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Everyone knows what ‘Sustainable Development’ is, but if you stop to think, it may become less clear. Sustainable development has become a chameleon, suiting different needs and fulfilling different roles for different people with different interests. In this subject, we will explore this appealing-yet-slippery idea with the aim of deciding whether it is a suitable concept with which to explore the cultural, environmental, and economic challenges facing society. Is sustainable development a useful idea, do we need to move on, or can we take it back?
In addition to the debates over sustainable development, this subject will provide students with the skills needed to examine, analyse, and report on challenges related to their interests. At its heart, the subject explores the primary question of sustainable development, which is whether it can be useful in a world (seemingly) approaching numerous catastrophic tipping points. The climate is changing, the oceans are acidifying, the soils cannot keep producing our food, and wealth is being concentrated amongst a smaller and smaller segment of the world. Is sustainable development helpful in understanding, and ideally changing, these trends?
There are also more practical considerations surrounding the debate over sustainable development. Some people might be interested in having a greater impact on the world through development projects, micro-credit, or volunteering. Is sustainable development helpful? Can the concept help individuals seeking to improve our world (or at least trying)? Does it help ensure that their efforts are beneficial and not perverted by opposing interests and processes?
It is also worth considering whether sustainable development might not be better thought of as an analytical framing: as a way of pulling apart problems or projects in order to better understand or assess their impact on ecological sustainability, development, or economics? Is sustainable development an analytical tool for making sense of ‘wicked’ problems?
In this subject we will review the history of sustainable development, which draws together literature from Geography, Sociology, Engineering, Psychology, Economics, and the Sciences. We will explore critiques of sustainable development, and force ourselves to consider whether it is possible, practical, or even useful in the ‘real world’. We will explore several key challenges, using sustainable development as a lens or framing. And finally and most creatively, we will attempt to reinterpret sustainable development in a world of growing inequality.
For more information see: http://briansresearch.wordpress.com/teaching/sustainable-development/
Intended learning outcomes
On completion of this subject students will:
- understand and be able to compare a range of theories related to sustainable development;
- be able to apply numerous methods designed to critically engage with debates over sustainable development;
- be familiar with different framings of sustainable development;
- be able to synthesise competing interpretations and debates;
- be aware of the complex processes and issues that are incorporated into debates and controversies of sustainable development;
Students who have completed this subject will:
- be capable of thinking critically about issues relating to sustainable development;
- be capable of developing a conceptual framework appropriate to understanding and interpreting problems relating to sustainability;
- be able to learn research skills appropriate to understanding and interpreting issues and problems of sustainable development;
- be able to write coherent and well-researched essays;
- be capable of engaging in effective oral presentations.
Last updated: 3 October 2023