School of Social and Political Science

Science, Nature and Environment


This course considers the ways that science and technology shape the relationship between humans and the environment.

We will examine a number of topical historical and contemporary cases and in the process reflect on the role played by science and technology in how societies understand nature and the environment.

Themes to be dealt with include: science and cultural uses of natural resources; sociology of climate science; science, technology, and international development; science and public understandings of environmental debates; science, knowledge, and power; environmentalism.

We will approach these themes by studying various environmental topics and often reflecting on current events.

Themes include:

How to think about science

  • What is ‘nature’?
  • History and politics of global warming
  • Scientific evidence in policy and law
  • Religion and science
  • The geopolitics of science
  • Economics and the natural world
  • Sociology of scientific knowledge

On completion of this course, you will be able to:

  • Describe the role played by science and technology in a number of important social and political arenas, particularly those related to issues of nature and the environment.
  • Critically evaluate a variety of theoretical standpoints that address the above socio-scientific issues.
  • Describe the position of science and technology as a part of wider society, and account for some of the decisions made by scientists and politicians based on these social factors.
  • Analyse science as a social institution and how this institution shapes public debates about the environment.

This is a level 8 course with 20 credits

There will be 2 lectures and 1 tutorial per week in semester 2