Contact FutureLearn for Support
Skip main navigation
We use cookies to give you a better experience, if that’s ok you can close this message and carry on browsing. For more info read our cookies policy.
We use cookies to give you a better experience. Carry on browsing if you're happy with this, or read our cookies policy for more information.

Skip to 0 minutes and 6 secondsHi, and welcome to this course on Sustainability and Development. This is the first week of this online course, which is exploring why and how human activity impacts negatively on the environment. We ask why this is important, and we ask what we're trying to do about it. In this first week, we're going to ask some big questions. What is sustainability? What is development? What is sustainable development? You're going to have your own ideas on what sustainable development might be or what it means to you, but we want you to bring those to the course and think about them. From the context of what is the tension between sustainability and human development, is sustainable development possible or is it just an oxymoron?

Skip to 0 minutes and 50 secondsEconomic growth is what we currently strive to achieve, it's the gold standard for human development. Sustainable development asks more of us than that though. Sustainable development looks at the ecological health of the planet. It requires social equity, requires justice for everybody currently on the planet and those that are coming in the future. So we need to understand what impact has human activity had on the environment. Why has this happened? How has it happened? What are we going to do about it? There are some examples of significant issues. The air pollution issues in Beijing and other cities around the world are so bad that they regularly exceed the health quality standards set by the World Health Organisation.

Skip to 1 minute and 37 secondsTonnes of plastic go into our oceans every year. Climate change causes rising sea levels, causes droughts, causes floods. But what actions have we taken so far for sustainable development? It's not actually all bad news. Some examples are the reduction of the number of people in absolute poverty. Another great example is the Montreal Protocol back in the '80s, which reduced ozone depleting substances put into the atmosphere. The ozone layer is actually recovering, but there are still big issues. There are huge challenges that we need to tackle. So what actions may we need to take for sustainable future? Actions that have got a global level, actions at a local level. What can you do? What can your community do?

Skip to 2 minutes and 24 secondsI really hope you enjoy this course. I hope you find it engaging, and I look forward to working with you over the next two weeks.

Welcome to the course

Are sustainability and development mutually exclusive?

During this course, we ask what is the relationship between people and the environment, particularly the negative impact of human activity on the planet, why this is important and what we are trying to do about it?

Your learning outcomes

By completing this course, you should be able to:

  • critically review diverse perspectives of sustainable development

  • investigate how interactions between human development and environmental life support systems are/have been managed in real-world cases

  • identify the characteristics and be able to differentiate between development, sustainability and sustainable development.

For an overview of all course activities and steps, see the course map.

Meet the team

Your Lead Educator for this course is Dr Max Kelly, a renowned practice-based research and teaching academic specialising in international and community development policy and practice, with a focus on food security, food systems and sustainability.

You’ll also be supported in conversations and discussions by mentors Friederika Kaider and Lesley Forsyth.

If you haven’t already, view your team’s profiles and follow them for course updates, feedback and discussions.

Your task

To start, tell us a bit about yourself. Why have you chosen this course and what do you want from it? What questions do you have about sustainability and development? Share in the comments.

» Unit ADS717 Program page

Always know what’s where with this handy program index.

Share this video:

This video is from the free online course:

Introduction to Sustainability and Development

Deakin University

Course highlights Get a taste of this course before you join:

  • Human development at odds with our environment
    Human development at odds with our environment
    video

    Watch an animation to understand climate change and ocean acidification. Examine the ideas of planetary boundaries and planetary squeezes.

  • Wind turbines behind a modern farm with solar panels Group of wind turbines behind a modern farm with solar panels on the roofs, group of cows in the foreground; northern Germany.
    Tomorrow's world
    article

    Investigate the contribution of new and innovative technology to possible futures. Share your research and learn from others via Padlet walls.