May 15, 2017

Sustainability, consumption and global responsibilities

“Sustainability, consumption and global responsibilities”, University of Manchester (since 2012)

  • Lecturer: Daniel Welch
  • Originator of course: David M. Evans (now Geography, Sheffield, previously Senior Lecturer, Sociology, University of Manchester)
  • Program:  Bachelors – elective for second-year undergraduates in School of Social Sciences Duration: one semester
    Class size: approximately 50-70
  • Focus: Students who complete this course will:
    1. Understand the relationships between consumption and global processes;
    2. Understand the complexities and contradictions that are inherent in sustainability debates;
    3. Have an appreciation of the various actors and organisations that are responding to the challenges of sustainable consumption; and
    4. Grasp key approaches to consumption and social change.
  • Novel approaches: three are highlighted, including:
    1. Students have the opportunity to critical assess real world policies for SC in light of what they know about the sociology of consumption, and to propose alternative policies;
    2. Students have the opportunity unpack the ‘biography’ of an everyday commodity in order to explore the social and environmental impacts of its production and consumption. The innovation here belongs to Ian Cook (Exeter), whose ‘follow the thing’ website is an excellent resource for students; and
    3. Students have a debate where they compare different accounts and interpretations of consumer culture. This takes place in small group seminars and students are put into two groups – one must prepare to critique consumer culture; the other must prepare to defend it. Their assessment gives them the opportunity to apply these ideas to the question of SC.
      Student evaluation: non-assessed: reading notes, group presentation/debate on economic growth and well-being; assessed: 2,000-word essay; 2-hour examination, two essay questions.
  • Course evaluation: consistently high ratings from students, who appreciate the engaging content.
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