University College for Interdisciplinary Learning

The Crisis of Nature: Issues in Environmental History

Course Code

UCIL20092 (10 Credits)

UCIL20592 (20 Credits)

Course Details

  • Level: 2
  • Credit load: 10/20
  • School/s: School of Medical Sciences (Centre for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine.)


Can we save what's left of the natural environment? Can we eliminate pollution, protect species and prevent catastrophic climate change? Or is it too late? Consider the following: 'nature, the nature that preceded human history, today no longer exists anywhere.' Marx wrote this in 1845, when neither the automobile, nor plastics nor electricity played any part in social life. What happened since was a stunning increase in industrial production, mobility, urbanization and consumption of goods all of which based on massive resources and energy use . The consequences of this progress are all around us: the ecological crisis is so widespread, it has become a new normal.

This unit is motivated by the deceptively simple question: what is the future of 'nature'? We acknowledge that answers to this can be many, but in this unit we try to answer it by going backwards: how did we get where we are today and what have we learned that can help us move forward? We go to the very roots cultural, economic and religious of our 'post-natural' civilization and explore the master-concepts of our environmental crisis: modernity, risk society, pollution, and, above all, nature. Your part in this exploration will be crucial: will have your say in research projects and in the weekly debates on issues such as water futures, climate catastrophe, oil dependency, the Great Pacific Plastic Gyro, genetically modified foods, overfishing, military weather modification (and even chemtrails).


Summary of Learning Outcomes

  • To analyse environmental issues in the light of key scientific, economic and ethical issues
  • To see the global connections that link environmental changes and understand how technology has changed our relationship with nature on a worldwide scale
  • To analyse the many cultural and historical constructions of nature and to explore ideas about relations between nature and culture
  • To work in groups in presenting a case study or opinion
  • To evaluate a judgment or an argument and to work in real-time to present her/his criticisms
  • To find and critically assess primary and secondary sources
  • To write, with full scholarly apparatus, a report on their individual research project
  • To take active role in oral communication and dialogue during debates



10 credits:

1. Research essay (50%)

2. Short exam (40%)

3. Presentation (10%)

20 credits:

1. Research essay (25%)

2. Short exam (25%)

3. Self-arranged research project (40%)

4. Presentation (10%)


This course is only open to undergraduate students.

University College course units are available to take on programmes which have 'free choice' options available to them, (i.e. programmes which allow you, as part of the degree programme, to take a number of credits from subject areas outside of your home school). As these courses are credit bearing, you must enrol by following the standard procedure for your school when adding units outside of your home school.

If you are not sure whether you will be able to enrol in University College courses, please contact your School Undergraduate Office to find out whether these options are available for your degree programme.


Vladimir Jankovic

Teaching and Learning Methods


1 - 6Monday11:00 - 13:00

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