Contested Environments: People and Nature in the 21st Century - SE314

Location Term Level Credits (ECTS) Current Convenor 2017-18 2018-19
Canterbury Autumn
View Timetable
4 15 (7.5) DR RD Fish







This module provides an introduction to contemporary discourses and issues surrounding the relationship between nature, environment and society. The module begins by introducing people to the idea of 'environment', and specifically, to the range of assumptions we might hold about the relationship between environmental processes and human identity and behaviour. We go on to examine how ideas of human-environment relations play out across different geographical and land use contexts, at a range of different spatial scales (global, national, regional, urban and rural), and within the context of different stakeholder and social groups (such as policy makers, pressure groups, the media, and publics), More generally we provide a framework for critically evaluating the values and ethical assumptions that lay behind human constructions and uses of the non-human world and how we might manage, respond to and construct a range of environmental issues from a government, business and civic society starting point. More generally, the module aims to introduce students to basic conceptual distinctions that cut across these relationships, including ideas of ‘local and global’, ‘culture and nature’, and ‘representation and materiality’


This module appears in:

Contact hours

20 hours


BA in Environmental Social Science
BSc in Human Ecology
Bsc in Wildlife Conservation

Method of assessment

50% Coursework
50% Exam

Preliminary reading

Carolan, M. (2012) The Sociology of Food and Agriculture, Routledge
Descola, P and Palsson, G (eds) (1996) Nature and Society: anthropological perspectives, Routledge
Dickens, P. (2004) Society and Nature, Cambridge.
Goldblatt, D. (1996) Social Theory and the Environment, Cambridge
Hinchliffe SJ (2007). Geographies of Nature London, Sage.
Hinchliffe S, Blowers A, Freeland J (2003). Understanding environmental issues, Wiley-Blackwell
Hulme, M. (2010). Why We Disagree About Climate Change, Cambridge
Lomborg, B. (2001) The Skeptical Environmentalist, Cambridge
Robbins, P., Hintz, J., & Moore, S. A. (2010). Environment and society, Wiley-Blackwell
Rockström, J et al. (2009). A safe operating space for humanity. Nature 461:472-475

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

See the library reading list for this module (Medway)

Learning outcomes

On successfully completing the module students will be able to:
1). Understand the relationship between society and nature from different disciplinary starting points in the social sciences, including introductory knowledge of some of the key concepts and theoretical frameworks they use;
2). Acquire specific knowledge about the scope of environmental issues arising from society- nature relationships across different geographical and land use contexts;
3). Understand the historical evolution of environmental debates in government, business and civic society;
4). Link understanding of environmental issues to wider ethical frameworks and approaches to the sustainable management of natural resources.

University of Kent makes every effort to ensure that module information is accurate for the relevant academic session and to provide educational services as described. However, courses, services and other matters may be subject to change. Please read our full disclaimer.