Course code EDS349

EDS349 Energy and Society

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Showing course contents for the educational year 2016 - 2017 .

Course responsible: John Andrew Mcneish
ECTS credits: 5
Faculty: Faculty of Landscape and Society
Teaching language: EN
(NO=norsk, EN=Engelsk)
Limits of class size:
Max 50 students. Minimum 10 students
Teaching exam periods:
Course Assignment delivered at end of Spring block
Course frequency: Biannual. January Block. Starting January 2017
First time: 2016H
Last time: 2019H
Preferential right:
Students registered in the Masters of International Development Studies, Development Studies or International Relations. 
Course contents:

The course provides an introduction to social science perspectives on the complex relationship between energy and society. Indeed, at its foundation the course aims to reveal to students the fundamental reliance that exists between energy resources, human development and concepts of power and modernity.

As such the first part of the course Energy and Political Power traces through time and space our conversion of naturally occurring energetic resources into calorific benefits, as means to improve and speed up labor and production, and to provide the building blocks for early civilizations. The course highlights the role that energy plays, and especially the importance of coal, oil and nuclear power in formation of states and modern empires. It demonstrates the connection between energy resources and population growth, as well as energy´s importance to our spread across the globe through enabling new communication technologies and the development of capitalism.

In the second part of the course Responding to the Worse Consequences we discuss the human and environmental costs of this harnessing of energies i.e. war, conquest, slavery, species extinction and massive contamination and destruction of the natural environment. However, rather than simply accepting the common assumption of the inevitability of these costs, what many have called the resource curse, the course outlines the economic and political initiatives that have been fully or partially successful in reigning in the worst outcomes of energetic resource exploitation. These are seen as indicative of possible sustainable policy actions that are of relevance at the national and international levels.

At time when the ecological limits of the planet and the existence of the Anthropocene is being considered, the third part of the course Energy in a Time of Climate Change highlights the clear linkage between the extraction and use of fossil fuels with climate change. Indeed, it makes evident that the expansion of energy production in recent years driven by emerging markets and the rising consumption of a growing global middle class has at the same time generated a heightening number of socio-environmental conflicts. Recognizing the need to respond to what is increasingly accepted as an unsustainable picture, we critically study industry and state optimism and critically and constructively evaluate current international and national energy policies. Activists, scientists and policymakers around the world have long argued that we need to find sustainable and secure solutions to the world's energy demands. In this course we synthesize and consider many of these proposals.

At issue for citizens worldwide is whether we can become scientifically literate enough to understand the potential policy choices before us. Here both the technological and political assumptions of both renewable (hydropower, wind power, geothermal energy, biomass and biofuels, solar) and non-renewable energy resources (fossil fuels, nuclear) are revealed and questioned. Here assumptions of expertise and practice are questioned. Furthermore, theory and research-based insight are drawn together to make critical judgment of these policies and to suggest alternatives policy and socio-technological directions for the future. The course concludes by proposing to students a new take on energy politics in which our relationship with the natural environment is rethought, and where securing substantive democratic legitimacy is key. 

Learning outcome:

Theoretical goals:

Students shall gain deeper insight into energy policy and the linkages between social and economic development and energy use. Students shall acquire the capacity to use theory to study concrete cases concerning energy politics and governance at the national and local level. The course makes explicit and critical use of theoretical approaches drawn from science and technology studies (STS), anthropology, economics, political science, political economy and political ecology. Students shall develop the capacity to undertake interdisciplinary analyses and obtain higher-level understanding of the ways in which society, resources and technology interact and influence the possibilities of human decision-making. The students will learn to connect theoretical perspectives and approaches to practical political issues, and through analysis suggest political solutions where efficiency, legitimacy and political viability are considered important criteria.

Skill Goals:

Students shall acquire the skills to study various strategies for the sustainable use of energy resources. Energy resources are studied individually within the context of international agreements, national policies and local politics. In relation to this, the inter-relationship between state, business and civil society is emphasized. Students shall, finally, be able to evaluate strengths and weaknesses of existing energy governance structures, and develop and evaluate ideas for alternative solutions. Given the importance of communicating to both specialists and the general public, the course encourages students to work collaboratively, to study both academic and policy-related documentation, and to present their opinions and ideas in plenum.

Attitude goals:

Through active participation in class discussions, student presentations, group work, visual and written assignments students develop their skills in critical thinking. The course aims to encourage reflection on both their own and other people's attitudes, values and norms and develop self-reflection around the relationships between society and nature as well as scientific and interpersonal relationships. 

Learning activities:
The course will employ a combination of standard lectures and "flip-the-classroom" problem-based learning and teaching methodologies. During the first two years of the course a number of the lectures will be filmed and edited by the University´s Learning Centre. It is the course convener´s intention that through gradual conversion of lectures into a digital format that it will be possible to move in towards increasing use of "flip the classroom" i.e. filmed classes and related digital media will make solid contributions to the secondary sources consulted by students before the come to class. This will also mean that through time students will need to increasingly prepare before attending classes, and that time in class is used for active discussion of course materials and sources. These class discussions will be organized in different forms i.e. as plenary discussions, as group work or as student presentations followed by discussion. 
Teaching support:
Three short seminars will be run by the Learning Centre on digital story-telling will run in the first two weeks of the course. This is a continuance of the successful experience of using similar assessment methods in EDS348 Environmental Politics and Governance. 
As described in the course syllabus on Fronter
Basic knowledge of social theory. The course is particularly relevant to the Masters programmes in International Environmental Studies, Development Studies and International Relations
Recommended prerequisites:
Basic knowledge of social theory
Mandatory activity:

Students are expected to take an active role in class discussions, group work and plenary presentations. 

100% attendence (unless student´s circumstances require exceptions. This should be agreed with the course convener).

During the course students are expected to produce an individually produced digital-story in which personal experience and interests are combined with learned theory and course literature to analyze cases of energy development, conflict or transition.

Digital storytelling at its most basic is the practice of using computer-based tools to tell stories. There are a wealth of other terms used to describe this practice, such as digital documentaries, computer-based narratives, digital essays, electronic memoirs, interactive storytelling, etc.; but in general, they all revolve around the idea of combining the art of producing a reflective narrative with a variety of multimedia, including graphics, audio, video, and Web publishing. In the case of this course these narratives are required to be well evidenced and argued. 


Students will produce a digital story in which they analyze cases of energy development, conflict or transition. These are a min of 5 min/max 15 minutes in length. 

The following elements are also considered essential in terms of their content i.e.

1.Empirical knowledge of the theme and context (based on existing credible secondary or primary sources)

2. Academic discussion and analysis (reviewing the current state of the art of an issue)

3. Positioning in response to these (your own position and argument).

Each of the student digital stories will be examined by the course leader together with an external examiner. Here a combination of both technical skill, delivery and the essential elements assessed above will be points of assessment.

Nominal workload:
150 hours
Entrance requirements:
Students enrolled in the International Environmental Studies, Development Studies and International Relations Masters Programmes will be given prioritized entry to the course. 
Type of course:
26 hours
External Sensor
Examination details: Digital Storytelling: A - E / Ikke bestått