• Class Number 7089
  • Term Code 3260
  • Class Info
  • Unit Value 6 units
  • Mode of Delivery In Person
    • Jessica Urwin
    • Jessica Urwin
  • Class Dates
  • Class Start Date 25/07/2022
  • Class End Date 28/10/2022
  • Census Date 31/08/2022
  • Last Date to Enrol 01/08/2022
SELT Survey Results

How can history help us understand the environmental problems we face today? What has shaped the relationships between people and environments in the past? This unit offers an introduction to global environmental history on a planetary scale, focusing on the period since 1945 known as “The Great Acceleration”.

In this course, we examine the profound transformation of the relationship between humans and the environment that has unfolded exponentially since 1945. Through a series of case studies and stories we will examine how the human footprint has grown, and its socioeconomic, political, and ecological impacts. This unit is organised both chronologically and thematically, allowing students to explore agricultural, industrial and technological revolutions; energy and technology; development and decolonisation; disease; capitalism; urbanisation; conservation and environmentalism; and anthropogenic climate change.

This unit offers an historical perspective on our modern environmental condition through an examination of the changing interactions between people and our planet. It explores the influences on human dealings with the natural world, the ways that humans have changed the natural world, and how humans have responded to environmental change.

Learning Outcomes

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

  1. demonstrate an understanding of the field of global environmental history, including key themes and debates;
  2. demonstrate an ability to formulate sound arguments about how human actions have been shaped by their historical contexts (social, political, economic, cultural and environmental);
  3. demonstrate an understanding of the processes leading to environmental change in a range of places since 1945;
  4. demonstrate an awareness of the ways in which historically determined ideas about the environment inform current environmental policies and debates; and
  5. develop and demonstrate oral and written skills in constructing evidence-based arguments using a variety of primary and secondary sources.

These books are available through ANU SuperSearch either as physical library copies or e-Books:

J.R. McNeill & Peter Engelke, The Great Acceleration: An Environmental History of the Anthropocene since 1945, Harvard University Press, 2014.

J.R. McNeill, Something New Under the Sun: an environmental history of the twentieth-century world, Norton, 2000.

Libby Robin, Paul Warde and Sverker Soerlin (eds), Future of Nature, Yale University Press, 2013.

Vasant Saberwal and Mahesh Rangarajan (eds), Battles over Nature: Science and the Politics of Conservation, Permanent Black, 2003.

Perrin Selcer, The Postwar Origins of the Global Environment: How the United Nations Built Spaceship Earth, Columbia University Press, 2018.

Ramachandra Guha and Joan Martinez Alier (eds), Varieties of Environmentalism: essays north and south, Earthscan, 1997.

Rachel Carson, Silent Spring, Fawcett, 1962.

Rob Nixon, Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor, 2011.

*Note: It is not required that you purchase and/or read any or all of these books prior to the commencement of The Great Acceleration, but they will provide you with a starting point for assignments and class discussion throughout the course.

Staff Feedback

Students will be given feedback in the following forms in this course:

• individual written comments

• verbal and written feedback to the whole class

• informal feedback

Individual written feedback: This will be provided for the Museum Report and Research Essay. It includes a mark out of 100, a detailed rubric, and written comments. These comments will address the strengths and weaknesses of your essay, and suggest ways to improve. You will also receive a rubric which assesses the content, argument, structure, presentation, and referencing of your essay. Please note that the various components of assessment listed in the rubric do not have equal weight. Calculating your grade is not a matter of adding up the ticks, or supplying 10 marks for presentation and 20 marks for analysis etc. Students may be able to compensate for defects in one area of the table by high performance in another. The rubric is designed to help you to understand the strengths and weaknesses of your work, not to give you a mechanical breakdown of your grade.

Group feedback: This will be provided in lectures after the return of the Museum Report and the Research Essay indicating common areas of weakness or strength and recommendations for the whole class, with examples.

Informal feedback: Students are in addition welcome to seek informal verbal feedback at any stage during the course. Please arrange an appointment to discuss your work. 

