Course code EDS306

EDS306 Foundations of Sustainability Science

Norsk emneinformasjon

Search for other courses here

Showing course contents for the educational year 2017 - 2018 .

Course responsible: Erik Nicolas Gomez Baggethun
Teachers: Ola Tveitereid Westengen, Arild Vatn
ECTS credits: 10
Faculty: Faculty of Landscape and Society
Teaching language: EN
(NO=norsk, EN=Engelsk)
Teaching exam periods:
Course starts in Autumn parallel. Course has teaching and examination in Autumn parallel. 
Course frequency: Annually
First time: Study year 2016-2017
Preferential right:
Course contents:

Sustainability science is an interdisciplinary field of knowledge that has its origins in the concept of sustainable development, proposed by the World Commissions on Environment and Development (WCED), which has been guiding international environmental and sustainability policies over the last three decades. The course however looks beyond the concept of sustainable development to critically scrutinize dominant paradigms of development and growth and explore alternative pathways for human-nature co-evolution.

The course covers both theoretical and practical aspects. The theoretical part consists of lectures and includes an introduction to the course followed by four main blocks (A, B, C, D). The first class presents the course structure and methodology and the key concepts and themes. Block A, Global environmental challenges of the Anthropocene¿ advances  notions of global change and the Earth system, the distinct nature of the Anthropocene, the Great Acceleration, drivers of planetary change, planetary boundaries, the condition of ecological life support systems and global food security challenges. Examples of various environmental problems that will be discussed concern climate change, biodiversity loss, deforestation, and over-exploitation of natural resources like fish, water and energy.

Block B, Ecosystem assessment and resilience analysis, covers concepts, theories and methods in integrated environmental assessment and resilience theory. Topics will include the links between ecosystems and human well-being, evaluation of ecosystem functions and services, and notions in resilience assessment, including regime shifts and thresholds, cycles of change, cross-scale interactions, and vulnerability and adaptive capacity in the face of disturbance and change. Block C, "Institutional analysis of sustainability problems" introduces theories, methods and approaches in environmental governance, including models of human behavior, formal and non-formal institutions, theories of access, resource regimes and management of common pool resources. Finally, Block D, "The political economy of the environment", examines economic roots of environmental problems, different approaches to the conflict between growth and the environment, environmental values and valuation languages, environmental justice and controversies around the commodification of nature.

The practical part will focus on the application of solutions to environmental problems. It will include case studies, a group assignment, and a workshop. Case studies will show practical applications of the theoretical contents taught in class. The assignment is organized as group work where the focus is on developing skills for formulating environmental problems and possible solutions applied to concrete cases. The workshop consists of a half-day exercise during which students will run the "Fish-banks simulation game", concerned with governance of fisheries. The workshop is designed to train students, researchers and practitioners in the governance and sustainable use of common pool resources and provide insights on cooperation and competition dynamics in collective action situations. Students will be grouped in teams that compete for economic returns on fishing while at the same time have to cooperate in order to avoid the collapse of the resource.

Learning outcome:

The aim of the course is providing attendants with interdisciplinary frameworks, concepts, methods and tools for analyzing sustainability problems and solutions. Particular emphasis is made on the understanding of the interactions between society, the economy and the environment across scales. By completion of the course, we expect attendants to have reached understanding of concepts, methods and frameworks in environmental and sustainability analysis, integrated approaches to the analysis of coupled, social, ecological and economic systems, links between ecosystems and human well-being, resilience analysis, environmental values and valuation approaches, models of rationality, choice and human behavior, design of economic incentives and policy tools for environmental protection, basic notions in sustainable environmental management and governance, relations between growth and the environment and key literature in environmental and sustainability sciences. Students shall develop the ability to critically evaluate the assumptions underlying the various theories and perspectives covered in the course. The aim is finally to support the students in their understanding of important questions connected to the analysis of sustainability problems and solutions.

By completion of the course we expect attendants to have developed understanding of the social, technological and economic roots of environmental degradation, learned basic concepts and frameworks in environmental and sustainability analysis, and be familiarized with integrated approaches to the analysis of coupled, social, ecological and economic systems. The students shall acquire theoretical insights and practical tools for understanding and assessing the links between ecosystems and human well-being, identify and characterize environmental values and apply different valuation approaches. Students shall further acquire knowledge on the design of economic incentives and policy tools for environmental protection as well as learn basic notions in environmental management and governance. Students should also have read key literature in environmental and sustainability sciences.

Learning activities:
Lectures, seminars and group assignment
Teaching support:
Supervision in connection with group assignment.
A selection of journal papers and book chapters will be provided by the start of the course
The course is adapted to the background of the students enrolled in the M-IES program.
Recommended prerequisites:
The course is interdisciplinary approach. Basic knowledge within political science, economics, ecology and environmental sciences
Mandatory activity:
Some lectures and seminars and the Fishbanks workshop will be compulsory.
Exam in ENGLISH ONLY. Group assignment counts 25 %. Written exam counts 75 %. One final grade is provided at the end of the term.
Nominal workload:
300 hours
Entrance requirements:
Bachelordegree in relevant field, social and/or natural sciences.
Type of course:
Lectures: 20 double hour lectures. Workshop: one session of 4-6 hours; Seminars: 2 double hours. Group work with supervision.
The written exam and the assignment will be marked by the teachers of the course and by an external examiner.
Allowed examination aids: A1 No calculator, no other aids
Examination details: Continuous exam: A - E / Ikke bestått