• Class Number 5372
  • Term Code 3160
  • Class Info
  • Unit Value 6 units
  • Topic On-campus
  • Mode of Delivery In Person
    • AsPr John McCarthy
    • AsPr John McCarthy
  • Class Dates
  • Class Start Date 26/07/2021
  • Class End Date 29/10/2021
  • Census Date 14/09/2021
  • Last Date to Enrol 02/08/2021
SELT Survey Results

This course provides students with an understanding and capacity to use key, critical social science practices applied in analysing environment and development problems and natural resource policy. These include common property theory; sociology of the state and the environment; socio-legal approaches to natural resources policy; and other political ecology frameworks. The course introduces students to key conceptual (theoretical) readings together with case studies where these approaches are applied. Students learn to apply these frameworks to analyse the political aspects of environmental change and to evaluate interventions to deal with them.  Students also perform political ecology analyses of particular natural resource problems in small groups.

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion, students will have the knowledge and skills to:

On completion of this course, students will be able to:

    * Explain key theoretical social science frameworks for looking at environmental and development problems

    * Compare and assess the comparative value and usefulness of different conceptual approaches from policy sciences, political ecology, and other knowledge areas for understanding particular issues or problems.

    * Apply these frameworks to analyse policy issues, preferably by combining these conceptual models in order to approach environmental policy and practical applied issues.

Research-Led Teaching

This course is based on 20 years of research work related to topics of agrarian and environmental change, with a focus on livelihoods, non-agricultural economy, land grabbing, and so forth. It builds on my interest in analysing more broadly issues transforming rural society, such as the impact of climate change on rural livelihoods. Consequently, beyond a narrow focus on food security and the development of agriculture, this course also engages with a wider range of question converging on the livelihoods of rural population and question of poverty alleviation.

Robbins, Paul, Political ecology : a critical introduction Hoboken, NJ : Wiley-Blackwell, [2020]

Robbins, Paul; Hintz, John; Moore, Sarah A Critical introductions to geography., Somerset : Wiley, 2013.

Both are available as ebooks from ANU library. See also list in the course wattle site.

Staff Feedback

Students will be given feedback in the following forms in this course:
  • Written comments
  • Verbal comments
  • Feedback to the whole class, to groups, to individuals, focus groups

Student Feedback

ANU is committed to the demonstration of educational excellence and regularly seeks feedback from students. Students are encouraged to offer feedback directly to their Course Convener or through their College and Course representatives (if applicable). The feedback given in these surveys is anonymous and provides the Colleges, University Education Committee and Academic Board with opportunities to recognise excellent teaching, and opportunities for improvement. The Surveys and Evaluation website provides more information on student surveys at ANU and reports on the feedback provided on ANU courses.

Class Schedule

Week/Session Summary of Activities Assessment
1 Lecture - Week 1: Introduction: Political Ecology What is a politicized approach to the environment and how can this approach help analyse environmental problems?
2 Lecture - Week 2: Property Rights: Beyond the tragedy of the commons How can we best study the property rights underlying natural resource problems in various contexts around the world?
3 Lecture - Week 3: Access to and Control over Natural Resources How do actors use various mechanisms to control access to resources? How can access approaches help us to understand better the management of natural resources?
4 Lecture - Week 4: Property and Access: Case studies Learn to operationalize the concepts of property rights, access and control discussed over previous weeks to analyse environmental problem and consider possible policy approaches.
5 Lecture - Week 5: The State and the Environment Discuss the critical role the state plays in environmental governance. How can we best understand the state and the key challenges it faces.
6 Lecture - Week 6: Policy approaches; policy implications What kinds of policies might we use?
7 Lecture - Week 7: Political Economy and the Environment (PEA) Donors and policy analysts are now using PEA approaches to appraise the political processes that shape how the environment is governed and how they might intervene. How can these frameworks to analyse the possibilities for improving environmental management?
8 Lecture - Week 8: Applying Political Economy Analysis Apply political economy approaches to cases from Indonesia and Brazil to identify possibilities for reform.
9 Lecture - Week 9: Scaling up, scaling down How can policy interventions work with the state, communities, private and civil society actors to work across scale to deal with environmental problems? Consider some of the current policy trends....Coproducing solutions to climate adaptation
10 Lecture - Week 10: Looking for Solutions Institutional Bricolage; Convivial Conservation; Nature based solutions. Discuss how resource managers might work to ensure social relationships and decision-making processes work together in all their contextual complexity, keeping in mind that no one set of factors will be sufficient to determine success, and no one-size-fits-all set of solutions will suit the diverse combinations of cultural and ecological conditions that confront policy makers and real communities.
11 Lecture - Week 11 & 12: Student Presentations Make a work in progress presentation of your political economy analysis of a critical natural resource issue of your choosing.

