SPOL28160 Enviro, Soc & Human Wellbeing

Academic Year 2022/2023

How can governments protect and promote human wellbeing during a global environmental crisis? Is it possible to do so while making the rapid societal changes necessary to stay within the planet's natural limits? How can economic and social policy be reconfigured to better account for ecological limits?

This module will grapple with these and other pressing sustainability-related questions through lectures, class discussions, and class activities. We will cover subjective well-being, human needs, materialism, multidimensional poverty, intergenerational equity, and the precautionary principle. We will investigate the relationship between consumption and wellbeing, discuss necessary emissions, and explore fair burdens in emissions in reductions.

Throughout the module, we will examine if and how national economic policies can be reconciled with promoting and maintaining human wellbeing while protecting environmental integrity. We will also focus on social science perspectives on human-environment relations, examine the rise of environmental concern and discuss how individuals, groups and communities can drive climate action.

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Curricular information is subject to change

Learning Outcomes:

1. Demonstrate a broad understanding of the human causes and consequences of global environmental change
2. Understand the consequences of material arrangements on ecological outcomes
3. Understand the challenge of meeting population needs at a globally sustainable level of resource use
4. Grasp how national governments conceptualize and measure human wellbeing and understand how and why this has evolved
5. Understand the relationships between carbon-intensive consumption and human wellbeing
6. Understand the role of social policies in transitioning to a Just Ecological Society
7. Be familiar with how national economies might be transformed to prioritize human wellbeing over economic growth

Indicative Module Content:

We will cover the following theories and concepts;

• Theory of universal need
• Inter-and intra-generational equity
• Risk and disproportionality in outcomes
• Hedonic and eudaimonic wellbeing
• Sustainable Human Wellbeing
• Emissions reductions and fair burdens
• Human Development Index
• Wellbeing economy
• Conspicuous vs vicarious consumption, leisure, and waste.
• Eco-social policies
• Degrowth and post-growth perspectives

Student Effort Hours: 
Student Effort Type Hours


Specified Learning Activities


Autonomous Student Learning




Approaches to Teaching and Learning:
Lectures; critical reading, in-class activities and task-based learning; peer and group work 
Requirements, Exclusions and Recommendations

Not applicable to this module.

Module Requisites and Incompatibles
Not applicable to this module.
Assessment Strategy  
Description Timing Open Book Exam Component Scale Must Pass Component % of Final Grade
Group Project: Groups write a 2500-word report outlining a set of policies, investments, and actions that limit global warming while equitably promoting human wellbeing Coursework (End of Trimester) n/a Alternative linear conversion grade scale 40% No


Attendance: In week 7 and week 12 you will submit a participation log, via Brightsapce, detailing at least five specific examples of your participation in five different class sessions. Throughout the Trimester n/a Other No


Multiple Choice Questionnaire: Mid term will be a one-hour MCQ exam. The exam's will be based on the lecture content and readings. Week 7 n/a Alternative linear conversion grade scale 40% No


Carry forward of passed components
Resit In Terminal Exam
Spring No
Please see Student Jargon Buster for more information about remediation types and timing. 
Feedback Strategy/Strategies

• Feedback individually to students, post-assessment
• Group/class feedback, post-assessment

How will my Feedback be Delivered?

Not yet recorded.

The course uses the following two core texts:
• Ian Gough (2017) Heat Greed and Human Needs Edward Elgar Publishing. (All chapters can be freely accessed through the UCD library).
• Dunlap, R. E., & Brulle, R. J. (Eds.). (2015). Climate change and society: Sociological perspectives. Oxford University Press. All chapters can be freely accessed through the UCD library. The text is also available for purchase in the UCD bookshop)
• Any additional weekly articles will be in a folder on the course Brightspace page.
Timetabling information is displayed only for guidance purposes, relates to the current Academic Year only and is subject to change.
Lecture Offering 1 Week(s) - 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, 11, 12 Thurs 15:00 - 15:50
Lecture Offering 1 Week(s) - 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, 11, 12 Wed 13:00 - 13:50