GEOG Urban Air Pollution Research Paper

For the research paper, you will research urban air pollution. You will provide a background description of the topic and then discuss how two different approaches or perspectives covered in Part I of the course characterize the challenge and the solutions they would propose. The assignment provides you with an opportunity to improve your research, critical analysis and written communication skills. 

Your paper will include the following elements.

  1. A descriptive background on urban air pollution (400 to 500 words long, including in text citations). Explain what it is, sources of pollutants, why it is a concern (e.g. human health, environmental well-being) and so forth. Include statistics to illustrate the scope of the problem. End this section with a clear, explicit statement of aim that explains what comes next (i.e. identify the two approaches you will discuss) and what your conclusion is.
  2. Identify and apply two approaches to urban air pollution (800 to 1000 words long, including in text citations?so 400-450 approximately for each. ). For each, consider the following questions. Not all questions will apply, depending on the approach you are discussing. In some cases, you may want to focus on a specific theory or concept one of the approaches emphasizes, such as environmental justice. That's fine, but be sure to tie it back to the 'parent' approach or theory. I do not want you to spend the limited space you have explaining the approach, but you have to demonstrate some understanding of it and you do this in how you apply it to the problem of urban air pollution. Remember that we are looking for a couple of things in this section. It is not - I emphasize this again not - just about solutions to urban air pollution! If you only focus on solutions, you will find that your mark suffers. 
    1. What does it suggest is the root cause of the issue?
    2. How does it characterize the issue?
    3. What solutions or actions does it propose to address the issue?
  1. A discussion and conclusion (300-400 words) in which you highlight similarities and differences between the two approaches and explain which, in your opinion, is the most reasonable. Be sure to explain your choice.   

(To remind you, these are the approaches and perspectives we discussed.)

1. Population and Scarcity, which suggests that overpopulation results in resource scarcity (overuse).

2.Markets and Commodities offers a different view of scarcity, suggesting that economic forces within the market will reduce the likelihood of scarcity, as long as environmental goods and services can be traded or sold.

3.Institutions and “The Commons”, “tragedy of the commons” raises questions about self-interest versus collective action, highlighting the benefits of groups cooperating to manage common resources.

4.Environmental Ethics, which helps us to decide what is right and what is wrong, discusses the differences between anthropocentric and ecocentric views.

5.Risks and Hazards suggests that thinking about environmental issues as hazards might help us make more rational decisions based on risk assessment.

6.Political Economy focuses on Marxist thought and the challenges (negative consequences) of capitalism. It suggests that ecological crises are an expected, inevitable outcome.

7.Social Construction of Nature introduces constructivist thought and the concept of discourses. It tells us that our view or understanding of many objects or conditions are, at their base, social inventions or ideas that we’ve come to take for granted.


First, you must put some thought into how the approach or perspective characterizes the problem of urban air pollution or what it would suggest the root cause of it is. You are unlikely to find a journal article that directly says, for example, 'the political economy approach sees the root cause of urban air pollution being...' You are likely to have to take what you know about the approach and apply it to the problem. For example, you can provide a brief definition of the approach (citing the textbook, if that is what you use - and do cite the textbook, not the course notes, please) and then explain what it would say is the root cause or how it would characterize the problem. A markets approach might suggest a problem with properly pricing environmental goods as the root cause, and if we apply a price to externalities (such as pollutants), we can correct the problem. Other approaches, such as risks and hazards, don't focus on root causes, so much as ways to characterize problems. It would characterize urban air pollution as a hazard, that poses risks to human and environmental health and suggest that if we focus on it in those terms, we might make better environmental decisions, might improve our risk communication and the like. 

These are just ideas. How you approach writing the paper is up to you, but remember you must include some discussion of causes/characterizing. You then also include a discussion of solutions. You don't have a lot of space, so think carefully about how you will focus this. Depth is better than breadth. 

You must use a minimum of ten references, all of which must be dated 2007 or more recent.

  • Of these, at least seven must be peer-reviewed journal articles.
  • The others may be books, government reports, reports from inter- or non-governmental organizations and the like. You may also use additional journal articles.
  • You may not use Wikipedia, blogs,, dictionaries or encyclopedias or similar sources.
  • Remember to think carefully about the authority of your references; the stronger your references, the stronger your paper.


  • Include a descriptive title for your paper.
  • Be sure that your name, student number and course code are at the start of the assignment.
  • Use 1.5 spacing and page numbers.
  • Use headings.
  • APA referencing format must be used.
  • Do not use direct quotes.