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Environment and society

Qualification dates
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This module starts with investigating how social science perspectives change the way we understand and respond to the major environmental challenges of our time. You'll explore how understandings of environment and society had profound and unequal consequences for people and ecosystems across the planet in the age of the Anthropocene. You'll also explore ways of understanding environmental and societal issues that are entangled in cultural, economic, social, and political terms and look at how these can provide the resources required to value environments differently and to build new models of responsibility required to navigate the Anthropocene.

What you will study

The module will help you understand how social science perspectives can change the way we see and intervene in the major environmental challenges of our time. It provides a ‘tool kit’ of social science themes and concepts, skills and approaches that will help you take the social aspects of environmental issues seriously in future studies and in life more generally. Your studies will explore relationships between the environment and society through the concept of entanglement, which emphasises the inherently interrelated nature of environmental and social issues. Alongside this, you'll learn about the concept of geographical imagination, enabling you to trace, map out, analyse and interpret the environment-society entanglements central to understanding contemporary environmental and social challenges.

The two main concepts of entanglement and geographical imagination are explored through the six blocks. After the introductory block, the cultural, economic, social, and political dimensions of environment-society issues are explored in turn. The module concludes by providing an opportunity to consolidate and review your learning, bringing together themes, concepts and case studies from across the module.

With each block, you'll also develop a key academic skill (description, interpretation, investigation, analysis, evaluation, and consolidation) through the central focus on engaging critically with multiple forms of evidence. A key part is the innovative use of virtual fieldwork activities in every block. Each of these activities focuses on a specific case study related to the themes of the block and the key academic skill for that block. You'll be provided with different types of evidence ranging from maps, newspaper articles and reports to video interviews with experts and people directly affected by the issues explored. This is designed to develop your skills as an independent researcher.

Your skills and knowledge will be developed through five tutor-marked assessments, a revision-oriented interactive computer-marked assessment and an end-of-module assessment. At the end of the module, you'll have a clear understanding of what social science perspectives contribute to understanding and intervening in environment-society issues, as well as a skills set of real value in both academic and vocational contexts.

Entry requirements

Academic writing, searching the internet, reading academic material, making notes, and thinking critically are all important skills developed in this module, and prior experience in these areas would be an advantage.

If you have any doubt about the suitability of the module, please speak to an adviser.

What's included

This module provides a study guide and two textbooks. You’ll have access to a module website, which includes:

  • a week-by-week study planner
  • module materials
  • audio and video content
  • assessment guide
  • online tutorials and forums.

Computing requirements

You’ll need broadband internet access and a desktop or laptop computer with an up-to-date version of Windows (10 or 11) or macOS Ventura or higher.

Any additional software will be provided or is generally freely available.

To join in spoken conversations in tutorials, we recommend a wired headset (headphones/earphones with a built-in microphone).

Our module websites comply with web standards, and any modern browser is suitable for most activities.

Our OU Study mobile app will operate on all current, supported versions of Android and iOS. It’s not available on Kindle.

It’s also possible to access some module materials on a mobile phone, tablet device or Chromebook. However, as you may be asked to install additional software or use certain applications, you’ll also require a desktop or laptop, as described above.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

We aim to provide online tutorials. While recordings of online tutorials may be made available to support your learning, you are strongly encouraged to take part.

Contact us if you want to know more about study with The Open University before you register.


The assessment details for this module can be found in the facts box.

If you have a disability

The OU strives to make all aspects of study accessible to everyone and this Accessibility Statement outlines what studying DD213 involves. You should use this information to inform your study preparations and any discussions with us about how we can meet your needs.

Future availability

Environment and society starts once a year – in October. This page describes the module that will start in October 2024. We expect it to start for the last time in October 2029.

Course work includes:

5 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
1 Interactive computer-marked assignment (iCMA)
End-of-module assessment