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ENVI311 Understanding Environmental Issues

An examination of contemporary environmental issues using concepts of scientific understanding, social, political and cultural construction and contestation, and intervention and transformation strategies.

Where do you stand on environmental issues? There are so many that it can feel overwhelming. In this paper we don't want to tell you what to think about those issues. We want to help you make sense of them by developing a way of thinking about them: what does the science tell us? What are the main social debates? And what solutions or interventions are possible? There is always more than one way to think about complex environmental issues, so we want you to be able to recognise those perspectives before deciding where you stand on things.

Paper title Understanding Environmental Issues
Paper code ENVI311
Subject Environment and Society
EFTS 0.15
Points 18 points
Teaching period Semester 1 (On campus)
Domestic Tuition Fees (NZD) $1,141.35
International Tuition Fees Tuition Fees for international students are elsewhere on this website.

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ENVI 111 or 108 points
Schedule C
Arts and Music, Science
This paper is open to students from any background, but it does require a willingness to learn and to participate in discussion.
Teaching staff

Course Co-ordinator: Dr Daniel Kingston

This paper is team-taught, involving staff with expertise in the physical and social sciences, environmental policy, planning and management.

Paper Structure

Each year three topics are selected as the core themes of the paper. Each of these topics is addressed in three ways to represent dominant academic modes of generating knowledge and developing understanding and considering solutions to environmental crises.

  • First, we examine the science around each topic
  • Second, we look at each topic in terms of the political, social and cultural constructions and contestations associated with them
  • Finally, the key mechanisms for influencing change, or for regulation or transformation of the particular crisis, are described

Through this three-fold engagement, the forms of knowledge and the insights from different disciplines are brought into dynamic interaction around a specific problem in much the same way that students of the paper will, potentially, have to engage with these problems as graduates.

Assessment is 40% internal (on-going during the semester) and 60% external (final examination)

Teaching Arrangements

One lecture per week and One 2-hour workshop per week.


There is no set textbook: readings are prescribed as necessary for the various modules.

Graduate Attributes Emphasised
Communication, Critical thinking, Environmental literacy, Information literacy, Research, Self-motivation, Teamwork.
View more information about Otago's graduate attributes.
Learning Outcomes

On completion of the paper students should be able to:

  • Engage critically with scientific and social-scientific framing of environmental issues
  • Recognise the varied processes by which new knowledge and understanding about environmental issues are developed
  • Understand the means by which people engage in political transformation, intervention strategies, tools for change and policy development

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Semester 1

Teaching method
This paper is taught On Campus
Learning management system


Stream Days Times Weeks
L1 Thursday 11:00-11:50 9-14, 16-22
Friday 12:00-13:50 9-13, 16-22