Tutorial Registration

See link to Microsoft groups in the Wattle site.

Assessment Summary

Assessment task Value Due Date Return of assessment Learning Outcomes
Essay 1 (Survey) 30 % 25/08/2021 28/09/2021 1, 2
Work in progress presentation 0 % * * 1, 2, 3
Essay 2 (Political economy case study) 60 % 03/11/2021 02/12/2021 1, 2, 3
Readings responses 10 % * * 1, 2, 3

* If the Due Date and Return of Assessment date are blank, see the Assessment Tab for specific Assessment Task details


ANU has educational policies, procedures and guidelines, which are designed to ensure that staff and students are aware of the University’s academic standards, and implement them. Students are expected to have read the Academic Misconduct Rule before the commencement of their course. Other key policies and guidelines include:

Assessment Requirements

The ANU is using Turnitin to enhance student citation and referencing techniques, and to assess assignment submissions as a component of the University's approach to managing Academic Integrity. For additional information regarding Turnitin please visit the ANU Online website Students may choose not to submit assessment items through Turnitin. In this instance you will be required to submit, alongside the assessment item itself, hard copies of all references included in the assessment item.

Moderation of Assessment

Marks that are allocated during Semester are to be considered provisional until formalised by the College examiners meeting at the end of each Semester. If appropriate, some moderation of marks might be applied prior to final results being released.


Students are encouraged to participate through engaging in online discussions to hone their reflective writing brief and through writing their reading responses.


No examination

Assessment Task 1

Value: 30 %
Due Date: 25/08/2021
Return of Assessment: 28/09/2021
Learning Outcomes: 1, 2

Essay 1 (Survey)

Write a survey of key property rights concepts and use these concepts as a framework to analyse selected property rights cases. 1000 words.

Due 11.55 pm on 25 August

Assessment Task 2

Value: 0 %
Learning Outcomes: 1, 2, 3

Work in progress presentation

This exercise will assist you in preparing your final assignment by enabling you to obtain feedback from your peers and the course convenor while you are preparing it. While this is not assessed, students attend these sessions as it adds immensely to their work preparing their final assignment.

week 11 & 12

Assessment Task 3

Value: 60 %
Due Date: 03/11/2021
Return of Assessment: 02/12/2021
Learning Outcomes: 1, 2, 3

Essay 2 (Political economy case study)

write an essay on a suggested case topic (water, forests,fishery, mining, or land issue) identifying the drivers of the problem and possible openings for reform.

2,000 word case study

Due 11.55 pm on 3 November

Assessment Task 4

Value: 10 %
Learning Outcomes: 1, 2, 3

Readings responses

Students will be required to respond to simple question(s) for eight weeks (excluding their own seminar/reflective writing week) based on their readings. The response needs to submitted prior to the seminar. The activity is designed to ensure student participation and engagement with the readings prior to the Thursday or Friday seminar. Approximately 400-500 words.

