Sustainable Development and Global Transition: From Theory to Practice

Course Description: 

The course will provide an overview of the concept of sustainable development, including a review of its underlying rationale, theory, evolution, use in various current policy contexts and its critique. Perspectives from sustainability science will be introduced and critically reviewed. We will consider sustainable development as a problem of transition in complex socio-ecological systems mainly through the lens of governance and policy. We will get acquainted in detail with governance and policy tools and mechanisms, such as sustainability indicators, assessments, scenarios and strategies. We will explore how these could be used to inform the articulation of sustainability goals and visions and the construction of adaptive transition pathways, with an explicit link to the sustainable development goals (SDGs) and related implementation mechanisms. Throughout the course conceptual points will be illustrated with practical examples at various – ecosystem, community, national or international – scales and in different sectors. The course will combine lectures with various interactive elements, including small group work, micro-exercises and a field trip to an eco-village. A course assignment will focus on identifying a small set of illustrative SDGs for two countries and developing and contrasting ideas for implementation strategies. 

Learning Outcomes: 

1. be familiar with the underlying rationale for sustainable development, what lead to its emergence as a concept, as a policy domain and as a field of practice, how it evolved over time, and what are its limitations and key dilemmas; 2. understand the context of global transitions and the opportunities and challenges of using systemsbased concepts such as sustainability to diagnose the situation and develop meaningful responses; 3. know what some of the key analytic and policy tools related to sustainability transition analysis and policy are and practiced their use in some simulated environments; 4. have learnt to apply the sustainable development framework to a coarse scale analysis of dynamic society – environment interactions in specific place-based contexts; 5. be aware of the sustainability issues under consideration in some of the current intergovernmental processes, such as the development of the post-2015 development agenda and sustainable development goals through the United Nations.


Class participation, contribution to online discussions (40%)

Assignment (40%)

Presentation of assignment (20%)