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Environment and Society Minor

Environment and Society looks at fundamentals of the Earth's environmental systems; and human impact on natural systems at global, national and regional scales. It also considers environmental hazards, concerns and issues; and ethical, legislative, economic, and political responses and constraints.

The Environment and Society minor was introduced in 2010 as a way that all graduates could build an environmental awareness component into their degree programmes, whatever their major. So students from across the University can take the minor, and by using the “two approved papers” requirement, they can if they with make it relevant to their major.

Core ENVI papers for the minor

The minor is built around three core ENVI papers: 111,211 and 311.

  • ENVI111: Environment and Society develops a broad understanding of environmental systems, people and their activities and the nature of environmental concerns in the world around us.
  • ENVI211: Environmental History of New Zealand examines the changes brought about in this country since human occupation, first by Māori and then by European settlers, through to the present day.
  • ENVI311: Understanding Environmental Issues develops a more rigorous and holistic framework for thinking about environmental issues, and applies that to three contemporary environmental topics.

In 2016 ENVI312 Interdisciplinary Aspects of Climate Change was introduced. This is not a core paper but can of course be taken as one of the two approved papers for the minor.

Additional papers

In addition to the three required ENVI papers, to complete the minor a student must take two further papers, at least one of which must be above 100 level (i.e must be at 200 or 300 level).

The choice of papers must be approved by the co-ordinator of the minor (currently Associate Professor Michael Hilton, email: michael.hilton@otago.ac.nz).

This is to ensure the choices are not two random papers but are consistent with the purpose of the minor: these would be papers that have an environmental theme or relevance and build on the core papers in a useful way, and suit the background of the student.

Note: Papers that are taken to meet the major degree requirement (typically 9 or 10 in a 3 year degree) cannot also be counted to the minor, unless both the major and minor subjects require the same specific paper.

In theory, any paper in the University, for which the student has the necessary prerequisites, can be considered, but the student must be able to explain how each paper adds value to the ENVI minor. For example:

  • A BCom student might choose ECOL111 and ECOL211, to expand their understanding of the ecological aspects of environmental problems. Or they might choose papers in environmental economics and sustainable management which expand the “environmental” dimension of their major.
  • A BA Politics student might take GEOG102 Human Geography and the Urban Geography paper at 200 level, to develop a social/urban theme in the minor.
  • A BSc Physics student might take a 100 level POLS paper, and 200 level Environmental Politics, to develop a better understanding of the community/political aspect of environmental issues.

Approved papers do not need to be overtly “environmental”, although they are often some of the more popular ones. They can be more technical or theoretical, if they clearly help to develop a useful knowledge area or skill relevant to the natural or human aspect of environmental issues.