• University of Leeds

Environmental Challenges: Justice in Natural Resource Management

How do we ensure that the difficult decisions about the management of natural resources are just and fair for all?

23,628 enrolled on this course

Environmental Challenges: Justice in Natural Resource Management

When looking at different societies and cultures around the world, it is interesting how ubiquitous the principles of justice are. It is part of our human nature to think about equality and consider fairness as something that we do naturally. However, in practical terms, equality is hard to achieve.

This course explores three aspects of justice and applies these to environmental issues surrounding natural resource management around the world. It also introduces the Strategic Environmental Assessment and Terms of Reference.

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Skip to 0 minutes and 7 seconds Decisions about the management of natural resources is something which affects us all. Are natural resources something we should conserve for future generations, or are they just a commodity to be financially exploited? For some, this decision is simple, but as we regularly hear through the news and social media, different people place different values on nature. And questions such as this can leave societies divided.

Skip to 0 minutes and 36 seconds This course is about the institutional economics of natural resource management. Institutional economics is something of a forgotten science, currently experiencing a resurgence. It’s about how laws and social norms affect economic transactions and form the incentive structures of society. I’m Professor Jon Lovett, Chair in Global Challenges at the University of Leeds. My role here is to guide you through this course. We start by exploring three basic principles– the principles of justice, the principles associated with transaction costs, and the problem of aggregating social preferences. These principles will be applied to a case study and inform discussion on justice in natural resource management.

Skip to 1 minute and 19 seconds We close the course with a discussion about the forests and irrigation systems in Nepal - where the caste system has historically resulted in injustice in access to natural resources. I’ve invited some of my friends and colleagues from Nepal into the course so that they can share their own experiences. So, how can we ensure fairness and justice when considering the management of natural resources? I look forward to hearing your thoughts and joining your discussions on the course.


  • Week 1

    The principles of fairness and justice

    • Welcome

      Welcome to Justice in Natural Resource Management. This course explores three basic principles when considering natural resource management.

    • The justice principle

      This first principle examines the theory of justice drawing on the famous thought experiment ‘The Veil of Ignorance’ devised by John Rawls.

    • Transaction costs

      This second principle considers how we transact in society. The principle is based on the work of the father of modern institutional economics, Douglass North.

    • Arrow impossibility

      This third principle demonstrates a paradox in democracy. Jon introduces Ken Arrow’s theory to elegantly demonstrate the impossibility of equal representation.

    • Revision

      This revision activity provides further opportunity to explore the topics covered this week. It is recommended that you join this activity if you have signed up for the Program and are working towards academic credit.

    • Summary

      To close this week of this course, Jon reflects on the week through a summary of discussions, questions and comments.

  • Week 2

    Applying the principles

    • About week 2

      The activities this week explore the basic principles in context, through a case study and topical discussion.

    • Case study: The conundrum of future generations

      This activity explores climate change and the conundrum of future generations through a video case study.

    • Discussion: Natural resource management in Nepal

      Jon discusses resource management in Nepal with colleagues from Nepal. Having watched the video discussion you have the opportunity to share your reflections on this topic in written or video format.

    • Writing about - Terms of Reference

      As promised at the beginning of the course, you now have the opportunity to write an outline for a strategic environment assessment terms of reference.

    • Revision

      This revision activity provides further opportunity to explore the topics covered this week. It is recommended that you join this activity if you have signed up for the Program and are working towards academic credit.

    • Summary

      Jon reflects on the week through a summary of discussions, questions and comments. There is also an opportunity for you to test your understanding and find out more about the other courses in the program.

Who is this accredited by?

The CPD Certification Service
The CPD Certification Service:

This course has been accredited by the CPD Certification Service, which means it can be used to provide evidence of your continuing professional development.

When would you like to start?

Start straight away and learn at your own pace. If the course hasn’t started yet you’ll see the future date listed below.

  • Available now

Learning on this course

You can take this self-guided course and learn at your own pace. On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Discuss John Rawls’s principles and theory of justice.
  • Explore institutional economics and transaction costs.
  • Explain Arrow Impossibility and problems with collective decision making.
  • Produce a Terms of Reference for Strategic Environmental Assessment.

Who is the course for?

The course is suitable for anyone with a general interest in justice and environmental decision-making; no previous knowledge or experience is required.

If you are working in environmental management, or wish to learn more about it, this course is designed to support you as a professional. By completing all aspects of the course you will have achieved 14 hours of CPD time.

Who will you learn with?

Jon Lovett is Chair in Global Challenges in the School of Geography at the University of Leeds and works on institutional economics.

Who developed the course?

University of Leeds

As one of the UK’s largest research-based universities, the University of Leeds is a member of the prestigious Russell Group and a centre of excellence for teaching.


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