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‘The Earth is a finite environment, with its physical systems tightly interconnected with all life on the planet’. Humanity, as part of the Earth, is now in the historic position of changing the global balance of both the physical and biological environments, with unintended consequences. Achieving sustainability on Earth requires global values and actions that are ecologically sound, socially just and economically viable.
In its Sustainability Charter, the University of Melbourne recognizes its responsibility to help shape sustainability on Earth through ‘knowledge, imagination and action’. This subject is an academic and practical opportunity for students to enter into that endeavor.
In this subject we utilise sustainability to explore, understand and analyse human-environment relationships. Topics include: needs and inter-dependencies of all beings; the diverse ways humans meet their needs through material and non-material means and the ecological and social consequences of this for humans and other beings; the economic, social and political norms that shape the ways we meet our needs; the ethical and disciplinary frameworks through which the sustainability of human-environmental relationships can be assessed. We will consider sustainability of systems at multiple scales and through diverse ways of knowing including scientific, historical and Indigenous perspectives. Through this subject, students will develop foundational knowledge, skills and values to facilitate a sustainable future.
This subject is relevant to students in all degrees who are interested in issues related to society and the environment such as climate change, land management, extractive industries and more. It will appeal to students that are seeking ways to support change in their lives and careers.
Learning will be grounded in analysis of sustainability, with class room activities and assessment tasks designed so that students can directly and critically contribute to the University’s aspiration to be an international exemplar of an ecologically sustainable community; as well as to think critically about the function of their future discipline, and their own practices in facilitating sustainability. There may be some optional volunteering opportunities in sustainability.
- This subject is relevant to students in all degrees who are interested in issues related to society and the environment such as climate change, land management, extractive industries and more. In particular, it offers:
- Arts and Music students the opportunity to explore the intersection between power, hope and the arts to influence societies ideas about our relationship with the environment and sustainability;
- Biomedicine students conceptual tools like systems thinking and needs analysis to see how contextual drivers shape health outcomes for humans and the environment and the interdependencies between them, that can then influence sustainability;
- Commerce students an insight into the history of capitalism and how it shapes our relationships with the environment and our ability to facilitate sustainability;
- Design students a range of tools including multi-scale analysis and the integration of different discipline perspectives to generate new insights for sustainability; and
- Science students the opportunity to build their critical assessment of the reasons and strategies for shaping sustainability including the retention of ecosystem services, as well as ethical decision frameworks.
- There is no exam in this subject, however, students are expected to make academic arguments, and work in teams.
Intended learning outcomes
Students should be able to:
- Identify relationships between all beings and their physical environments using systems thinking approaches;
- Analyse sustainability in the context of a real-life sustainability challenge;
- Integrate data (literature, qualitative and quantitative) that pertains to the assessment of sustainability, and represents multiple viewpoints;
- Apply conceptual tools for analysing sustainability including human-nature relationships, political and ethical, needs and norms, temporal and spatial scales, as well as inter-disciplinary perspectives;
- Evaluate their role in sustainability as individuals, as future practitioners in a discipline, and as members of the university; and
- Evaluate their own learning, values, beliefs and assumptions, as well as how these have changed (if at all) throughout the subject.
In addition to learning specific skills that will assist students in their future careers in science, they will have the opportunity to develop generic skills that will assist them in any future career path. These include:
- problem-solving skills: the ability to engage with unfamiliar problems and identify relevant solution strategies;
- analytical skills: the ability to construct and express logical arguments and to work in abstract or general terms to increase the clarity and efficiency of analysis;
- collaborative skills: the ability to work in a team;
- time-management skills: the ability to meet regular deadlines while balancing competing commitments
- Analytical skills including analysing task requirements and assessing the work of others.
- Research skills including finding and evaluating data and literature from a range of academic disciplines.
- Confident written communication including application of theory to practice, developing a logical argument to support a particular position, and effective integration of data, literature and other information as evidence.
- Skills in critical reflection including self-awareness and self-assessment.
- Participate effectively as a team member in an interdisciplinary project with a shared focus.
Last updated: 15 February 2024