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Environment & Development


Admission requirements

Required course(s):


Recommended course(s):

  • Sharing Scarcity – The Commons

  • A 200-level course from the same track


This course explores the tensions that arise between economic development and the natural environment. Students are guided towards a practical and solution-oriented approach in which they first identify and define complex environmental problems in a more tractable way. Environmental and economic systems are then represented as interconnected cause-effect chains that span different scales and domains. Indicators of social and environmental performance are used to assess the benefits and tradeoffs of human actions and decisions within these domains.

During the course, students are broadly presented with the key frameworks that are currently used to assess and manage the environmental risks and impacts of products, projects, organizations, urban development, and policies. Such frameworks include Life Cycle Assessment, Human and Ecological Risk Assessment, Environmental Management Systems and Causal Analysis.

Despite the existence of these mature and robust frameworks, environmental degradation continues to happen as an undesired consequence of economic growth. Real-life case studies presented by experts from different fields and hands-on practical workshops will give students the opportunity to critically assess the adequacy and efficacy of the different frameworks. By the end of the course, students will have formed their own ideas on how to improve these frameworks, propose new ones, and inform policymaking with a more realistic understanding of the challenges and limitations faced by the relevant actors.

Course Objectives

After successful completion of this course, students will be able to:


  • Identify, characterize and discuss conflicts between economic development and environmental protection objectives

  • Evaluate the adequacy of systemic solutions and their application in realistic situations.


  • Critically assess the efficacy of social and environmental appraisal frameworks

  • Represent relationships between economic activities and the environment using different modeling paradigms

  • Interpret quantitative indicators of environmental performance and their uncertainties

  • Adopt a broad, stakeholder-oriented approach to environmental problem solving


Timetables for courses offered at Leiden University College in 2021-2022 will be published on this page of the e-Prospectus.

Mode of instruction

This course will be taught through two-hour interactive classes twice a week. Classes consist of a combination of lectures, group and individual workshops, student presentations and discussions around documentary-material.

We will use the reader by Robbins, Hintz and Moore (see below) to understand and work with key themes, concepts and theories in environment and development. This will be coupled with case studies from above mentioned reader and additional literature that will be available on-line, as well as case studies presented by the lecturer and guest speakers.

Students are expected to actively participate as individuals and as members of groups. Prescribed reading and viewing of other materials must be done prior to each class.

Assessment Method

  • In-class participation (individual)(ongoing weeks 1-7): 15%

  • Individual assignment: LCA workshop (week 3): 17.5%

  • Group assignment: Incident investigation workshop (week 5): 17.5%

  • Group assignment: Policy brief (week 8): 20%

  • Take home exam, individual (week 8): 30%

Reading list

Paul Robbins, John Hintz, Sarah A. Moore (2014) Environment and Society: A Critical Introduction. 2nd Edition. Wiley-Blackwell. ISBN: 978-1-118-45156-4

This reader is available as e-book and paperback.


Courses offered at Leiden University College (LUC) are usually only open to LUC students and LUC exchange students. Leiden University students who participate in one of the university’s Honours tracks or programmes may register for one LUC course, if availability permits. Registration is coordinated by the Education Coordinator,


Carlos F. Blanco