Explore some of the key issues in sustainability, tackling the big questions with examples from around the world.
Get an introduction to the key issues in sustainability
In this course, you will study the conceptual foundations of sustainable development, and discuss the issues around sustainability as a complex problem.
We’ll look at the flow of energy and materials worldwide; social and political issues; wealth inequality; the impact of geography, history and culture on sustainability today; and the problems of collective action. Finally, we’ll conduct a SWOT analysis, looking at our resilience and prospects in the face of climate change and other global issues in sustainability. We’ll ask: are we doomed?
What topics will you cover?
- Week 1: Sustainable development and complexity
- Week 2: The economy and ecology as a metabolic system
- Week 3: Economic growth and inequality
- Week 4: The importance of geography, history and culture and the impact of human activity on the environment
- Week 5: The problem of collective action
- Week 6: Strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats
When would you like to start?
Most FutureLearn courses run multiple times. Every run of a course has a set start date but you can join it and work through it after it starts.
- Available now
What will you achieve?
By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to:
- Explain what is meant by a complex system and its relevance to sustainability.
- Explain how the economy and ecology work together as one system.
- Identify the effects of the agricultural and industrial revolutions.
- Evaluate the difficulty in assigning causation in complex systems.
- Describe what is meant by the term 'tragedy of the commons'.
- Discuss the major problems of sustainability and the prospects for solutions.
- Evaluate the Brundtland definition of sustainable development.
- Summarise the prospects for a circular economy.
- Identify and discuss the practical and moral issues around inequality.
- Discuss the implications of past actions for current generations.
- Explain what is meant by globalisation, and its implication for sustainability.
- Discuss the range of views on approaches to development.
Who is the course for?
This course is open to anyone interested in exploring the general technical and social issues around the concept of sustainability and sustainable development. The course explores the theoretical basis of sustainability from the natural sciences, political and economic perspective. This course is aimed at learners who wish to engage with the challenges and potential solutions to sustainability at a conceptual level.
Who will you learn with?
Derek Raine MBE is emeritus professor of interdisciplinary science at the University of Leicester and the recipient of several awards for novel approaches to science teaching in higher education.
Who developed the course?
University of Leicester
The University of Leicester is a leading research-led university with a strong tradition of excellence in teaching. It is consistently ranked amongst the top 20 universities in the United Kingdom.
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