Environment, Nature & Society B

Module code: GY1037

Module co-ordinator: Dr Brett Matulis

This module begins with a question that, at first, seems very straightforward, but in reality is quite complex: 'What is nature?' 

Nature is something that seems so familiar but is elusive and can be difficult to pin down. We will consider the ways that nature has been understood throughout history, looking at ideas about nature in Western society, in the Global South, and in indigenous societies. We will also consider the strange (and seemingly contradictory) concept of 'social-nature'.

In the second part of the module, we will turn to issues relating to conservation, resource extraction and sustainability. What are our conservation challenges? And what is being proposed to solve them? We will review current debates around 'new conservation' and other anthropocentric approaches to environmental protection.

We will also consider ideas about 'economic de-growth' as a means of reducing consumption and improving human wellbeing.

The module will conclude with two lectures that help us to think differently about nature, including some thoughts on nature in unexpected places and a vision of the possibilities for our environmental future.

Topics covered

  • Traditional understandings of nature and 'social-nature'
  • Western perspectives and histories of environmental concern
  • Environmental perspectives in the Global South
  • Indigenous environmental perspectives
  • Wilderness
  • Resource extraction and environmental degradation
  • Conservation challenges
  • Development, sustainability, and new ideas about 'economic degrowth'


  • 10 two-hour lectures


  • Exam (50%)
  • Critical review essay (50%)