Causes and Consequences of Environmental Change

2019-2020

Course Objective

To develop a common knowledge base about the causes and consequences of
environmental change and about how different disciplines perceive and
address environmental problems.

By the end of this course, students:
1. can classify and illustrate the diversity of environmental problems;
2. can explain key concepts from the natural and the social sciences as
they apply to the analysis of environmental problems;
3. are able to analyse causality for a selection of environmental
problems, using the Drivers-Pressures-States-Impacts-Responses (DPSIR)
framework in particular;
4. can critically reflect on frameworks and indicators used in analysing
environmental trends;
5. are able to explain the roles of the economic system and the function
of policy and governance in dealing with environmental problems;
6. understand different perspectives on the causes and consequences of
environmental change, including their own, and can contrast these;
7. demonstrated a capacity to collaborate in interdisciplinary teams and
contribute to a shared goal.

Course Content

At present, unsustainable modes of consumption and production worldwide
threaten to alter core functions of the earth system. Anthropogenic
climate change and the accelerating loss of biodiversity are two
pressing problems that receive much media attention. However, there are
many other environmental problems at scales varying from local to
global. These include for example: the spatial and temporal complexity
of land use change;
unforeseen effects of contaminants; human protein needs and disruption
of the nitrogen cycle; and the effects of invasive species on
social-ecological systems. In short, more sustainable
development pathways are urgently needed. Identifying such pathways
requires an interdisciplinary understanding and the involvement of
numerous academic disciplines, including the natural and social
sciences.

To provide such integrated understanding, this course will introduce
students to one prominent analytical framework, called Drivers-
Pressures-States-Impacts-Responses (DPSIR) framework. DPSIR serves to
structure problems and to identify different disciplinary contributions
to understanding, analysing and dealing with problems. It contributes to
the disentangling of complex problems, taking into account also limits
to fully understanding such problems, for example inadequate scientific
knowledge, uncertainty with regards to the benefits of environmental
remediation (and particularly when the costs are known), reluctance of
societies to acknowledge or to deal with environmental change, or scale
mismatches between a problem and its management.

DPSIR may be seen to comprise two ‘arms’: causes of environmental change
Drivers, Pressures, States), and consequences of environmental change
(Impacts and Responses). Because the impacts and responses are covered
in other ERM courses, notably environmental economics and environmental
policy in Period 2, this course places more emphasis on causality.
Topics range from land use, fisheries, poverty, the setting of
environmental standards, stakeholders, and climate change. These topics
have been selected to highlight the breadth of challenges for
environment and resource management, as well as to illustrate different
disciplinary perspectives. The natural science perspective attempts to
understand how environmental problems emerge. The economic perspective
focuses on the growth debate (does economic growth increase social
welfare?) and the use of economic instruments to redress the impacts of
environmental change and to implement policy. The social science
perspective assesses how environmental policy and governance can modify
or redirect the patterns of behaviour that are common, if not inherent,
in our societies.

Teaching Methods

The course is worth 6 ECTS credits which corresponds to 168 hours of
work per student.
The course comprises two sets of activities. The first takes place in
classes, where information is presented through lectures, presentations,
workshops, debates, seminars etc.
The second includes assessments where student’s ability to achieve the
course’s objectives is tested. Assessment involves a group activity
(presentation and a written assignment), and the exam. Feedback
opportunities are included in class activities as well as assessments.
Approximate time allocation:
• Class: 55 hours (h=20, 2=15, pra=1, pro=4)
• Reading and exam preparation: 50 hours
• Assignment: 45 hours
• Presentations: 15 hours

Method of Assessment

Type of assessment
• Group assignment (A) worth 40% of the final grade
• Written exam (E) worth 60% of the final grade (minimum grade to pass
the course: 5.0). One resit possibility in December/January. The last
grade
counts as final.
• It is compulsory to attend the assignment presentations.

Literature

The course builds on a series of scientific articles, which will be
announced in the course guide, as well as selected book chapters:
Ø Harris, J.M. and Roach, B. (2014) Environmental and Natural
Resource Economics: A Contemporary Approach. 3rd Edition. Chapter 9
(Lecture Population, Affluence, Technology) and Chapters 1+7 (Lecture
Economic instruments). Required text for ERM Course on Environmental
Economics (Period 2).

Target Audience

The course is part of the MSc programme 'Environment and Resource
Management' but is open to all MSc students.

Additional Information

The course is coordinated by Dr. Verena Seufert, and lectured by:
• Dr. Verena Seufert (verena.seufert@vu.nl)
• Dr. Nynke Schulp (nynke.schulp@vu.nl)
• Dr. Harry Aiking (harry.aiking@vu.nl)
• Dr. Marja Lamoree (marja.lamoree@vu.nl)
• . Prof. Dr. Pieter van Beukering (pieter.van.beukering@vu.nl)
• Prof. Dr. Philipp Pattberg (philipp.pattberg@vu.nl)
• Prof. Dr. Peter Verburg (peter.verburg@vu.nl)
• Prof. Dr. Jeroen van den Bergh

General Information

Course Code AM_1049
Credits 6 EC
Period P1
Course Level 400
Language of Tuition English
Faculty Faculty of Science
Course Coordinator dr. V. Seufert
Examiner R.M. Pols MSc
Teaching Staff dr. V. Seufert
prof. dr. M.H. Lamoree
prof. dr. P.H. Pattberg
prof. dr. ir. P.H. Verburg
dr. ir. C.J.E. Schulp

Practical Information

You need to register for this course yourself

Last-minute registration is available for this course.

Teaching Methods Seminar, Computer lab, Lecture, Study Group
Target audiences

This course is also available as: