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icono de curso

Development, Environment and Natural Resources


Credits: 4 ECTS

Second semester

Pathway core courses




The world is in constant flux, and so are the environment and the way we relate to and use ecosystems and natural resources. A growing and globally inter-connected society entails increasing pressures on ecosystems for the extraction of both renewable and non-renewable resources, a relentless reduction in biodiversity across the world’s ecosystems, as well as an expanding use of soils, water systems, oceans and the atmosphere as pollution sinks. In response, an increasing number of policy approaches targeted at both minimizing environmental impacts and resource loss and maximizing social welfare have been put forward and implemented, which have notwithstanding generated their own problems and led to questionable policy panaceas and misguided ‘win-win’ solutions.

This course draws on political ecology to analyze contemporary development and environmental problems and solutions focusing most prominently in rural environments of the global South. Political ecology is a theoretical and methodological approach for the study of social-ecological systems that focuses on conflict, power and the uneven distribution of costs and benefits in interventions aimed at exploiting or conserving natural resources, or at accessing the biosphere as a pollution sink. The course lays first the theoretical foundations of political ecology, and subsequently explores problems like climate change, biodiversity loss, desertification, waste accumulation and land ‘grabs’, and their manifestation at local scales. For some of these, proposed policy solutions, including climate mitigation and adaptation programs, protected areas, or reforestation schemes are presented and discussed.


The course is based on one-hour lectures by the instructor, discussion of key readings in class, and video graphic material. The book by Paul Robbins [Political Ecology, Blackwell, 2012 Second edition] is a reference work during the course so students are encouraged to buy it, even if one copy is available at the library.

All students (depending on enrollment size) are expected to deliver one collective presentation based on one of the ‘extra readings’ suggested for the class and deliver two pieces of individual work, to be chosen from the following three options:

  • A blog or media piece to publicize an article across a non-academic audience;
  • A 2,000 words literature review based essay;
  • A 2,000 words book review.

Details for each of these expected pieces of work are provided below.

A. Class attendance and readings. The course puts a strong emphasis on active student participation: it uses half of each week’s time for lectures to present the main points of the compulsory readings and additional related literature. The readings suggested in the lectures below are only a subset of the available literature for each theme. Two compulsory readings are presented first, and extra readings subsequently. Students are encouraged to look for more literature, particularly for those topics that might interest them most. At the end of this section, a longer list of textbooks and literature sources are also provided. It is essential that students prepare well every class reading, at least, one of the suggested compulsory articles. Class attendance is required and participation counts towards 10% of the final grade.

B. In-class Presentation (Collective work). From Session 2 onwards teams of two students –which will be defined in Session 1- lead the discussion in the second half of the class. Each team is in charge of synthesizing and commenting on one of the ‘extra readings’ suggested for the chosen session. The presentation should be a sharp and concise 20-minute presentation of the reading at hand, which can raise any further questions the team might like to discuss in class or issues thought to be relevant for the course. This presentation counts towards 20% of the final grade.

C. A blog or media piece for a wider audience (Individual work). Each student picks up one of the ‘extra readings’ suggested for the second half of the course and writes a 750 words (max.) piece for a blog or an online media of their choice, following the correspondent style. The piece has to present both the paper and its findings in a language understandable to a broader audience. The student is invited to use a non-text based communication strategy and to develop an oral piece that explains the article to a wider audience in, e.g. a radio program or YouTube video. Additionally, and regardless of the submission format (text, audio or video), the student can accompany the document with a tweet to promote the article. The chosen ‘extra reading’ cannot be the same as the one used for the presentation in class. The best pieces will be published in IBEI website (see 2017 examples here). This assignment counts towards 35% of the final grade and it should be delivered by email to the course instructor anytime during the course.

D. Individual essay (Individual work). A research paper (double-spaced, 2000 words, excluding bibliography) that makes a succinct and well-researched argument about one of the two topics suggested below or one that might appeal to the student and be relevant to the course. If the latter option is chosen, please discuss the topic with the course instructor first. This assignment counts towards 35% of the final grade and it should be delivered to the course instructor anytime during the course.

Essay topics: Develop an argument-based review of recent academic academic articles (ie. scientific literature available through web of knowledge, scopus or Google Scholar) to discuss and/or problematize one of the following statements.

  • Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) is a policy framework that has translated into both conflicts and cooperation when laid out in the global South. Illustrate your argument with examples.
  • Social movements opposing environmental degradation worldwide can act as vehicles of policy change and induce a shift in social-ecological trajectories. Illustrate your argument with examples.
  • Renewable energy is already contributing to secure a sustainable and particularly equitable world. Illustrate your argument with examples.
  • Conserving biodiversity matters and should be pursued at all costs. Illustrate your argument with examples.

E. Book review (Individual work). A book review (double spaced, 2000 words, excluding bibliography) that identifies the main contributions of one of the books suggested below, as well as its policy relevance and gaps. If the student would like to pick up another option, please discuss it with the course instructor first. As examples of published book reviews, see Corbera 2017 (Redeeming REDD+) and Corbera 2012 (Powers of exclusion) available for download at http://estevecorbera.com/publications/. This assignment counts towards 35% of the final grade and it should be delivered to the course instructor anytime during the course.

Suggested books for review:

  • Martin, A. (2017) Just Conservation. Biodiversity, Wellbeing and Sustainability, Routledge.
  • Taylor, M. (2017) The Political Ecology of Climate Change Adaptation. Livelihoods, agrarian change and the conflicts of development. Routledge.
  • Neumann, R.P. (2015) Making Political Ecology. Routledge.
  • Lave, R. (2012) Fields and Streams: Stream Restoration, Neoliberalism, and the Future of Environmental Science. University of Georgia Press.
  • Dempsey, J. (2016) Enterprising Nature: Economics, Markets, and Finance in Global BiodiversityPolitics. AntipodeBookSeries.
  • Gómez-Barris, M. (2017) The Extractive Zone: Social Ecologies and Decolonial Perspectives. Duke University Press.

There will be a 5% penalty for every day of delay in submission of the individual works above.

F. Evaluation overview

  • Class attendance and participation 10%
  • In-class presentation 20%
  • Individual blog/media/video piece 35%
  • Individual essay 35%
  • Individual book review 35%