MPhil Degree in Environment, Society and Sustainability

Course Modules

These courses can change from year to year. When courses are offered, and the specific detail on contact can change a bit. Use this list as a rough guide to the type of courses on offer)

An F represents first semester, and an S second semester. Sometime modules are run in different semesters. The courses below should be seen as an over view of likely available modules and candidates should be aware that both the availability as well as the timing can change should staff be on sabbatical leave for example.

EGS4016F - Capital, Politics and Nature (First Semester)

Description of Course: In this module we analyse how nature has been used as a source of informal and formal power (politics). Profound changes in such power structures led to the quest for property regimes and institutions that are more appropriate for the defence of nature. Against this background, we discuss how capitalist interests, as encoded in private property regimes and attendant ecotourism ventures, have gained an upper hand in nature conservation.

EGS4017F - Water resources management (First Semester)

Description of Course: This module facilitates the development of a comprehensive understanding of issues and challenges confronting water resources management at an urban and catchment scale in South Africa. These two scales are unavoidable in the study of urban water because flows through a myriad of physical, biological and social environments with each placing various conditions and constraints on the hydrologic flow and quality of water, most often imposing undue risk to socio-ecological systems within catchments.

EGS4023F - Research Methods in the Natural Sciences (First Semester)

Description of Course: This module is an introduction to essential skills and techniques required for investigating and analysing problems encountered in the natural sciences. It is compulsory for all Physical Research and Atmospheric Science students.

All non-Environmental Management Honours Students must take either EGS4023Z or SOC4024X.

EGS4024Z - Climate Variability and Climate Modeling

Description of Course: The module examines atmospheric and ocean general circulation models that are used to model climate variability and climate change. Emphasis is placed on African applications. Students are expected to have done EGS3012S or its equivalent.

EGS4025F - Geomorphology of southern Africa (First Semester)

Description of Course: The aim of this course is to introduce students to the theory of geomorphological systems and apply this to an area or topic of their choice. The course is particularly targeted at Hons students who have selected physical geography topics for their dissertation. It gives them the opportunity to deepen some of their geomorphological literature relevant to their chosen project. Students are expected to interpret landscapes, identify formative processes and events, examine environmental changes at different spatial and temporal scales, place their area of study into the geological, Quaternary, climatic and applied context in order to appreciate geomorphologic concepts such as systems approach, complexity, relationships, feedbacks, thresholds, equilibrium and cycles.

EGS4026Z - Extreme weather and climate events

Description of Course: This module examines the impact of extreme weather and climate events over Africa, how they are generated and how they evolve. Interactions of the atmosphere with the land surface and the neighbouring oceans are studied with respect to understanding what conditions are conducive to these events. Students are expected to have done EGS3012S or its equivalent.

EGS4032S - Living with environmental change (Second Semester)

Description of Course: This module aims to ground students in the core theoretical and policy debates on global environmental change. There will be a focus on climate change adaptation and mitigation. The course will include links to international policy, science communication, risk management and environmental economics. Throughout the course there will be a focus on how science links to development and policy through specific examples as well as placing global environmental change in its wider current, social/political/economic context. Students will also gain experience in different methods for assessing vulnerability and social impacts and developing risk communication and adaptation strategies.

EGS4033F - Geography of Development and Environment (First Semester)

Description of Course: Negotiating home, citizenship and the South African city will be framed theoretically by feminist and post-colonial anthropological and geographical literature. Spaces of home, citizenship and the city are physical and material but also constructed, negotiated and reproduced socially and politically. Moreover, meanings change with the bodies that inhabit such spaces. We will therefore explore literature that grapples with the material and socio-cultural dimensions of the multiple spaces that make up South African cities and the contestations about their social and political meanings. Through the examination of the micro politics of space and its access, the course will examine the gendered, placed, sexual and racial character of homes, neighbourhoods, and cities more generally. The course will draw extensively on South African literature but also on bodies of work from elsewhere in the South. The course combines seminars with urban fieldwork with the Valhalla Park United Civic Front, a community-based organisation in Cape Town, to bring together critical engagement with a theoretical, as well as methodological and experiential body of work.

EGS4035S - Rise, Fall and Reconstruction of the Apartheid City (Second Semester)

Description of Course: The aim of the course is to understand the structural basis of the contemporary South African city through an understanding of the urban past. The course surveys the secondary literature on the major social, legal and historical events that shaped the segregated form of the South African city in the twentieth century. The seminar component is divided between the period shaping the apartheid city form and its demise. An independent essay and reading exercise enables students to focus on post apartheid issues.

