PIR-30139 - Sustainability and Social Justice
Lecture Time: See Timetable...
Level: Level 6
Credits: 15
Study Hours: 150
School Office:

Programme/Approved Electives for 2021/22


Available as a Free Standing Elective






Barred Combinations


Description for 2021/22

How is poverty related to population growth? Why have indigenous peoples been disproportionately affected by the nuclear industry? Why are women more likely than men to die in natural disasters? Is it true that rich white men are more sceptical of the existence of climate change than any other social group? Such questions highlight what scholars of environmental justice have known for decades: that all humans are not in the same boat when confronting the most pressing environmental problems of our time.
This module provides an interdisciplinary introduction to the complex inter-connections between social injustice/ inequality and environmental problems and, conversely, between the goals of sustainability and social justice. It examines a range of social scientific approaches to understanding these connections and draws in particular on 'environmental justice' literature written from feminist, post-colonial, political economy and 'green' perspectives. Social categories of class, race and gender, and unequal/unjust power relations between people, are placed at the centre of debate and provide a framework for critically analysing a range of environmental problems found in the UK and in a range of different parts of the world. In all cases, the root causes of the problem and potential policy/political solutions for bringing about more just and sustainabile outcomes are considered.
The module consists of 11 2-hour seminars in which key readings and themes are discussed and debated, with active student participation and leadership. Assessments are: weekly written commentaries, a poster presentation, and a short essay during the exam period. There is a public poster session to showcase student research at the end of the semester.

To provide a level three introduction to the complex inter-connections between social injustice and environmental problems.
To cultivate critical skills needed to analyse the significance of social justice to a range of environmental events, issues, policies and debates, and in particular to the search for a more sustainable society.
To enable students to apply appropriate theoretical frameworks and conceptual tools to the analysis of local and global environmental justice issues which may include: climate change, environmental security, biodiversity loss, food shortages, population growth, toxic waste, and development-induced displacement.

To enable students to do independent reseach aimed at identifying causes of, and potential solutions to, socio-environmental justice problems.
To enable students to practise their skills in communicating 'evidence-based arguments' formed through research and critical analysis, in written, verbal and poster form.

Intended Learning Outcomes

Identify and describe major bodies of literature/schools of thought relating to social justice and environmental and sustainability issues will be achieved by assessments: 1, 3
Compare and contrast the strengths and weaknesses of varying perspectives on social justice and sustainability with a view to assessing their explanatory potential will be achieved by assessments: 1, 3
Apply an appropriate analytic lens to different kinds of environmental issues and cases will be achieved by assessments: 1, 2, 3
Demonstrate critical thinking about the interconnections between social relations and environmental politics and problems will be achieved by assessments: 1, 2, 3
Persuasively communicate conclusions formed through research and critical analysis in both written and verbal form. will be achieved by assessments: 1, 2, 3

Study hours

25 hours: Contact time in eleven 2-hour seminars and one poster session
40 hours: Reading and seminar preparation
55 hours: Assessment preparation and revision
30 hours: Independent study and research

School Rules


Description of Module Assessment

1: Commentary weighted 50%
Weekly commentaries on reading and set questions
Students will complete and submit a written commentary for 6 of 11 seminars. Instructions for each week are provided on the KLE; each commentary must be completed in advance and brought to the seminar. A record of submissions will be kept alongside the attendance register. Failure to submit the sheet in the seminar will result in a reduction in marks. The commentaries will require critical engagement with the readings in order to answer the questions given and to develop students' own original questions. The aims of this assessment are to prompt informed participation at seminars and to facilitate students' comprehension of the module material.

2: Poster Presentation weighted 25%
Academic poster on a topic of choice related to module themes
Students will produce an poster on a topic of their choice (to be approved by the module leader), following standard guidelines for academic posters. This method of communicating research is increasingly used at academic conferences in social science disciplines. There will be a public poster session at the end of the semester where students will be required to stand next to their poster and answer questions.

3: Essay weighted 25%
Short essay written during the exam period
Students will be given a choice of questions based on the module material and be required to submit their short essay during the exam period. Students will not be required to do additional research to answer the question but will need to refer to module material and the research completed for their poster.