POL30600 Addressing 21st Century Challenges: Understanding Complexity, New Insights and Emerging Movements

Academic Year 2019/2020

In the face of climate change, environmental pollution, growing inequality and extremism, the time is ripe for new approaches and consciousness about how we exist in this world, and with one another. Thankfully, new ways of thinking and movements are emerging. Deep Ecology, Systems Thinking, concepts like planetary boundaries, Kate Raworth’s “Doughnut Economics”, post-growth, Gross National Happiness, Buen Vivir, all offer us new ways of thinking and promise for addressing the challenges of the 21st century. At the same time people are coming together to build incredible grassroots movements to tackle systemic injustices.

This course will offer students an introduction to these new ways of thinking and grassroots movements, which are emerging across the globe. Engagement with these developments is both inspiring and gives us hope of real change.

The course material will focus on the environmental and social dimension as a lens to examine current challenges faced in our global societies. It will offer an introduction to new perspectives and paradigms and explore how these are reflected in social and environmental movements. Through this, we will enhance our understanding of the interconnectedness of current issues, gain new insights and enhance our ability to develop holistic, just and sustainable solutions.

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Curricular information is subject to change

Learning Outcomes:

Through undertaking this course students will gain a deeper understanding of environmental and social issues and how they intersect and interrelate. Engagement with the course materials aims to specifically enhance students’ skills in critical analysis. They will be able to identify and critically engage with various discourses on environmental and social sustainability. In particular they will have knowledge of the existing dominant and alternative approaches to addressing environmental and social issues, and have the analytical tools to identify the assumptions and theories that underpin particular policy programs and approaches. Furthermore students will gain a broad knowledge of the emerging theories and movements.

With the specific aim of nurturing new perspectives, the course readings will include non-Western academics, People of Colour, women and indigenous communities. As such, a central identified learning outcome is that biases are tackled and students gain greater appreciation and respect for the writings of marginalised groups.

By the end of this course, students should have gained greater insight into the complexity and interconnectedness of the current crises and required holistic solutions. Most importantly, through engagement with different perspectives and emerging movements, students will feel empowered to positively contribute to addressing the challenges of the 21st century.

Indicative Module Content:

climate change, environmental pollution, growing inequality and extremism
Deep Ecology, Systems Thinking, Doughnut Economics, Gross National Happiness

Student Effort Hours: 
Student Effort Type Hours


Autonomous Student Learning




Approaches to Teaching and Learning:
Group work with personal assessment component 
Requirements, Exclusions and Recommendations

Not applicable to this module.

Module Requisites and Incompatibles
Not applicable to this module.  
Assessment Strategy  
Description Timing Component Scale Must Pass Component % of Final Grade
Group Project: Group work with personal assessment component Unspecified Graded No


Continuous Assessment: Response papers and a short written work Unspecified Graded No


Carry forward of passed components
Resit In Terminal Exam
Autumn No
Please see Student Jargon Buster for more information about remediation types and timing. 
Feedback Strategy/Strategies

• Group/class feedback, post-assessment

How will my Feedback be Delivered?

Not yet recorded.

Timetabling information is displayed only for guidance purposes, relates to the current Academic Year only and is subject to change.  
Lecture Offering 1 Week(s) - 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 29, 30, 32, 33 Fri 13:00 - 13:50
Lecture Offering 1 Week(s) - Spring: All Weeks Tues 13:00 - 13:50