Master Environment & Development

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  • Objectives
    To provide an advanced understanding of the relationship between development problems and environmental issues
  • Entry requirements
    those who have completed an undergraduate programme of study in related subjects and wish to gain an advanced understanding before proceeding either into further graduate study or employment in the NGO, state or private sector. It is also geared to those who have had experience working in these fields who now wish to gain an appropriate qualification before resuming their career.
  • Academic title
    MA/MSc Environment & Development
  • Course description
    Programme description

    - Staff all have first hand experience of environmental and developmental issues in the world’s poor countries.
    - Interactive teaching, with regular classroom discussions.
    - Students are encouraged to carry out original fieldwork for their dissertations in the world’s poor countries. (Overseas fieldwork is encouraged but is not essential).

    The programme is taught by members of staff who have first- hand experience of environmental and developmental issues in the world’s poor countries. Much of the teaching on the programme is interactive with students participating regularly in classroom discussions. Though not essential, students are encouraged to carry out original fieldwork for their dissertations in the world’s poor countries. This usually proves to be both challenging and stimulating for students. As a consequence, students frequently produce dissertations of excellent quality.

    This programme is designed to provide an advanced understanding of the relationship between development problems and environmental issues, grounded in differing regional contexts across the global South. It comprises a dissertation, three compulsory modules in Development and Environmentalism in the 'South': Environment, Livelihoods and Development in the 'South' and Research Methods in Human Geography and three optional modules chosen from among: Agricultural & Environmental Issues in Sub-Saharan Africa (with special reference to West Africa); Southern Africa; The Political Ecology of Land & Agriculture; Urbanisation in Sub-Saharan Africa; Water Resources & Water Policy.

    You may take a module from other master's degrees in the department. You can also select one module of approved language training. Not all options run every year.

    Programme format and assessment

    Continuous course assessment. Students must complete a compulsory dissertation and a module on research methods.

    Programme modules for MA/MSc Environment & Development 

    Development and Environmentalism in the 'South'
    (Core Module)
    This module examines the way that the environment is understood within the context of development, focusing on the global South. It explores the importance of the environment and natural resources to the development process, and the legacy of colonialism and underdevelopment in framing environmental problems. Finally the module considers recent shifts in the debates surrounding development and the environment initiated under both economic restructuring ( the so-called Washington Consensus) since the 1980s, and the increasing attention to global environmental problems, including biodiversity and climate change.

    Environment, Livelihoods and Development in the South (Core Module)
    This module starts with a focus on meanings, approaches, and debates resolving around sustainable livelihoods and development from various perspectives. Thematic exemplars will involve in-depth coverage of current issues, such as fair trade, agrarian change, and natural resources management. There will also be focus on discourses of participation and community in development as it pertains to macro- and micro-level implications. This will be linked to broader debates about gendered livelihoods and gender-development debates. The module will involve in-class discussions, based on assigned readings that students are expected to read, as well as documentary analyses linked to the practical coursework assessment

    PRACTISING SOCIAL RESEARCH I: Understanding the Fundamentals (Core Module)
    This module enables students to derive a greater understanding of the relationship between methodology and method and the related notions of epistemology and ontology. The module is a mix of lectures and tutorials and enables students to develop skills in the appropriate use and application of quantitative and qualitative methods, which will have been worked through in tutorial sessions. The module lays the conceptual groundwork for the design of the dissertation and enables students to appreciate the connections between epistemology and the students particular programme of study

    (Re)Presenting the City
    This module enables students to demonstrate understanding of the concepts of modernity and postmodernity and the theoretical questions raised by the task of representation. To demonstrate cognisance of the similarities and differences between the modern and the postmodern city over time and space.

