Famine: The Geography of Scarcity

Subject GEOG10001 (2016)

Note: This is an archived Handbook entry from 2016.

Credit Points: 12.5
Level: 1 (Undergraduate)
Dates & Locations:

This subject has the following teaching availabilities in 2016:

Semester 1, Parkville - Taught on campus.
Pre-teaching Period Start not applicable
Teaching Period 29-Feb-2016 to 29-May-2016
Assessment Period End 24-Jun-2016
Last date to Self-Enrol 11-Mar-2016
Census Date 31-Mar-2016
Last date to Withdraw without fail 06-May-2016

Timetable can be viewed here. For information about these dates, click here.
Time Commitment: Contact Hours: 36 - Two 1 hour lectures and one 1 hour tutorial per week.
Total Time Commitment:

170 hours - 3 contact hours per week. It is a hurdle requirement that students attend 8 out of 10 weeks of tutorials. Attendance will be taken.

Prerequisites: None
Corequisites: None
Recommended Background Knowledge: None
Non Allowed Subjects: None
Core Participation Requirements:

For the purposes of considering request for Reasonable Adjustments under the Disability Standards for Education (Cwth 2005), and Student Support and Engagement Policy, academic requirements for this subject are articulated in the Subject Overview, Learning Outcomes, Assessment and Generic Skills sections of this entry.

It is University policy to take all reasonable steps to minimise the impact of disability upon academic study, and reasonable adjustments will be made to enhance a student's participation in the University's programs. Students who feel their disability may impact on meeting the requirements of this subject are encouraged to discuss this matter with a Faculty Student Adviser and Student Equity and Disability Support: http://services.unimelb.edu.au/disability


Dr Brian Cook



Subject Overview:

This subject explains the physical and social drivers of famines and related crises in social-ecological systems, including the collapse of civilizations and violent conflicts seemingly triggered by scarcity of food, water, and arable land. It proposes theories that explain famines and crises of scarcity, and tests these with evidence and cases studies. In this way the subject introduces key issues, concepts, and theories central to geography, development, environmental studies, and environmental science.

The subject is interdisciplinary, providing student a broad range of knowledge and analytical tools. Specifically, the subject draws together science and social science, introducing students to multiple disciplinary knowledge and practices.

Learning Outcomes:
  • Understand the causes of hunger and famine;
  • Understand the patterns and processes that shape global environments:
  • Understand the science of climate and food production that contributes to variations in food supply
  • Understand how scarcity has contributed to the collapse of civilizations throughout history, and still influences contemporary societies
  • Understand relations between population, environmental change and food supply;
  • Understand the interactions between environmental and social dimensions of scarcity
  • Understand how solutions to hunger are designed on the basis of particular theories about scarcity;
  • Have developed skills in empirical and theoretical evaluation of theories of scarcity;
  • Have gained a basic understanding of the discipline of geography and the interdisciplinary field of development studies.
  1. Library skills development (5% of final grade): This assessment will help students identify the sources needed for the first short essay (approximately 200 words);
  2. Referencing, citation, and plagiarism quiz (5% of final grade): Students must complete an online tutorial and quiz that explains academic practices relating to citation and plagiarism.
  3. Three short essays (3 x 600 words) (35% of final grade): students will be assigned three question staggered over the mid-point of the term;
  4. Tutorial Question and Answer (20% of final mark): students are responsible for attending and contributing to tutorial discussions. Drawing on the assigned reading for each week, students will develop a question for tutorial discussion and contribute to discussions.
  5. Take-home final exam (35% of final grade): will be due one week following the final class. The topic will be provided in the final day of class.

Each of the assessment components must be attempted (i.e. a submission must be made for marking) for a student to be able to pass this subject.

All assessments will be marked for appropriate referencing and checked for plagiarism and for stylometry.

A late penalty of 10%/day will be assessed on all late submissions.

Prescribed Texts:


Breadth Options:

This subject potentially can be taken as a breadth subject component for the following courses:

You should visit learn more about breadth subjects and read the breadth requirements for your degree, and should discuss your choice with your student adviser, before deciding on your subjects.

Fees Information: Subject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date
Generic Skills:

Upon successful completion of this subject, students will:

• be capable of thinking critically and analytically

• be capable of testing theories with evidence;

• be capable of writing essays that weigh-up evidence concerning complex physical and social phenomena; and

• be capable of working in groups.


Students enrolled in the BSc (both pre-2008 degree and new degree), or a combined BSc course (except for the BA/BSc) will receive science credit for the completion of this subject.

Related Course(s): Bachelor of Environments
Related Majors/Minors/Specialisations: Development Studies
Environmental Geographies, Politics and Cultures major
Environmental Geography
Environmental Studies
Environments Discipline subjects
Science-credited subjects - new generation B-SCI and B-ENG.
Selective subjects for B-BMED
Related Breadth Track(s): Feeding the World's Population
Understanding Disasters, Their Management and Planning

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