EGS4038F - Climate Change and Predictability (First Semester)

Description of Course: The course explores the theory of climate change, and then goes into the question of predictability, cross scale relationships and feedbacks in the climate system, the tools and techniques of prediction, and translation of predictions into the user community including impacts and vulnerability analyses and touching on the social dimension.

EGS4039F - Urban Food Security (First Semester)

Description of Course: Topics include an overview of poverty and urbanization in Southern Africa; urban food security, methods and issues; urban poverty and vulnerability debates; food security and HIV/AIDS; managing urban food systems (ecological, regulatory and fiscal dynamics).

EGS4040S - Environmental Policy and Practice (Second Semester)

Description of Course: This course looks at the underlying dynamics involved in the negotiation of environmental policy and its implementation. The assumption here is that unsustainable outcomes are not a result of a lack of will or intention, but rather due to vastly varying values, knowledge and data that are brought to bear on decision making for the environment. The approach of this course is to challenge the ‘cultural embeddedness’ of policy ie. it critiques the cultural processes underlying environmental policy. A deeper understanding of the cultural politics of environmental policy and practice will deal with the processes through which institutions define and mediate policy outcomes; governance arrangements for sustainable development; the roles of power, rationality, knowledge and values in achieving environmental and social justice.

EGS4044F - Urban Ecology (First Semester)

Description of Course: The aim of this module is to introduce students to both the theory and practice of urban ecology. Students will be expected to engage critically with current theories and debates as presented in the urban ecology literature. In addition to this, there will be a significant focus on practical methods and skills. Students will be expected to interrogate the urban landscape, identify and pose relevant ecological questions, and design and implement appropriate methods to answer these ecological questions. Broad theoretical areas to be engaged in, all in the context of the city, include: biogeography, alien invasion, landscape fragmentation, conservation, restoration, ecosystem services, and social ecology.

EGS4048S - Alternative Economies (Second Semester)

Description of Course: This module introduces students to geographical debates about alternative economies, especially in light of the 'cultural turn' in economic geography. We consider the social values that underpin various economic activities, paying particular attention to questions of inclusion, morality, solidarity and wellbeing. Through theories and case studies of alternative economies, including cooperatives, social enterprises, and green businesses, we develop an understanding of the values that drive different economies, and think about possibilities for economic intervention and transformation. The course has a strong emphasis on theory, which is complemented by fieldtrips and an independent research project.

EGS4049S - Tools and Topics in Earth System Science (Second Semester)

Description of Course: The aim of this course is to give students the chance to explore current research in the emerging field of Earth Systems Science. The focus is on key tools currently in use as well as a consideration of some exciting controversies in the field. Students are expected to apply ideas from the readings and discussions into their own projects. Some of the work is field-based.

EGS5011S - Theory and Practice of Environmental Management (Second Semester)

Description of Course: This module introduces students to recent developments in Environmental Management within the context of sustainable development. It provides students with an overview of the philosophical and conceptual underpinnings of environmental assessment, and exposure to commonly used methods including Strategic Environmental Assessment, Environmental Impact Assessment, Environmental Management Systems and corporate sustainability reporting.

EGS5024F - Managing Complex Social-Ecological Systems (First Semester)

Description of Course: Increasingly scholars have recognised that many of our environmental problems are complex systems problems that require an understanding of natural, socio-economic and governance systems as well as the interactions that occur between them. Furthermore, research suggests that conventional approaches to managing environmental problems are not moving us in sustainable directions and hence the call for innovative and alternative approaches to managing these complex systems. EGS 5024 introduces graduate students to important theoretical, methodological and ethical foundations of environmental and coastal management. The module introduces systems thinking and complexity theory and explores tools and governance frameworks for managing complex human-ecological systems. These concepts and theoretical ideas are then applied to cases in the coastal and small-scale fisheries arena.

PBL5045S - Environmental Law for Non-Lawyers (Second Semester)

Description of Course: This module introduces environmental law, with particular reference to South Africa. It covers a range of issues including: land-use planning, marine living resources, protected areas, biodiversity, and pollution.

Modules on offer outside the Department

Students are allowed to pick up an elective outside the Department should they wish to. A number of possibilities exist, some of which have specific entrance requirements. You are welcome to do your own research on available courses and to discuss these options with the programme convener.