    Agricultural & Environmental Issues in Sub-Saharan Africa
    This module enables students to understand the complexities of agriculture in Africas different ecological zones, also have some understanding of how and why images of agriculture vary with the scale of analysis. At a regional/national scale: understand the major influences on the character of agriculture in Africa, in particular the physical environment, historical factors and contemporary attempts to bring about development. At a local scale: be aware of some of the ways in which smallholder farmers, both men and women, interact with the environment in forest, savanna and sahel

    Boundaries, Sovereignty & the Territorial State
    This module introduces students to the history of politically organised space and the territorial origins and characteristics of the Westphalian state system. It reviews the changing manner in which political geography and geopolitics have covered the questions of international boundaries and state territory over time; from traditional deterministic concerns, through the humanisation of borderland studies to deterritorialisation, reterritorialisation and postmodernity. Students develop a familiarisation with the methods by which territory may be acquired in international law and gain a working knowledge of the principles, problems and practicalities involved in ocean boundary-making. Students are appraised of the various debates existing in political and international studies over the importance of international boundaries and state territory.

    Conceptualising Cities
    This module is organised around three main themes that have been central to the way that thinkers have conceptualised the city: shape, circulation and crowds. Shape refers to the physical form and layout of the city which together comprise its legibility; circulation refers to the importance of movement, networks and transactional spaces in the city; and the crowd refers to the significance of anonymity and numbers of people in cities. Each of these themes is explored in the context of different theoretical approaches that have been important in the history of urban thought.

    Environmental GIS
    This module enables students to capture spatial GIS data from a variety of sources, to assess and manage spatial data quality, to integrate and analyse these data within the latest business and research standard GIS environments. The module focuses particularly on the integrated use of spatial (GIS) data alongside remote sensing technologies and simulation models for better understanding and managing the natural environment. Various aspects of spatial and spatio-temporal analysis are covered and the role of GIS in supporting management decisions is emphasised. Course materials focus on the physical environment and ecological systems but include socio-economic information where necessary.

    Environmental Internship
    This module enables students to understand the main opportunities and constraints facing the policy-influencing capacities of environmental organisations, through the medium of an internship placement with an NGO. Students gain insights into the workings of environmental organisations and a feel for the day-to-day working practices of environmental activists. While on placement students learn how to collect/process environmental information relevant to the campaigning activities of environmental organisations, and subsequently put together a structured and coherent report reflecting on their practical experience.

    Environmental Policy and Politics
    This module enables students to understand the main problems and opportunities of environmental actors with regard to environmental policy formulation and implementation. To have an insight into the pertinent debates surrounding the role of different environmental actors in the environmental management process. To understand debates surrounding differences between environmental policy-making in advanced economies and the Third World. To understand why different environmental actors are pursuing different agendas with regard to environmental policy and politics.

    Environmental Politics as Cultural Politics
    The course allows students to explore the multiple and contested Nature(s) and identify how these contestations are encountered in politics and policy. The significance of everyday practices in shaping cultural understandings of places and their populations are drawn out through both historical and contemporary readings of Nature. These readings are inherently political. Through the analysis of multi-media information including academic texts, policy documentation, art and film, the question of a stable and shared national identity with one type of nature is put under question. Seminar discussions expose to critical examination the interaction between constructions and experiences of different natures and socio-cultural and political structures.

    Environmental Remote Sensing
    The module enables students to understand the information content of optical, thermal and radar remotely sensed data and to be able to identify the appropriate type of data for use in different environmental investigations. Students will learn to understand and apply various data calibration, processing and analyses techniques to maximize the interpretation of remotely sensed imagery. They will search, order and import various types of remote sensing data into appropriate software packages, and will be able to identify, obtain, calibrate, process and interpret data from sensors such as the Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer and/or Landsat Thematic Mapper to illustrate examples of environmental change phenomena.

