracy, analytical and communication skills. It will help you evaluate information and arguments; interpret and use data in a variety of graphical and numerical forms; use computers for information-searching, communication and software applications; and become an independent learner. Such skills and attributes are highly valued by employers because you can apply them to a wide variety of new contexts.