Environmental Conservation and Sustainable Thinking: Natural Places as Heritage

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Convention is an international organization that recognizes exceptional natural places in the world, characterized by their outstanding biodiversity, ecosystems, geology and natural phenomena. The Convention has provided international recognition to around 3,500,000 km 2  in over 250 marine and terrestrial sites across more than 95 countries protecting a valuable sample of our natural heritage. As such, a consideration of natural places as heritage incorporates a diverse repertoire of marine ecosystems, biodiversity, forest conservation and climate change. The convention includes many heritage sites such as the Serengeti National Park (Tanzania), Galápagos Islands (Ecuador), Yellowstone National Park (U.S.A.) and the Great Barrier Reef (Australia) and are often a last refuge for species threatened with extinction, such as the mountain gorilla, giant panda and orangutan. Moreover, almost half of the 46 natural World Heritage sites where glaciers are currently found are threatened by rising temperatures and could see their glaciers disappear by 2100. These include several iconic landscapes such as Los Glaciares National Park in Argentina (containing some of the largest glaciers on Earth), Te Wahipounamu, South West New Zealand (which contains three quarters of New Zealand’s glaciers), and Tanzania’s Kilimanjaro National Park (home to Africa’s highest peak). We will critically engage with these sites, while considering what they offer to us with regard to sustainable heritage practice and how this practice impacts the environment.


The course will have a strong focus on group discussions with a mixture of lectures, presentations, documentaries and small group projects. Through classroom discussion and written work, you will develop the ability to articulate clear, well-supported, and persuasive arguments on the nature of heritage in its environmental context. By the end of the course you will be familiar with the world of UNESCO World Natural Heritage and the very important work it does with regard to the conservation of the environment.

Course Schedule


Program Date: March 15 - April 24, 2021

Students will meet online on Saturdays from 9:00AM - 10:30AM Eastern Standard Time with additional asynchronous time requirements of 1hr+ per week.

Academic Director

Fay Stevens

Fay Stevens is an archaeologist (UCL) and award-winning lecturer and researcher, and serves as Adjunct Assistant Professor at the University of Notre Dame (USA) in England. She has worked in archaeological projects in Armenia, Europe, Berlin and the UK and has travelled extensively on academic research including Syria, Jordan, USA and Japan. She specializes in the philosophy of phenomenology in archaeology and was part of a ground-breaking project at UCL developing phenomenological research methods and thinking in landscape archaeology. As an established member of faculty in the London Global Gateway, Fay has given faculty lectures, organized conferences, runs a program-wide field trip to Stonehenge and Bath, and teaches a number of archaeology and anthropology courses. In 2018 she was awarded a development grant for a new course ‘The Past in the Present : Socially Engaged Archaeology’ from the University Department for Social Concerns and in 2019 awarded funded membership from the London Faculty to Chatham House International Affairs Think Tank to conduct further research on heritage in conflict. She is a Visiting Lecturer for the MA in Cultural Heritage and Resource Management at University of Winchester, Sessional Lecturer at University of Oxford (OUDCE and OUSSA) and Visiting Lecturer in academic literacies, research methods, theory and practice for The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, University of London. She organizes and actively participates in academic conferences and symposia in the UK and abroad. Fay is a trained archaeological illustrator with a developed practice in conceptual drawing. This has led to an AHRC funded project held at an arboretum in Somerset, UK (2015) which produced a series of tree drawings that have been exhibited (solo and group exhibitions) and published. Her residency with Joya Air Arte+Ecologica in 2017 produced a series of tree-based drawing works that focused on hydrology and migration and a film work and writing on wind. Her research around the ritual of water in prehistory has so far led to conference presentations and publications as well as experimental soundworks, artworks and conceptual writings.