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Socio-environmental Dynamics

academic year

Course teacher(s)

Louise Knops (Coordinator)

ECTS credits


Language(s) of instruction


Course content

This course is anchored in sustainability studies, including sustainability science. It presents different approaches for the analysis of the relations between society and the environment. It discusses diverse approaches, emerging from both the natural sciences and the social sciences. For each approach, it presents the criticisms it has received as well as the way it has been applied. Some of the presented approaches include systems theory, resilience theory, complexity theory, environmental governance, political ecology, etc. While the course is mainly intended for students in environmental management, it provides useful tools for other students to work in inter-disciplinary teams and helps understand the importance of thinking about connections rather than thinking in isolation to tackle environmental issues. Moreover, the approaches presented can be applied to a whole range of disciplines, from public health to ethics. 

Objectives (and/or specific learning outcomes)

Be able to analyse socio-environmental dynamics reflectively and critically.

Understand the differences between approaches, their disagreements and incompatibilities around the main debates in the field. 

Reflect on socio-environmental issues in an inter and transdisciplinary fashion. 

Be able to understand complex texts. 

Think about the connections that make environmental problems so difficult to tackle. 

Be capable of understanding perspectives from other disciplines and percourses. 

Prerequisites and Corequisites

Required and Corequired knowledge and skills

Please note that the course will be in English. A previous curiosity and a basic understanding of the interactions between society and the environment is very helpful to follow the course. 

Teaching methods and learning activities

The course is composed of lectures that will be participatory to the extent possible, considering the number of students attending. 

Each lesson is completed by a mandatory reading or podcast, which, together with the complementary readings, will be made available as the course progresses. 

The lectures cover the theoretical aspects. Each lecture is completed by a case study, which might presented by a guest lecture, pre-recorded or might constitute the object of the reading. 


Contribution to the teaching profile

The course has four main objectives: 

Provide an overview of the different approaches and methods used to analyse socio-environmental interactions and understand which are compatible and which aren't. 

Explain the consequences and impacts different conceptualisations of socio-environmental dynamics have on governance and management. 

Help students become familiar with the core concepts of the presented approaches and use them critically in problem-oriented analyses. 

Allow the students to use the theoretical tools learned in their own area of specialty and help the understand how these approaches might be useful when working with others.

References, bibliography, and recommended reading

Mandatory readings will be made available before each lesson as the course progresses.

Besides, the students can read the following works to prepare or complement the course (not mandatory):

Biggs, R., M. Schlüter, M.L. Schoon (Eds.). 2015. Principles for building resilience: Sustaining ecosystem services in social-ecological systems. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Castree, Noel. 2014. Making Sense of Nature. Abingdon: Routledge.

Chapin, F. S., G. P. Kofinas, C. Folke (Eds.). 2009. Principles of Natural Resource Stewardship: Resilience-Based Management in a Changing World. Springer.

Debaise, D. 2017. Nature as Event. The Lure of the Possible. Durham: Duke University Press.

Haraway, D. J. 2016. Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene. Durham: Duke University Press.

Other information

Additional information

All used material (ppt, videos, etc.) will be made available to the students as the course progresses.






Method(s) of evaluation

  • written examination
  • Other

written examination


Each session will start with a discussion of the material facilitated to prepare the session.
The written exam will be composed of five to ten questions (defining concepts, commenting on examples, synthesising the work of an author or an approach, establishing links between different approaches, etc.). 

Mark calculation method (including weighting of intermediary marks)

The final mark will be based on the exam but can be modulated (up to two points) based on participation during the lessons. 

Language(s) of evaluation

  • english
  • (if applicable Spanish, french, Italian, Portuguese )