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The Great Sustainability Transition: Global Challenges, Local Actions

Discover how global environmental crises are connected, their impacts, and how to take action in your local community.

303 enrolled on this course

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The Great Sustainability Transition: Global Challenges, Local Actions

303 enrolled on this course

  • 4 weeks

  • 5 hours per week

  • Digital certificate when eligible

  • Introductory level

Find out more about how to join this course

  • Duration

    4 weeks
  • Weekly study

    5 hours
  • 100% online

    How it works
  • Unlimited subscription

    $244.99 for one whole yearLearn more

Learn from experts in environmental science at Leiden University

We are living in an era of unprecedented environmental change. As a result, we are experiencing biodiversity loss, climate change, and overuse of freshwater resources, to name just a few. All of these affect fundamental ecosystem processes, causing change on a local and global scale.

On this four-week course from Leiden University, you’ll learn how these huge environmental crises are interconnected and how they impact our planet.

By the end, you’ll be empowered to take action in your local environment by engaging in real-world activities within your community.

Understand the risk of biodiversity loss

You’ll start by examining the planetary boundaries and how we could exceed key boundaries, risking an increasingly uninhabitable planet.

Next, you’ll explore biodiversity to understand its value and threats. With this knowledge, you’ll learn more about the biodiversity in your community and how to promote it.

Explore climate breakdown and environmental change

As you delve into the environmental changes happening to our planet, you’ll unpack the consequences of climate breakdown.

You’ll look at the big picture and learn how to debunk climate misinformation before exploring what you can do to take local action.

Learn how to take collective action to tackle big issues such as pollution

You’ll gain insights into how pollution affects the planet as you develop the skills to assess the different risks associated with this threat. This knowledge will help you understand how to take collective action against issues such as plastic pollution.

Finally, you’ll explore the global and local transitions needed for a better future. This knowledge will ensure you finish the course with the skills to tackle local issues in your community which will help have a global impact.

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Skip to 0 minutes and 1 second Our planet is changing beyond recognition. Glaciers and ice caps are melting. Droughts are becoming ubiquitous even across the wettest parts of our planet. Plastics are found in the most pristine environments around the world, and we have seen dramatic declines in plant and animal diversity all around the globe. Why is this happening? And what can we do about it? My name is Thijs Bosker. And my name is Paul Behrens. We are both associate professors in environmental science at Leiden University. The destruction of our key support systems for our civilization, such as food production and our climate, impacts everyone and everything. We must all understand what’s happening, what’s at stake, and what we can do about it.

Skip to 0 minutes and 47 seconds That’s why we created this online course called The Great Sustainability Transition, Global Challenges and Local Actions. We hope that by providing the latest scientific information we’ll give you the tools to take action and talk with family and friends about the urgency of that action. The challenges we face are enormous. We’ll focus on biodiversity loss, climate change, and pollution, and we’ll discuss what we call The Great Sustainability Transition. How do we minimize adverse impacts and move to a sustainable way of living for the long term? The course is not just theory. We want you to make a small but real impact.

Skip to 1 minute and 26 seconds For example, by participating in a citizen science project to survey your local biodiversity and by investigating the environmental impacts of your own diet. Of course, given the content, we’ll discuss difficult, serious topics. We need to, because without knowledge, we can’t act. However, acting can sometimes be simple and enjoyable. And if you want to know how, then join the course to find out. We’ll be shooting most of our videos here in Leiden, The Netherlands, at a location called The Field. Sandwiched in between roads, train tracks, concrete and asphalt, it’s a green oasis with a high diversity of native plants and animals. The buildings that you can see behind us use reclaimed and recycled materials from other buildings that were being demolished.

Skip to 2 minutes and 12 seconds It’s a small example, but it offers a really interesting perspective on how we can construct our urban environment. But even though we have some positive examples, it’s nowhere near enough. If we don’t act faster, our planet will become an unstable biological dead zone. However, so far, governments and companies have overwhelmingly moved too slowly to make any meaningful impact. And this is why it’s on us to pressure them into taking action and to take action ourselves. But to do that, we need the right facts. By following our course, you’ll learn to separate facts from fiction, enabling you to bring about meaningful change, both for ourselves and the communities in which we live.