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). Feedback can also be provided to Course Conveners and teachers via the Student Experience of Learning & Teaching (SELT) feedback program. SELT surveys are confidential and also provide the Colleges and ANU Executive with opportunities to recognise excellent teaching, and opportunities for improvement.

Class Schedule

Week/Session Summary of Activities Assessment
1 The Great Acceleration: Introduction
2 Dams, Development and Decolonisation
3 "Better Living through Chemistry"
4 Fallout Museum Report due: 5pm, Friday 19th August 2022
5 Spaceship Earth
6 Feeding the World
7 Making Megacities
8 Eating the Ocean
9 Plastic Fantastic Research Essay due: 5pm, Friday 7th October 2022
10 Wildlife and Wilderness
11 Deforesting the Earth
12 The Warming World

Tutorial Registration

ANU utilises MyTimetable to enable students to view the timetable for their enrolled courses, browse, then self-allocate to small teaching activities / tutorials so they can better plan their time. Find out more on the Timetable webpage .

Assessment Summary

Assessment task Value Due Date Learning Outcomes
Primary source museum report 20 % 19/08/2022 2-3
Research Essay 40 % 07/10/2022 1-2
Tutorial primary source presentation 5 % * 5
Take-home Exam 30 % * 4-5
Tutorial contribution 5 % * 1-5

* 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 Integrity 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 Academic Skills website. In rare cases where online submission using Turnitin software is not technically possible; or where not using Turnitin software has been justified by the Course Convener and approved by the Associate Dean (Education) on the basis of the teaching model being employed; students shall submit assessment online via ‘Wattle’ outside of Turnitin, or failing that in hard copy, or through a combination of submission methods as approved by the Associate Dean (Education). The submission method is detailed below.

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.

Assessment Task 1

Value: 20 %
Due Date: 19/08/2022
Learning Outcomes: 2-3

Primary source museum report

Choose ONE historical source produced since 1945, and explain

1: how it illuminates a significant aspect of the Great Acceleration;

2: how you can justify your source selection.

Imagine that you work in a museum that is planning an exhibit on the Great Acceleration. Your task is to ‘sell’ your choice (it can be anything: an object; a text; music; art; video etc.). Describe your chosen source and answer the two questions. The best reports will include evidence to support your source selection.

You are not obliged to choose sources related to the course module themes. However, the readings for the modules provide examples of the sorts of readings you must draw upon.

Your ‘Museum Report’ must be written in sentence form. It must include references (footnotes) and a bibliography (these are not included in the word count).

Word count: 1000 words (excluding references)

Assessment Task 2

Value: 40 %
Due Date: 07/10/2022
Learning Outcomes: 1-2

Research Essay

Choose any theme listed in the lecture titles (e.g. Feeding the World; Spaceship Earth; Making Megacities, etc) from weeks 2 to 11.

Answer this question: What is the significance of this theme to the environmental history of the post-1945 world? 

To support your answer, you must draw on evidence concerning a specific jurisdiction and time period and explain why your choices illuminate this theme.

You may NOT write on the topic you chose for your Museum Report.

Your essay may refer to tutorial readings and those books listed under 'Recommended Resources', but you must also conduct research to incorporate and analyse primary and secondary sources. Secondary sources must be scholarly.

Word count: 2000 words (excluding references)

Assessment Task 3

Value: 5 %
Learning Outcomes: 5

Tutorial primary source presentation

You will be allocated a tutorial for which you must search for a primary source that is relevant to that week's tutorial theme and questions.

This task has 2 components:

a) Prior to your tutorial, you must post your selected source on the Wattle 'Archive' forum. Your explanation must be in sentence form, between 70-100 words. Postings will be visible to all students and instructors.

b) In a short presentation (<5 mins) to your tutorial class, you will explain (not merely describe) your selection.

Primary sources (produced in the period under consideration) may include images, written texts, video or audio.

Don't forget to provide bibliographic information about your source, that is, the source's creator (or author, photographer etc.), where you found it, and when it was produced.

The last week to upload your primary source to the course 'Archive' is Week 11.

Assessment Task 4

Value: 30 %
Learning Outcomes: 4-5

Take-home Exam

You are required to answer 1 essay question (from a choice of 3)

You may cover all lectures and assigned readings, and you will be expected to synthesise the materials you have read and discussed throughout the semester.

