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Environment and Development 15 hp, UIS program

Södertörn University, School of Natural Sciences, Environment and Technology, Department for Environment and Tourism
Syllabus, Lecture, Seminar, Debate, Course material, Readings, Exercise
Thematic Area
Factual description
A search was made for courses dealing with complex issues at the School of Natural Sciences, Environment and Technology. Within the program Development and International relations three courses we found, the curricula and course materials were analysed and a focus group interview was conducted with the responsible teachers.
The course treats different concepts and perspectives within the area of political ecology with the objective to strengthen student´s interdisciplinary knowledge and understanding of environment and development issues. The students analyses basic themes and socio-political debates within the field and scrutinizes selected empirical cases. The empirical cases include a range of different sustainability problems and resource conflicts. The cases exemplify how relations between power, economy and politics lead to inequalities. The cases are also used to explain how the distribution of environmental costs and benefits get skewed. The cours provides opportunities to analyze and discuss opportunities for sustainable development
Relevance in complex systems
Political ecology is an approach to deal with complexity related to political and economic power over natural resources. It has similarities with systems analysis, in its approaches to framing problems. However, to a large extent the perspectives are a reaction to the apolitical approaches used by many early systems approaches to ecology and natural resources. In recent articles there are openings to recombine the approaches. The course literature is an example on how a greater complexity is introduced in a sequential manner. The case studies, based on research publications serve to provide both ideas of complex phenomena related to the society- ecology interface, but also to analyse how different theoretical frameworks influence the interpretation of phenomena or what aspects of complexity that are highlighted. Further the students are asked to write weekly reports on their reflections on readings as well as phenomena studied. To what extent this contributes to systems thinking is not known, but indicated by performance in subsequent courses within the program
Strong points
Opportuities for student´s simultaneous reflection on theory and applications of theory related to complex phenomena is well structured in the course and the selected course-literature contributes to reflections on the usability of different theoretical perspectives on complexity.
Transferability potential
The model of sequencing theoretical perspectives in a pedagogic way from simpler to more complex understandings could be transferred also to other courses