• University of Leeds

Environmental Challenges: Rights and Values in Ecosystem Services

Differences in values can create conflict. How can we learn to manage our natural resources with integrity?

21,775 enrolled on this course

Environmental Challenges: Rights and Values in Ecosystem Services

Humans are very innovative, but we’ve also created many ecological problems. We’ve changed the face of the planet, fished the oceans, and we’re causing climate change through emissions.

Designing institutional arrangements that recognise ecosystem services in the values we place upon natural systems will be an important way to help governing the planet, for both present and future generations.

This course explores three approaches to rights and values, and applies these to ecosystem services around the world. It also includes advice on producing press releases about environmental issues.

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Skip to 0 minutes and 7 seconds People can have very different priorities on how they value natural resources, and these differences can create conflict and disagreement. Someone may place a high value on buying technology and save their wages to buy the latest gadgets. Or someone else might prefer to spend their hard-earned money on landscaping their garden. The measurement of value is often thought to be the same– money that’s been earned through work. But not all values can be measured by money. And even those that can might represent different ways of seeing and relating to the world.

Skip to 0 minutes and 44 seconds 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 nature of values and the value of nature, Coasian bargaining, and the precautionary principle. These principles will then be applied to case studies, including field trials of genetically modified organisms, and the use of asbestos and the damage that this has had on people’s health. We close the course with a discussion about ecosystem services. I’m joined by two colleagues from the University of Leeds who will share their experiences of working around the world and their perspectives on valuing ecosystem services. So, how would you describe your values when considering ecosystem services?

Skip to 1 minute and 33 seconds I look forward to hearing your thoughts and joining your discussions on the course.


  • Week 1

    The principles of rights and values

    • Welcome

      Welcome to Rights and Values in Ecosystem Services. This course explores three basic principles when considering natural resource management.

    • Activity 1 - The nature of values

      This first principle examines the nature of values, examining the different types and how these can conflict.

    • Activity 2 – Coasian bargaining

      This second principle deals with the negotiations when there is an environmental harm produced by one agent that affects another. This is called ‘Coasian bargaining’ after the Nobel Prize winning economist, Ron Coase.

    • Activity 3 – The precautionary principle

      This third principle explores how we can respond to scientific uncertainty. The precautionary principle is one of the fundamental principles used for decision-making about the environment.

    • Revision

      This revision activity is optional and is designed for those signed up for the Environmental Challenges Program.

    • Summary

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

  • Week 2

    Applying the principles

    • About week 2

      This Week we explore the basic principles in context, through a case study and topical discussion.

    • Case study: Precaution and the nature of values

      In this activity, we consider how the precautionary principle has been applied to the issues of genetically modified organisms, and asbestos.

    • Discussion: Ecosystem services

      In this activity we discuss how ecosystem services are valued and managed.

    • Writing about – Press releases

      As promised at the beginning of the course, you now have the opportunity to write a press release for an environmental development.

    • 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 textual 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...

  • Identify the three main types of values and demonstrate how they might be applied to decision-making about natural resources.
  • Explain the concept of Coasian bargaining and describe a narrative that demonstrates the impact on environmental equality.
  • Demonstrate why the precautionary principle is one of the fundamental principles used for decision-making about the environment.
  • Explore how a well-written news report can change people’s opinions and values.

Who is the course for?

The course is suitable for anyone with a general interest in values 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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