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The University of Southampton

ENVS2014 Environment and Sustainability

Module Overview

What is ‘sustainability’ and who decides? This module will challenge you to develop your own definition of sustainability while considering how it is perceived by the many different actors (from private citizens to governments, NGOs and businesses) who play a part in taking decisions about the environment at various scales. We will consider key areas of current environmental and sustainability concern from global food security and biodiversity conservation to sustainable transport systems and corporate social responsibility, taking a holistic approach that crosses the divide between natural and social sciences. Much of the module will be framed around the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. By the end of the module, you should be able to tackle the difficult question of how we can continue to develop and improve human wellbeing without overstepping the planet’s ecological boundaries. Combining lectures and weekly workshops, this module will also help to develop transferable skills (communication of scientific ideas, writing, use of IT, group work) which will be of use in whatever field you eventually pursue.

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • - The need for both a multi-disciplinary and an interdisciplinary approach in advancing knowledge and understanding of Earth systems, drawing, as appropriate, from the natural and the social sciences. - The terminology, nomenclature and classification systems used in environmental science. - Methods of acquiring, interpreting and analysing environmental science information with a critical understanding of the appropriate contexts for their use. - Issues concerning the availability and sustainability of resources, for example, the different value sets relating to the Earth's resources as commodities and/or heritage. - The contribution of environmental science to debate on environmental issues and how knowledge of these forms the basis for informed concern about the Earth and its people. - The contribution of environmental science to the development of knowledge of the world we live in. - The applicability of environmental science to the world of work.
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • - Recognising and using subject-specific theories, paradigms, concepts and principles. - Analysing, synthesising and summarising information critically, including prior research. - Collecting and integrating several lines of evidence to formulate and test hypotheses. - Applying knowledge and understanding to complex and multidimensional problems in familiar and unfamiliar contexts. - Recognising the moral and ethical issues of investigations and appreciating the need for professional codes of conduct.
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • - Receiving and responding to a variety of information sources (eg textual, numerical, verbal, graphical). - Communicating appropriately to a variety of audiences in written, verbal and graphical forms. - Preparing, processing, interpreting and presenting data, using appropriate qualitative and quantitative techniques and packages including geographic information systems. - Using the internet critically as a means of communication and a source of information. - Identifying individual and collective goals and responsibilities and performing in a manner appropriate to these roles. - Recognising and respecting the views and opinions of other team members. - Evaluating performance as an individual and a team member developing the skills necessary for self-managed and lifelong learning (eg working independently, time management and organisation skills). - Identifying and working towards targets for personal, academic and career development. - Developing an adaptable and flexible approach to study and work.
Subject Specific Practical Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • - Planning, conducting, and reporting on environmental investigations, including the use of secondary data. - Referencing work in an appropriate manner.


A. Sustainability Practice: Assessing sustainability. An introduction to general principles will be followed by addressing how to undertake a sustainability analysis of an activity or organisation. Through group work and consideration of a range of case studies, students will develop an understanding of the many facets of sustainability. Groups of students will produce a sustainability analysis of a case study to be presented as a 5 minute film, supported by a references document including a minimum of 10 peer reviewed articles or official policy reports. This will allow development of multimedia development, science script writing, storyboard, and oral presentation skills in a group setting. Case studies: selected sustainability case studies of contemporary interest will be analysed through workshops and guest speaker presentations. B. Environmental Issues: Student Environmental Issue seminars. Groups of students will prepare and participate in seminars on topical environmental issues. These will develop communication skills online, give opportunities to develop targeted literature search skills and provide some challenges in time management. Class discussions on major environmental and sustainability issues, including the relationship between business, policy and the public will be held during the course. Guest speakers or external lecturers will be used where possible. Students will be expected to research the topics under discussion and be able to make relevant points clearly and coherently. A typical schedule might look as follows: Week 1. Introduction, module agenda, assessments briefing on sustainability case study film & environmental issues seminars. Key topic: sustainable development Week 2. Environmental justice and sustainable development Week 3. Global Goals for Sustainable Development Summit. Coursework preparation – briefing on environmental issues seminars Week 4 Business, ethics and the environment Weeks 5&6. Environmental Issues Seminars Week 7. Interactive Sustainability Workshop I Week 8. Interactive Sustainability Workshop II Week 9. Interactive Sustainability Workshop III Week 10. Interactive Sustainability Workshop IV Week 11. The ‘Sustainable Futures Debate’ Week 12. Environment & Sustainability Film Festival, course round-up and evaluation. All topics and dates are indicative only. Please refer to the module booklet or Blackboard site for the final schedule.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include: The module will be delivered by lecture, workshop and seminar sessions. The sessions will be delivered by the module co-ordinator and other contributors, plus occasional guest speakers. Directed reading, individual and group assignments, private study. Learning activities include: Attendance at and participation in lectures, workshops and seminars. Role play to understand the perspectives and constraints faced by different environmental decision-makers. Group-based research and presentations including in film format. Self-directed learning oriented towards preparation of module assignments. Developing web resources via internet seminars. Relationship between teaching, learning and assessment methods and planned learning outcomes: The teaching on this module is a mixture of formal contact hours of lectures, seminar and workshop sessions within one semester. Lectures will provide the overall framework for the module and review topical case studies. Students will be supported to actively learn key theories and principles through the use of facilitated group and class exercises, supplemented by individual reading and lecture material. Assignment 1 is a seminar series in which individuals lead debates on a key environmental issue in groups of 3 or 4 students. Assignment 2 is a group film on a topical case study which will involve students in communicating different aspects of sustainability. In addition to assignments, all intended learning outcomes will be assessed either through group or full-class discussions. Feedback and student support during module study: Feedback will be an ongoing process throughout the module. Lecture sessions will incorporate and conclude with class questions regarding the content. Students will be provided with regular verbal feedback for all un-assessed class workshop sessions, comprising generic comments and analysis from both the module coordinator and student peers. This feedback will be given during and immediately after completion of the sessions. Detailed written feedback will be given for each of the assessed exercises as soon as possible with all work being returned before completion of the module. This feedback will summarise the work and provide constructive criticism of where the work is effective and where there is scope for developing content, structure, delivery and use of reference material.

Preparation for scheduled sessions27
Completion of assessment task87
Practical classes and workshops18
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Resources. The interdisciplinary nature of the module means there is no single core text. It is recommended that students seek specific resources to support their learning and work towards assessment. Maintaining an interest in ongoing issues via news media, scientific journals (e.g. Nature, Science), magazines (New Scientist and National Geographic), web (e.g., etc. is highly recommended. A range of contemporary articles and peer-reviewed papers will be recommended to the students as part of the pre-reading for the module, and a list of further reading will also be provided. Required background reading and articles will be available from the online learning site, Blackboard ( Students will require access to IT facilities and the internet.


Assessment Strategy

Repeat year internally or externally. External repeat year is assessed as for referrals.


MethodPercentage contribution
Assignment 40%
Assignment 60%


MethodPercentage contribution
Assessment 60%
Assessment 40%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

Linked modules

Pre-requisite: ENVS1004

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