• Class Number 5292
  • Term Code 3360
  • Class Info
  • Unit Value 6 units
  • Topic On Campus
  • Mode of Delivery In Person
    • Dr Simon West
    • Prof John McCarthy
    • Prof Sango Mahanty
    • Dr Sarah Milne
  • Class Dates
  • Class Start Date 24/07/2023
  • Class End Date 27/10/2023
  • Census Date 31/08/2023
  • Last Date to Enrol 31/07/2023
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:

  1. Explain key theoretical social science frameworks for looking at environmental and development problems.
  2. 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.
  3. Critically analyse policy issues using key social science frameworks, preferably by combining these conceptual models in order to approach environmental policy and practical applied issues.
  4. Evaluate policy proposals and advocate alternative policy approaches and reforms.
  5. Critically assess the underlying causes of current environmental problems using conceptual frameworks from the field of political ecology.

Research-Led Teaching

This course introduces students to key political ecology concepts and critical approaches used to analyse environmental problems, devise interventions, and pursue transformations. Each week, we will connect theory with practical examples. It is based on years of research on ecosystem management, institutional change, development and transformation in the Australia and the Asia-Pacific region.

Robbins, P. (2020). Political Ecology: A Critical Introduction (3rd edition). New York: Routledge

Robbins, P., Hintz, J.G., & Moore, S.A. (2014). Environment and Society: A Critical Introduction, Second Edition. Wiley Blackwell.

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.

Other Information


The Crawford School of Public Policy has its own Academic Skills team dedicated to helping students to understand the academic expectations of studying at Crawford and succeed in their chosen program of study. Through individual appointments, course-embedded workshops and online resources, Crawford Academic Skills provides tailored advice to students keen to develop their academic reading, thinking, planning, writing, and presentation skills.

Class Schedule

Week/Session Summary of Activities Assessment
1 Lecture - Week 1. Introduction: The social and political nature of environmental problems Why are environmental problems political? 
2 Lecture - Week 2. Property Rights: Beyond the tragedy of the commons What are common property rights and how have they shaped resource management approaches in various contexts around the world?
3 Lecture - Week 3. Access to and Control over Natural Resources Who gets to use natural resources and who is excluded?
4 Lecture - Week 4. Institutional innovation: Co-management, adaptive governance and polycentricity How have states attempted to innovate in natural resource management in the context of social, political and ecological complexity?
5 Lecture - Week 5: Three perspectives on transformations to sustainability: structural, systemic and enabling How might we pursue transformational change in the relations between state, society and natural resources?
6 Lecture - Week 6. Structural approaches to transformation: introduction to Political Economy Analysis (PEA) How do structural approaches view transformation, and how can Political Economy Analysis (PEA) be used to formulate interventions to address environmental problems?
7 Lecture - Week 7. Applying Political Economy Analysis (PEA) How can we apply the steps of PEA to a concrete case study?
8 Lecture - Week 8. Systemic approaches to transformation: Introduction to the Resilience, Adaptation Pathways and Transformation Approach (RAPTA) How do systemic approaches view transformation, and how can the Resilience, Adaptation Pathways and Transformation (RAPTA) approach complement Political Economy Analysis in formulating interventions?
9 Lecture - Week 9. Enabling approaches to transformation: T-Labs and transformative spaces What are enabling approaches to transformation, and how can 'T-Labs' and transformative spaces be used to address environmental problems?
10 Lecture - Week 10. Connecting the dots: Pluralising and politicising transformations What are the common threads in efforts to transform the relations between state, society and natural resources?
11 Lecture - Week 11 & 12. Student Presentations Make a work in progress presentation of your political economy analysis of an environmental issue/problem 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
Weekly reading briefs 10 % * * 1,2
Essay 1: Survey of two property rights cases 30 % 28/08/2023 09/09/2023 1,2,3
Class presentation: 5 min 'work in progress' presentation for Essay 2 10 % 26/10/2023 27/10/2023 1,2,3
Essay 2: Political economy and transformation case study 50 % 07/11/2023 01/12/2023 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 completing their weekly reading briefs (Assessment 1), engaging in workshop discussions, and providing feedback on their classmates presentations (Assessment 3).


No examination

Assessment Task 1

Value: 10 %
Learning Outcomes: 1,2

Weekly reading briefs

Students will be required to respond to three simple questions for eight weeks (weeks 2-9) based on the core readings. The response needs to be submitted prior to the (online or in-person) workshops, through a Turnitin link in Wattle. The activity is designed to ensure student engagement with the readings prior to the workshops, and contribute to the development of the skills necessary to complete Essays 1 and 2. Max 200 words for each weekly response.

Assessment Task 2

Value: 30 %
Due Date: 28/08/2023
Return of Assessment: 09/09/2023
Learning Outcomes: 1,2,3

Essay 1: Survey of two property rights cases

Write an essay comparing two property rights cases using concepts delivered in weeks 2-4 of class. 1000 words.

Due 11.55 pm on 28th August.

Assessment Task 3

Value: 10 %
Due Date: 26/10/2023
Return of Assessment: 27/10/2023
Learning Outcomes: 1,2,3

Class presentation: 5 min 'work in progress' presentation for Essay 2

Present a brief 'work in progress' presentation (3 slides) of your case and key arguments for Essay 2. This presentation allows you to gain feedback and ask questions as you develop your final essay. Presentations are 5 mins long and will be held in weeks 11 and 12.

Assessment Task 4

Value: 50 %
Due Date: 07/11/2023
Return of Assessment: 01/12/2023
Learning Outcomes: 1,2,3

Essay 2: Political economy and transformation case study

Write an essay on an environmental issue (water, forests, fishery, mining, or land issue) identifying the drivers of the problem and proposing or critically analyzing an intervention intended to contribute to transformation, using a political economy analysis.

2,000 word case study

Due 11.55 pm on 7th November

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).
Dr Simon West

Research Interests

Dr Simon West explores the role of knowledge in environmental policy and governance, with a current focus on notion of transformation in ecosystem management.

Dr Simon West

By Appointment
Prof John McCarthy

Research Interests

Dr Simon West explores the role of knowledge in environmental policy and governance, with a current focus on notion of transformation in ecosystem management.

Prof John McCarthy

Prof Sango Mahanty

Research Interests

Prof Sango Mahanty

Dr Sarah Milne

Research Interests

Dr Simon West explores the role of knowledge in environmental policy and governance, with a current focus on notion of transformation in ecosystem management.

Dr Sarah Milne


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