• 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?

25,205 enrolled on this course

  • Duration

    2 weeks
  • Weekly study

    5 hours
  • Accreditation

    AvailableMore info

This course explores three basic principles when considering natural resource management:

  1. The principles of justice
  2. Transaction costs
  3. The problem of aggregating social preferences, the so-called Arrow impossibility

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, when you start to consider transaction costs and the problems of aggregating social preferences, you soon realise that, in practical terms, equality is hard to achieve. Equality in aggregating social preferences leads to perverse or impossible outcomes. Moreover, if there is equality of decision making for everybody, then the transaction costs are very high.

Intrigued? Then sign up for this short course to find out more.

Earn credit from the University of Leeds

This course is part of the Environmental Challenges program from the University of Leeds. When you complete all five courses in the program and buy a Certificate of Achievement for each, you will be eligible to join a final assessment course that leads to the award of 10 credits from the University of Leeds.

Gain a key environmental management skill

Each course in the program includes an exercise and revision material to help you develop a skill that is key to working in environmental management – this course focuses on how to write the Terms of Reference for a Strategic Environment Assessment.

This course has been certified by the CPD Certification Service as conforming to continuing professional development principles. By completing all aspects of the course you will have achieved 14 hours of CPD time.

Choose how you would like to learn

  • If you have a general interest in this topic, you can work through the activities in around three hours each week. You will have the opportunity to check your understanding and spend some time joining the discussions.
  • If you would like to know more about the topic, you can spend up to an extra two hours a week reading the additional materials and watching the videos provided in the ‘Downloads’ and ‘See also’ sections within some course steps. By doing this, you will have the required knowledge to attempt the end of course test.
  • If you have more time to study, you can also complete the optional revision activity and join a live Q&A session in the second week of the course – this will help you when you attempt the end of course test. You will need to allow a further two hours a week to cover the revision tasks.
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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.

What topics will you cover?

  • Understand the way that thought experiments can be used to generate fundamental principles.
  • Have knowledge of the two principles of justice used in the Theory of Justice.
  • Be introduced to the approach of John Rawls, often regarded as the greatest moral philosopher of the 20th Century.
  • Understand the difference between economic approaches based on the ‘hidden hand’ of a free market, and institutional economics, in which transaction costs are considered to be important.
  • Appreciate the factors that reduce transaction costs.
  • Be introduced to Douglass North, who is often regarded as the father of modern institutional economics.
  • Understand the practical difficulties of applying the principle of equality to decision-making.
  • Be able to perform a simple test to show how collective modes of choice can be logically inconsistent.
  • Be introduced to Ken Arrow, who demonstrated the difficulty of rational choice in social welfare.
  • Be able to recognise the application of Rawls’ principles of justice to policy.
  • Understand the violation of the second principle of justice when applied to saving for future generations.
  • Appreciate that the solution to intergenerational justice is to have fairness in the present generation.

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 join a global classroom of learners. If the course hasn’t started yet you’ll see the future date listed below.

  • Available now

Learning on this course

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?

No previous knowledge or experience is required, just an interest in environmental management and natural resource management.

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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  • Complete 90% of course steps and all of the assessments to earn your certificate

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