Leeds, United Kingdom

Facing extinction: the cultural life of biodiversity loss

online course
when 19 July 2021 - 30 July 2021
language English
duration 2 weeks
credits 5 EC
fee GBP 975

The much-loved British naturalist, Sir David Attenborough, has recently warned that “we are facing a crisis, and one that has consequences for us all.” Attenborough is speaking not about climate change, but about biodiversity loss. Today, biologists and zoologists claim that we are living through a global mass extinction event. They say that, unless we take radical action, we can expect as much as half of the planet’s flora and fauna to become functionally extinct by this century’s end. Termed the ‘Sixth Extinction’, or the Sixth Mass Extinction Event, this major biodiversity crisis often conjures extreme images of an apocalyptic future: of decimated nature, civilizational collapse, and even the demise of the human species.

But what causes extinction? When, exactly, does a species become extinct? Who or what is to blame for this dramatic loss of species? How ought we respond to this knowledge of extinction? And who is incorporated or excluded from this universal “we”? In this module we will explore together the difficult but urgent challenge of thinking, feeling and facing the current extinction crisis. In the first part of the module, you'll trace the conceptual valences of extinction. In the second part of the module, we will focus on philosophical, social and political questions relating to extinction, turning to works of nonfiction, poetry and documentary filmmaking that differently face extinction.

Please note, the Leeds International Summer School runs for four weeks (5 - 30 July 2021). You can choose to study with us for two weeks or for the full four-week programme. Each module lasts two weeks so you study one module if you choose to attend for two weeks and two modules if you choose to attend for four weeks.

Course leader

Dr Dominic O'Key

Target group

Undergraduate/ Bachelor students

Course aim

1. To introduce students to the complex and changing cultural histories of extinction and biodiversity loss.

2. To survey the cultural aspects of the drivers, characteristics and consequences of the Sixth Extinction.

3. To familiarize students with problems relating to extinction, endangerment and conservation through the interdisciplinary field of the environmental humanities.

4. To explore how our ideas about nature and culture are co-shaped.

Credits info

5 EC
The module is worth 10 Leeds credits = 5 ECTS. You can transfer the credits earned back to your home degree subject to approval.

Fee info

GBP 975: The fee includes high quality tuition delivered by University of Leeds staff, dedicated time with your tutor each week, all learning materials and software needed for the programme, access to digital University library resources, support to help you get the most out of studying online, academic skills support services, a full social and cultural programme as well as wellbeing and support services.


Scholarships worth £300 for the full four week programme or £150 for a two week block. Scholarships are available for students with good academic standing to help pay your fees. You can apply as part of your application to LISS.