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Online course

Concepts in Sustainable Development: An Introduction to the Key Issues

Explore some of the key issues in sustainability, tackling the big questions with examples from around the world.

What’s the difference between a free course and an upgraded course?

Free:

  • Access to the course for its duration + 14 days, regardless of when you join (this includes access to articles, videos, peer review steps, quizzes)
  • No access to course tests
  • No certificate

Upgraded:

  • Unlimited access to the course, for as long as it exists on FutureLearn (this includes access to articles, videos, peer review steps, quizzes)
  • Access to course tests
  • A Certificate of Achievement when you complete the course

Find out more

Concepts in Sustainable Development: An Introduction to the Key Issues

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?

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Skip to 0 minutes and 8 secondsFor most of human history, the world has experienced sustainability without development. But since we've moved from foraging to farming, we've seen development without sustainability. Growth and world population has come as a result of advances in science and technology. Societies have adapted to these changes, but now population growth threatens to outrun technology. And the material resources required to support unrestrained development are no longer available. Sustainable development is one of the greatest challenges of our time. In this course, we'll learn about the fundamental concepts and ideas that underpin sustainability on a global level.

Skip to 0 minutes and 57 secondsUniversities especially have a major role to play in sustainable development not only through education, but also through their example. Here at Leicester, we've put this at the heart of what we do. The new centre for medicine is the UK's largest nonresidential Passivhaus building. Here the green wall and roof planting promote biodiversity, whilst the building itself has the highest standards of air tightness and temperature control. The building's intelligence systems include a subsoil heat exchange system to prewarm or precool the incoming air. There are heat recovery mechanisms within the ventilation system and automated blinds to keep rooms cool in summer.

Skip to 1 minute and 45 secondsThe large array of solar panels on the roof and the connection to a heat and power district energy scheme means that the building is largely carbon neutral. Our values of sustainability extend into all facets of our university life. The University of Leicester aspires to develop students who can think and act sustainably. Sustainable development is not just a difficult practical problem where we all do our bit for recycling and turn off unnecessary lights. It's also a conceptual, political and moral problem. In this course, we'll look at what this means. How it implies there are no simple answers to the issues of sustainable development and on the other hand, how an understanding of the complexities can help shape approaches to solutions.

Skip to 2 minutes and 42 secondsThis course raises fundamental issues about the fair use of resources, which will investigate why some countries are less developed than others and the interplay between development and technology. At the University of Leicester, our commitment to a sustainable future for all will cause long term thinking and socially responsible behaviour. Sustainable development isn't just one part of the curriculum in higher education, it's all of the curriculum in one aspect. We aim to develop the talents of our students. In this way we hope to encourage our students to grow as individuals and to contribute to their communities in positive and sustainable ways.

Skip to 3 minutes and 31 secondsIn this course we concentrate on the large scale picture and hope to provide a deeper understanding of what it means to be a global citizen.

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?

  • Date to be announced

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
  • Evaluate the Brundtland definition of sustainable development
  • Explain how economy and ecology work together as one system
  • Summarise the prospects for a circular economy
  • Identify the effects of the agricultural and industrial revolutions
  • Identify and discuss the practical and moral issues around inequality
  • Evaluate the difficulty in assigning causation in complex systems
  • Discuss the implications of past actions for current generations
  • Define what is meant by the term 'tragedy of the commons'
  • Explain what is meant by globalisation, and its implication for sustainability
  • Discuss the major problems of sustainability and the prospects for solutions
  • 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

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?

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.

What’s the difference between a free course and an upgraded course?

Free:

  • Access to the course for its duration + 14 days, regardless of when you join (this includes access to articles, videos, peer review steps, quizzes)
  • No access to course tests
  • No certificate

Upgraded:

  • Unlimited access to the course, for as long as it exists on FutureLearn (this includes access to articles, videos, peer review steps, quizzes)
  • Access to course tests
  • A Certificate of Achievement when you complete the course

Find out more

Get extra benefits, upgrade this course. For $59 you'll get:

Unlimited access

Upgrading will mean you get unlimited access to the course.

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  • Take the course at your own pace
  • Refer to the material at any point in future

If you’re taking a course for free you have access to the course for its duration + 14 days, regardless of when you join. If you upgrade the course you have access for as long as the course exists on FutureLearn.

Access to tests

When you upgrade you’ll have access to any tests during the course.

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  • Validate your learning
  • Ensure you have mastered the material
  • Qualify for a certificate

To receive a Certificate of Achievement you need to take any tests and score over 70%. You don’t get access to tests if you choose to take a course for free.

Certificate of Achievement

Upgrading means you’ll receive a Certificate of Achievement when you complete the course.

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  • Prove your success when applying for jobs or courses
  • Celebrate your hard work
  • Display on your LinkedIn or CV
  • Includes free shipping

To receive a Certificate of Achievement you need to mark 90% of the steps on the course as complete, and score over 70% on any course tests.

Upgrade


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