  • Week 1


    • Course Introduction

      Welcome to this course on the Great Sustainability Transition: Global Challenges and Local Action. In this activity you will get to know the team and Leiden University, with some tips for succeeding in this course.

    • Planetary Boundaries

      In this first week, we'll discuss the concept of planetary boundaries within which humanity can safely exist.

    • Biodiversity: its value and threats

      This activity looks at biosphere integrity and land-system change to see the effects on Biodiversity.

    • Local action

      Let's take a closer look at what local actions can be taken.

    • Summary and review

      In this activity you can test your knowledge with a review quiz, and a final test.

  • Week 2

    Climate Breakdown

    • Introduction week 2

      In this activity we will talk about the links between week 1 and week 2.

    • Why we care and what to do

      In this activity we explore why we care about climate change.

    • Local action

      [Steps: Video: local action (step) Assignment: local action (step)]

    • Summary and review

      In this activity you can test your knowledge with a review quiz, and a final test.

  • Week 3


    • Introduction week 3

      In this activity we'll look wat what we are going to do this week.

    • The risk of pollution

      In this activity we will look at the effects and risks of pollution.

    • Local action

      In this activity we will look at trash around your home.

    • Plastic

      Let's look at plastic pollution.

    • Summary and review

      In this activity you can test your knowledge with a review quiz, and a final test.

  • Week 4

    The Great Transitions

    • Introduction week 4

      In this week we will discuss the great global and local transitions that are necessary.

    • Global and local transitions

      In this activity we look at what action can be taken.

    • Local action

      In this activity we will be looking at food.

    • Review week 4 and do final exercise

      In this activity you can test your knowledge.

    • Engaging with the future

      Let's take a look at the future.

When would you like to start?

Start straight away and join a global classroom of learners. If the course hasn’t started yet you’ll see the future date listed below.

  • Available now

Learning on this course

On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Explain Planetary Boundaries and their link to affluence and population
  • Reflect on the intrinsic value of biodiversity and ecosystem services
  • Describe the basic mechanics of climate change and the extreme effects of climate change on human systems
  • Explore the known and unknown solutions to climate change with the concepts of mitigation, adaptation and suffering
  • Describe the different kinds of pollution and provide details on effect and impact
  • Apply what was learned to local issues, through analysis of local, community, national and global levels
  • Explain possible reasons for why we have not acted faster to climate change
  • Explore solutions to common action problems

Who is the course for?

This course is designed for anyone interested in the global environmental crises and how to translate this to a local setting.

You’ll learn, skill up, and become engaged with important environmental issues.

What software or tools do you need?

While it is not necessary for completion, during the course we will use the apps iNaturalist and Litterati, which can be downloaded in your Apple or Android app store.

Who will you learn with?

I am an Associate Professor in Environmental Science at Leiden University, the Netherlands. My research focuses on the impacts of contaminants on the environment.

Paul is an author and academic. He has written two books and his work on food, energy and climate has appeared in outlets such as The New York Times, the BBC, PNAS and others.

Who developed the course?

Leiden University

Leiden University is one of Europe’s foremost research universities. This prominent position gives our graduates a leading edge and prepares them for careers both within and outside of academia.

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Ways to learn

Choose the best way to learn for you!

Subscribe & save

$244.99 for one whole year

Automatically renews

Develop skills to further your career

  • Access to this course
  • Access to 1,000+ courses
  • Learn at your own pace
  • Discuss your learning in comments
  • Tests to boost your learning
  • Digital certificate when you're eligible

Cancel for free anytime

Buy this course

$134/one-off payment

Fulfill your current learning need

  • Access to this course
  • Learn at your own pace
  • Discuss your learning in comments
  • Tests to boost your learning
  • Printed and digital certificate when you’re eligible

Limited access


Sample the course materials

  • Access expires 17 Jun 2024

Find out more about certificates, Unlimited or buying a course (Upgrades)

Sale price available until 3 June 2024 at 23:59 (UTC). T&Cs apply.

Find out more about certificates, Unlimited or buying a course (Upgrades)

Sale price available until 3 June 2024 at 23:59 (UTC). T&Cs apply.

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