Software Engineering (3 Years) [BSc]

Crisis of Nature: Issues in Environmental History

Unit code: UCIL20092
Credit Rating: 10
Unit level: Level 2
Teaching period(s): Semester 2
Offered by School of Biological Sciences
Available as a free choice unit?: N




The aims of this unit is to explore and provide a critical analyis of key envirnmental issues in the contemporary global society. The objective is to understand the fundamental assumptions driving science, policy and advocacy such as: pollution, conservation, waste, risk, sustainability, ecology, etc. Students will read a selection of multidisplinary articles, engage in discussions, and participate in weekly debates on polarizing topics such as plastics, climate, urban sprawl, diasters. The essay aims to qualify students to identify and critically analyse a local environmental issue; the project is dedicated to developing intellectual and practical skills for doing original research. 


Pandemics, overfishing, mass extinctions, plastics, disasters, disappearing forests - both the popular media and scientists today speak in terms of a major environmental crisis. In this course you will explore the following questions: How new are these concerns? What are the origins of environmental thinking? Indeed, what is meant by "nature"? What is thought to be the ideal relationship of the human species to the rest of the world? And do we have anything to learn from other cultures or from our own past?

Learning outcomes

By the end of this unit, a student taking this unit will be able:

  • to analyse environmental movements and environmental legislation in the light of key scientific and ethical issues
  • to see the global connections that link environmental changes and pay particular attention to how modern technology has changed our relationship with nature on a worldwide scale
  • to analyse the many cultural and historical constructions of nature and to explore ideas about relations between nature and culture
  • to be familiar with a wide range of perspectives on the environment - social, cultural, scientific and political
  • To work in groups in presenting a case
  • To evaluate a judgment or an argument and to work in real-time to present her/his criticisms
  • To take active role in oral communication and dialogue during debates

This unit can also be taken as a 20 credit version (HSTM20592).

Employability skills

  • Analytical skillsCritical reading, essays - all based on analytical readings of sources
  • Group/team workingSeminars would involve non-assessed debates between teams.
  • Innovation/creativityStudents develop different interpretations to problem questions - on occasion work on highly localized problems even on campus (light saving proposals on basis of observations). In sessions, developing argument for maximum impact on jury. Jury creatively interprets defense and prosecution groups.
  • LeadershipDuring seminars, group leaders are in charge of leading the group in the debate
  • Oral communicationSeminars discussions, debates
  • Problem solvingEssays may require finding a solution to a problem: e.g. what is the key environmental issue on the campus of University of Manchester?
  • ResearchPrimary and Secondary
  • Written communicationEssay and exam; short summaries when required

Assessment methods

  • Written exam - 40%
  • Written assignment (inc essay) - 50%
  • Oral assessment/presentation - 10%


This unit will cover topics under the following themes:
  • Origins and meaning of “nature”
  • Ecologies
  • Pollution
  • Climate
  • Food
  • Oceans
  • Disasters
  • Plastics
  • Sprawl
  • Species


Recommended reading

  • Douglas M (1984) Purity and Danger. London : Ark
  • Soule M & Lease G (1995) Reinventing Nature: Responses to Postmodern Deconstruction. Island Press



Feedback methods

Feedback is available via the Blackboard system after assessments have been marked. Further feedback can be requested via the unit co-ordinator.

Study hours

  • Assessment written exam - 2 hours
  • Lectures - 12 hours
  • Seminars - 12 hours
  • Independent study hours - 74 hours

Teaching staff

Vladimir Jankovic - Unit coordinator

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