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Department of Development Studies

Land, natural resources, development and environmental change

Course Code:
Course Not Running 2015/2016
Unit value:
Year of study:
Year 2 or Year 3
Taught in:
Term 1

This module introduces students to issues and debates on the environment and development, within a context of environmental change (especially climate change and global warming). Climate change will have a disproportionate effect on the developing world; those living in and relying on the rural sector and the exploitation of natural resources for their livelihoods are already facing new pressures and constraints. However, issues of how humans interact with the environment, how they can create sustainable livelihoods from exploitation of natural resources and land, and how they manage resources utilised by a range of actors, have a long history.

The module explores land, resources and environmental change through a consideration of how humans have interacted with their environments, and how this has shaped the local ecology in which they are based. The module is based on three parts. The first considers issues of access to and rights over land, water, and other natural resources (for example, minerals, fishing, forestry). How have these changed over time? What is the impact of those changes on environmental change? What pressures have emerged in each area? The second part of the module considers the management of the environment at national and community levels, exploring the debates over whether private property rights offer greater protection than communal ownership models. The third part of the module considers climate change: the evidence for global warming and its consequences; the response of international organisations and global policies to combat climate change; and the impact on local communities as ecological stresses lead to social tensions and potential collapse.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the course

At the end of the module students should be able to demonstrate:

  • An understanding of the key debates in environmental change, climate change and global warming, and their impact on development and livelihoods in the developing world;
  • An ability to analyse and evaluate the shifting nature of access and rights to land, water, and natural resources;
  • An ability to analyse theoretical and policy understandings of the role of the state in environmental management;
  • An ability to analyse theoretical and policy understandings of the role of communities, non-governmental organisations and civil society in environmental management;
  • An understanding of the political context in which environment and climate change policy is formulated and implemented at the national and international level;
  • An understanding of the various levels of international and national institutions involved in global and national environmental policy and management;
  • An ability to assess the impact of climate change on social stability;
  • An ability to use empirically-formed analysis to identify gaps and tensions between theory and practice.


Teaching will take the form of a one-hour lecture and a one-hour seminar per week.

Scope and syllabus

  • Week 1: Introduction: Land, environment, environmental change and development
  • Week 2: Access to land
  • Week 3: Access to water
  • Week 4: Access to natural resources
  • Week 5: A tragedy of the commons? Private property rights vs communal ownership and the environment
  • Week 6: The state and the environment
  • Week 7: NGOs, communities & civil society and the environment
  • Week 8: Climate Change: the impact on development
  • Week 9: International policy, climate change and global warming
  • Week 10: Violence, conflict and environmental change

Method of assessment

One two-hour written examination which will constitute 60% of the final mark, with the remaining 40% consisting of marks from one assessed essay. Each student is expected to submit one essay of 4000 words. Resubmission of coursework regulations apply to this module.