Undergraduate Module Descriptor

POL1042: Rational Choice and Environmental Problems

This module descriptor refers to the 2016/7 academic year.

Module Aims

This module has three primary aims. The first aim is introduce you to rational choice theory in the context of contemporary environmental issues. You will learn to use the main tenets of rational choice theory to gain insight into the causes of environmental problems and, importantly, to evaluate potential solutions to these problems. You will also learn to critically evaluate the rational choice perspective, carefully assessing the strengths and weaknesses of the approach when applied to environmental issues. The second aim is to provide you with a gentle introduction to game theory. As you will see, game theory provides a useful way to understand the predications of rational choice theory, while also providing an effective tool for evaluating strategic situations. The third and final aim is for you to gain in-depth knowledge of an environmental issue of your choice. Here, you will be expected write an essay on an environmental problem that interests you, while applying the concepts and tools discussed in class.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

This module's assessment will evaluate your achievement of the ILOs listed here – you will see reference to these ILO numbers in the details of the assessment for this module.

On successfully completing the programme you will be able to:
Module-Specific Skills1. apply rational choice theory to understand and evaluate environmental problems
2. summarize and critique rational choice theory’s proposed solutions to environmental challenges
3. demonstrate knowledge of key contemporary environmental problems
Discipline-Specific Skills4. describe the history and key assumptions of rational choice theory
5. critically evaluate topics such as social dilemmas, collective action issues, and externalities
6. demonstrate knowledge of the ways in which formal and informal institutions promote behaviour that is “better than rational”
7. isolate and evaluate the limitations of rational choice theory as a model for understanding politics
Personal and Key Skills8. apply basic game theoretic tools to strategically evaluate situations
9. demonstrate basic knowledge of cost-benefit analysis, discounting, and time-horizons
10. demonstrate oral and written communication skills