Environmental Studies (ENVS) 689

The Political Ecology of Global Environmental Change (Revision 1)

ENVS 689 Course Cover
**Note: Students in Group Study courses are advised that this syllabus may vary in key details in each instance of the course. Always refer to the Moodle site for the most up-to-date details on texts, assignment structure, and grading.**


ENVS 689: The Political Ecology of Global Environmental Change, is designed to give students a deeper understanding of the socio-environmental challenges and opportunities we face in our world. The course will lead students to examine a range of issues and to learn how they are a part of a larger process of environmental and social change. Students will learn about the connections between various environmental, ethical, and social justice concerns along with the theoretical and practical approaches used to address these issues. Students will engage in dialogue on a variety of topics, read useful environmental and theoretical writings, and write some pieces of your own on topics that arise in the course.

Course Objectives

The central objectives of this course are to:

  • understand political ecology as one theoretical approach to dealing with the socio-environmental problems facing the world
  • develop an understanding of complex nature-society systems, and to see how these systems exhibit properties such as interdependence, emergent behaviour, and chaos
  • explore and critique the scientific, social, and theoretical aspects of key contemporary socio-environmental issues
  • explore the interaction between nature and culture and discuss how nature/culture duality influences contemporary environmental issues

Course Structure

  • Unit 1: Theoretical Architecture of Political Ecology
  • Unit 2: Sustainable Development?
  • Unit 3: Complex Nature-Society Systems and Environmental Knowledge
  • Unit 4: Measuring Our Impact
  • Unit 5: The Hole Ozone Story—Environmental Issues and the Tragedy of the Commons
  • Unit 6: Hot Air—Greenhouse Gases and Global Climate Change
  • Unit 7: Energy Production and the Production of Energy Inequalities
  • Unit 8: Biodiversity Loss, Biodiversity Found
  • Unit 9: A Wild Problem—Nature Versus Culture in Protected Areas

Student Evaluation

To receive credit for this course, students must participate in the online activities, successfully complete the assignments, and achieve a final mark of at least 60 per cent. Students should be familiar with the Master of Arts—Interdisciplinary Studies grading system. Please note that it is students' responsibility to maintain their program status. Any student who receives a grade of "F" in one course, or a grade of "C" in more than one course, may be required to withdraw from the program.

The following table summarizes the evaluation activities and the credit weights associated with them.

Course Activity Weighting
Online Participation 35%
Bibliography and Outline 15%
Major Paper 50%
Total 100%

Course Materials


  • Neumann, Roderick P. (2005). Making Political Ecology. London: Hodder Education.

Athabasca University Printed Materials

Reading File: The Reading File contains selected articles from various sources that are required reading for this course.

Athabasca University Online Materials

Course Home Page You will find Course Information (including the Assignment File and other pertinent information) at the top of the course home page. You will also find your Study Guide presented unit by unit online. You will find your assignments and links to submit your work to your professor on the course home page.

Athabasca University Library: Students are encouraged to browse the Library's Web site to review the Library collection of journal databases, electronic journals, and digital reference tools: http://library.athabascau.ca.

Athabasca University reserves the right to amend course outlines occasionally and without notice. Courses offered by other delivery methods may vary from their individualized-study counterparts.

Opened in Revision 1, September 1, 2009.