Academic Integrity

Academic integrity is a core part of our culture as a community of scholars. At its heart, academic integrity is about behaving ethically. This means that all members of the community commit to honest and responsible scholarly practice and to upholding these values with respect and fairness. The Australian National University commits to embedding the values of academic integrity in our teaching and learning. We ensure that all members of our community understand how to engage in academic work in ways that are consistent with, and actively support academic integrity. The ANU expects staff and students to uphold high standards of academic integrity and act ethically and honestly, to ensure the quality and value of the qualification that you will graduate with. The University has policies and procedures in place to promote academic integrity and manage academic misconduct. Visit the following Academic honesty & plagiarism website for more information about academic integrity and what the ANU considers academic misconduct. The ANU offers a number of services to assist students with their assignments, examinations, and other learning activities. The Academic Skills and Learning Centre offers a number of workshops and seminars that you may find useful for your studies.

Online Submission

The ANU uses Turnitin to enhance student citation and referencing techniques, and to assess assignment submissions as a component of the University's approach to managing Academic Integrity. While the use of Turnitin is not mandatory, the ANU highly recommends Turnitin is used by both teaching staff and students. For additional information regarding Turnitin please visit the ANU Online website.

Hardcopy Submission

For some forms of assessment (hand written assignments, art works, laboratory notes, etc.) hard copy submission is appropriate when approved by the Associate Dean (Education). Hard copy submissions must utilise the Assignment Cover Sheet. Please keep a copy of tasks completed for your records.

Late Submission

Late submission of assessment tasks without an extension are penalised at the rate of 5% of the possible marks available per working day or part thereof. Late submission of assessment tasks is not accepted after 10 working days after the due date, or on or after the date specified in the course outline for the return of the assessment item. Late submission is not accepted for take-home examinations.

Referencing Requirements

Accepted academic practice for referencing sources that you use in presentations can be found via the links on the Wattle site, under the file named “ANU and College Policies, Program Information, Student Support Services and Assessment”. Alternatively, you can seek help through the Students Learning Development website.

Extensions and Penalties

Extensions and late submission of assessment pieces are covered by the Student Assessment (Coursework) Policy and Procedure The Course Convener may grant extensions for assessment pieces that are not examinations or take-home examinations. If you need an extension, you must request an extension in writing on or before the due date. If you have documented and appropriate medical evidence that demonstrates you were not able to request an extension on or before the due date, you may be able to request it after the due date.

Privacy Notice

The ANU has made a number of third party, online, databases available for students to use. Use of each online database is conditional on student end users first agreeing to the database licensor’s terms of service and/or privacy policy. Students should read these carefully. In some cases student end users will be required to register an account with the database licensor and submit personal information, including their: first name; last name; ANU email address; and other information. In cases where student end users are asked to submit ‘content’ to a database, such as an assignment or short answers, the database licensor may only use the student’s ‘content’ in accordance with the terms of service — including any (copyright) licence the student grants to the database licensor. Any personal information or content a student submits may be stored by the licensor, potentially offshore, and will be used to process the database service in accordance with the licensors terms of service and/or privacy policy. If any student chooses not to agree to the database licensor’s terms of service or privacy policy, the student will not be able to access and use the database. In these circumstances students should contact their lecturer to enquire about alternative arrangements that are available.

Distribution of grades policy

Academic Quality Assurance Committee monitors the performance of students, including attrition, further study and employment rates and grade distribution, and College reports on quality assurance processes for assessment activities, including alignment with national and international disciplinary and interdisciplinary standards, as well as qualification type learning outcomes. Since first semester 1994, ANU uses a grading scale for all courses. This grading scale is used by all academic areas of the University.

Support for students

The University offers students support through several different services. You may contact the services listed below directly or seek advice from your Course Convener, Student Administrators, or your College and Course representatives (if applicable).
AsPr John McCarthy
02 6125 0494

Research Interests

Dr John McCarthy works on issues of rural development, natural resource management, food security and social protection.

AsPr John McCarthy

By Appointment
AsPr John McCarthy
02 6125 0494

Research Interests

AsPr John McCarthy

By Appointment

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