You will have one week to complete the assessment.

Word count: 2000 words (excluding references)

Assessment Task 5

Value: 5 %
Learning Outcomes: 1-5

Tutorial contribution

Whether your tutorial is 'in person' or via 'Zoom, tutorial participation requires more than just being present; it involves actively participating and preparing - hence, this assessment task is titled Tutorial contribution.

Contributing to your tutorial includes:

  • Doing assigned readings (and any other preparation)
  • Contributing to group discussions
  • Demonstrating an understanding of the topic based on the assigned readings
  • Asking questions
  • Listening actively
  • Working collaboratively with other students
  • Participating in tutorial activities, such as small group discussions or Zoom breakout rooms

What is a quality contribution?

  • raising a point (with evidence)
  • giving an example to illustrate or build on what someone else has said
  • asking or answering questions
  • acknowledging someone else’s point, or expressing why you agree or disagree.
  • respectfully returning the discussion to the main point

Don’t just address all remarks to the tutor. Support others in the tutorial by engaging.

Speaking isn’t the only way to contribute. You can demonstrate that you are contributing by listening, by looking at the speakers, and showing by your body language that you are actively listening and are part to the group (eg. look interested when another student is speaking, sit forward slightly).

As some students may find it more difficult to jump into a conversation (online or 'in person'), your tutor may actively call on you to ensure everyone has the opportunity to speak. If you experience anxiety or have difficulties participating in large groups, please contact your tutor to discuss your participation

Academic Integrity

Academic integrity is a core part of the ANU culture as a community of scholars. The University’s students are an integral part of that community. The academic integrity principle commits all students to engage in academic work in ways that are consistent with, and actively support, academic integrity, and to uphold this commitment by behaving honestly, responsibly and ethically, and with respect and fairness, in scholarly practice.

The University expects all staff and students to be familiar with the academic integrity principle, the Academic Integrity Rule 2021, the Policy: Student Academic Integrity and Procedure: Student Academic Integrity, and to uphold high standards of academic integrity to ensure the quality and value of our qualifications.

The Academic Integrity Rule 2021 is a legal document that the University uses to promote academic integrity, and manage breaches of the academic integrity principle. The Policy and Procedure support the Rule by outlining overarching principles, responsibilities and processes. The Academic Integrity Rule 2021 commences on 1 December 2021 and applies to courses commencing on or after that date, as well as to research conduct occurring on or after that date. Prior to this, the Academic Misconduct Rule 2015 applies.


The University commits to assisting all students to understand how to engage in academic work in ways that are consistent with, and actively support academic integrity. All coursework students must complete the online Academic Integrity Module (Epigeum), and Higher Degree Research (HDR) students are required to complete research integrity training. The Academic Integrity website provides information about services available to assist students with their assignments, examinations and other learning activities, as well as understanding and upholding academic integrity.

Online Submission

You will be required to electronically sign a declaration as part of the submission of your assignment. Please keep a copy of the assignment for your records. Unless an exemption has been approved by the Associate Dean (Education) submission must be through Turnitin.

Hardcopy Submission

No hardcopy submission.

Late Submission

Unless otherwise stated (i.e. in the case of take-home exams), late submission is permitted. 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

The Academic Skills website has information to assist you with your writing and assessments. The website includes information about Academic Integrity including referencing requirements for different disciplines. There is also information on Plagiarism and different ways to use source material.

Returning Assignments

Student work will be returned via Wattle within 3 weeks of the assessment submission.

Extensions and Penalties

Extensions and late submission of assessment pieces are covered by the Student Assessment (Coursework) Policy and Procedure. Extensions may be granted 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.

Resubmission of Assignments

Students may not resubmit work used either previously in this course, or in any other course.

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).

Jessica Urwin

Research Interests

Environmental history, colonial history, nuclear history, Australian history

Jessica Urwin

Tuesday By Appointment
Tuesday By Appointment
Jessica Urwin

Research Interests

Jessica Urwin

Tuesday By Appointment
Tuesday By Appointment

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