    Environmental research design and application
    This module provides a thorough experience in designing environmental investigations to be carried out through a combination of simulation modeling, environmental monitoring, laboratory experiments and/or statistical analysis. It consists of a practical research project with individual supervision to put the issues learnt in Methods for Environmental Research into practice. On completion of the module, students will be able to design strategies for collection of data, use advanced data analysis techniques, and present the results of investigations both orally and in written form, and thus be capable of carrying out independent research in related issues. In this way, the student will be prepared to carry out a detailed individual study in the dissertation component of the MSc module. In combination with the dissertation, the module unit enables the student to go on to carry out further research, whether this be at PhD level, or within a research institute where applied research into environmental problems is carried out

    Geopolitics of Natural Resource Disputes

    This module enables students develop a critical awareness of how the presence (real or rumoured) of natural resources may affect the alignment and alter the status of international boundaries on land and sea. Develop an appreciation of the issues involved in the conduct and management of international river disputes (both successive and divided international rivers). Review the manner in which the presence and location of hydrocarbons have affected the drawing of land and maritime boundaries and promoted the outbreak and resolution of associated disputes. Unravel the complexities of current resource and territorial disputes in the Caspian Sea, Gulf of Guinea, Persian Gulf and South China Sea. Promote an awareness of the range of international disputes in existence over the resources of the sea (primarily fishing and other environmental issues)

    Methods for environmental research
    This module aims to provide a background in issues and methods involved in doing environmental research, including research methods and design. To achieve this, the module consists of a series of lectures, seminars, and practicals giving an overview of methods in designing, analyzing, presenting and evaluating environmental research. A subcomponent of this module will be an additional unassessed but required set of practicals and seminars giving a overview of laboratory and field equipment available in the KCL Department of Geography. On completion of this module, the student will be able to define the features of environmental problems and will be able to assess environmental investigations in terms of their design strategies for collection of data, data analysis, and results presentation. When taken with SG/5111 the students will be fully equipped to carry out their own independent research into environmental problems using these methodologies.

    Modelling Environmental Change at the Land Surface
    Through seminars and hands on experience, this module enables students to develop a research-level understanding of environmental modelling applications and limitations. Students will gain the ability to build, develop and apply a wide-range of modelling solutions to environmental problems. Students will also be able to critically assess research involving models and the application of models.

    Monitoring Environmental Change
    This module introduces students to the details and practicalities of environmental monitoring, using a variety of methodologies and measurement techniques, specifically using electronic-based sensors and instrumentation. Students acquire the skills to manipulate raw field, laboratory and logged data for analysis, to monitor, measure and analyse data on environmental stores and fluxes, and to interpret, analyse and present field and laboratory data clearly in written reports in order to explain processes operating in the environmental system under investigation. Students will also gain experience to design field or laboratory based research projects to monitor environmental systems, making use of appropriate field, laboratory and measurement equipment. Field monitoring methods are taught in the context of atmospheric environments, catchment monitoring, fluvial systems, hydrological processes, complemented with a practical fieldwork exercise.

    Social Change in Global Cities
    This module explores the nature, forms and processes of social change in global cities. It examines the socio-economic changes which are reshaping global cities, linking these to a series of other changes including migration, occupational structure, income, ethnicity, the structure of the housing market and social segregation.

    Southern Africa: The Political Ecology of Land and Agriculture
    The module enables students to adopt a critical approach to the relationships between the environment, agricultural production and change and political ecology in southern Africa. It covers the agricultural and environmental characteristics of the southern African region, including both the small-scale and large-scale agricultural sectors, and the discourses and debates about how these should be interpreted and analysed. It provides a strong appreciation of how structural factors such as land alienation and migrancy influence contemporary agricultural performance, and the significance of indigenous knowledge and the limitations of technocratic solutions. The module also addresses critically the philosophy behind, and empirical outcomes of, CBNRM approaches in a region rich in wildlife and national parks.

    Sustainable Urbanisation
    The module examines the influence of historical urbanisation paths as constraining factors on the production of geographies of urban environmental risk and security. Theorise the relationships between social structures and human agency in negotiating the distribution of risk and vulnerability in the city. Examine the utility of environmental risk as a lens for viewing crises of urban development. Through grounded case study analysis to identify the complexity of living in places of urban risk and vulnerability, to unpack the interaction of urban livelihood sustainability with vulnerability and the tensions that come from the demands of living in poverty and with vulnerability.

    Techniques for Managing Environmental Change at the Earth's surface
    The module enables students to have contact and presentations from a number of personnel directly involved in environmental management in the commercial world. It gives students an understanding of the interdisciplinary processes involved in environmental management, enabling students to design management solutions to a number of environmental problems. It enables students to present the results of an environmental management investigation both orally and in a written report.

