Module Identifier RS32410  
Academic Year 2007/2008  
Co-ordinator Dr Ioan Fazey  
Semester Semester 1  
Course delivery Lecture   11 x 2 hour lectures  
  Practical   3 x 3 hour practicals during semester  
Assessment TypeAssessment Length/DetailsProportion
Semester Assessment COURSEWORK - 3000 WORD REPORT  100%
Supplementary Assessment 3000 WORD ANALYSIS BASED ON A DIFFERENT CASE STUDY  100%

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module students should be able to:
1. Evaluate the underlying drivers of, and feedback processes within, changing systems;

2. Evaluate the likely effects of management and policy interventions on a social or environmental system;

3. Critically review how human behaviour gives rise to unsustainable activity;

4. Critically discuss the requirements for societies to be sustainable;

5. Critically evaluate the process of promoting and maintaining sustainable societies.

Brief description

This module concentrates on addressing three main topics:

These main topics will be explored within the framework of systems thinking. It will include discussion of sub-topics such as social-ecological resilience, uncertainty in decision-making; perverse policies; theories of transformation and adaptive governance. It will provide an overarching view of sustainability within which students will be able to hang their own area of specialization. Students will explore this framework from the perspective of their own discipline through the assignment. It therefore has relevance to students from a range of schemes, including Tourism Management, Tourism and Recreation, Countryside Management, Countryside Conservation, Sustainable Rural Development etc.

The work will be based on a conceptual analysis of the reinforcing and negative feedback processes in a social-ecological system that is of direct relevance to the students' background (e.g. tourism, countryside management). The work will require students to analyse underlying feedback processes to explain the likely impacts of a management or policy intervention. This will necessarily require students to demonstrate their understanding of how the human behaviour gave rise to the problems, what is required to ensure resilience of the system in question, and how resilience can be maintained over the long-term.


1) How human behaviours give rise to unsustainable activity:

2) Current thinking about the requirements for societies to be sustainable:

3) How transformation towards more sustainable trajectories can be promoted and maintained:

Module Skills

Problem solving Through the analysis of feedback in systems and developing appropriate strategies to deal with them This will be based on classroom-based workshops, and will be assessed in the report.  
Research skills The report will require students to identify appropriate material to include in their report, to analyse feedback processes and find additional supporting material.  
Improving own Learning and Performance Students will be developing critical thinking skills in being able to understand feedback in dynamically complex systems. This ability will be assessed during the report.  
Team work Much of the project work during the practicals will involve working in groups (although the final assignment will be conducted by individuals)  
Information Technology Students will learn the Vensim package for drawing conceptual diagrams of systems. These diagrams will be an essential component of the report.  

Reading Lists

** General Text
(2005) Millenium Ecosystem Assessment. Ecosystems and human well-being Island Press 1597260401
Diamond, J (2005) Collapse: how societies choose to fail or survive Allen Lane 0902124536
Gunderson, L H and Holling, C S (2002) Panarchy: understanding transformations in human and natural systems Island Press
Steffen, (2006) Stronger evidence but new challenges. Climate change science 2001 - 2005 Department of the Environment and Heritage, Government of Australia

** Recommended Consultation
Carpenter, S and Folke, C (2006) TRENDS IN ECOLOGY AND EVOLUTION Ecology and transformation 21 : 309 - 315.


This module is at CQFW Level 6