    Territorial and Boundary Dispute Resolution
    This module introduces students to contemporary and historical mechanisms for boundary territorial dispute resolution. Provide a practical understanding of the manner in which the World Courts gain jurisdiction to try territorial/boundary disputes and of the manner by which they have resolved them to date. Facilitate an appreciation of the range of underlying issues that characterise contemporary individual territorial disputes, from complex issues of decolonisation, through partition and secession to attempted annexation. Review in detail recent cases of international boundary settlement on land and sea, reached through remodule to bilateral negotiations, arbitration or judicial settlement and appreciate the arguments, principles and evidentiary issues that prevailed. Provide a basic familiarity with the types of primary evidence used in boundary territorial settlement before the international courts, typically documentary and cartographic materials held in the major London repositories.

    The Latin American Colonial Experience
    The module enables students to acquire a thorough grounding in the historical geography of colonial Latin America sufficient for independent research and to gain a sophisticated understanding of the complexity of economic, social and demographic processes associated with colonial rule. It places particular emphasis on the impact of colonial rule on indigenous societies.

    Theory and Methodologies of the Social Sciences
    Through seminar discussions, students will consider a range of philosophical approaches to the social sciences, from positivism and empiricism, to hermenuetics, marxism, and post-structuralism, and discuss the relationship between theoretical debates in particular disciplines to those within the wider social sciences. Each seminar will begin with student-led discussion of readings and then end with a more formal presentation from the instructor to introduce the material for the coming week.

    Tourism and Development
    After charting the growth and development of tourism at a global level and also within countries of the South, the module adopts an analytical approach, examining the impact of power relations and risk on tourism development at different scales in developing countries. It examines the different roles played by different interest groups in the industry and the inter-relationship between these groups. It analyses the advantages and disadvantages of tourism on economies of the South and examines possible ways of bringing theory and practice in tourism together in the pursuit of socio-economic development.

    Urban Regeneration
    The module reviews the experience of urban regeneration in the context of post second world war urban policy and developments. This is done mainly from a British perspective but North American and European examples are drawn up and it is hoped that Professor Bob Beauregard who is a leading North American urban scholar and a visiting professor will lead one session. The first part of the module discusses the experience of urban decline and resurgence over the last half century. In the second half we look at a number of specific issues including the conflict between the concepts regeneration and gentrification, the role of culture and in particular focus on the regeneration of East London and the role of the Olympic Games. In the final week, there is an East London fieldtrip which includes a visit to the Olympic site (subject to continuing access being granted).

    Urban Studies Internship
    This practical module will provide masters students with hands on experience working with selected urban research organisations (e.g. national and local government departments, museums, urban think tanks) involved in urban-based research, policy formulation and implementation in a major city (normally expected to be London). The module will enable students to ground theoretical and conceptual issues relating to urban research in a practical setting.

    Urbanisation in Sub-Saharan Africa: Livelihoods and Patterns of Growth
    This module enables students to evaluate the way in which globalization (in the form mainly of structural adjustment programmes) has influenced African cities and contemporary livelihoods and economic strategies (employment, incomes, food and shelter) for the majority of Africa's urban population, the urban poor. Assessing urban growth patterns in this region and its periodization and the changing nature of rural-urban migration and linkages over time. The constraints on planning and servicing imposed by extreme resource constraints and the privatization encouraged by structural adjustment are evaluated. The module also explores the specificities of the urban experience in southern African countries with their legacies of institutionalised and racially-based influx control.

    Water Resources and Water Policy
    This module provides an interdisciplinary introduction to the recent history of water resource allocation and management especially in Asia, Africa and the Middle East. Priority will be given to outlining a conceptual framework identifying the relevant underlying ecological, economic and sociological principles relevant in the evaluation and management of water resources. The conceptual framework will also show the link between these underlying principles and environmental and economic policies. The roles of the institutions and technologies through which such policies can be implemented will also be analysed and exemplified.


    One year FT, two years PT, September to September.

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