Sustainability Science: Interactions Between Human & Environmental Systems, Spring 2018

Spring 2018 | syllabus

google classroom instructions

We will be using google classroom as our communication platform. Each week there will be a main discussion board where you can ask questions about readings, the structure of the class, or anything else you need assistance with. This is a way for you to connect easily with your classmates and discuss topics or questions you may have throughout the course.

To access our classroom:

1. go to classroom.google.com
2. create a google account if you do not currently have one.
3. click the + sign on the upper right corner.
4. select “join class”
5. enter the code given to you; if you forget the classroom code, please e-mail Svenja Wagner.
6. you should now have the classroom available to you every time you log into google without having to re-enter the code

Weekly Readings, Presentations, and Video Lectures

1. The origins of the concept of sustainability science

Speaker: Billie Turner III (ASU)

The introductory session explores the relationship between “sustainable development” and “sustainability science.” It portrays “sustainable development” as an ultimately political issue arena in which people are grappling with the appropriate long term relationships between human development and the natural environment. It portrays “sustainability science” as an emerging field of scholarly inquiry into the origins and nature of the sustainable development problem, and into possible responses to that problem. The session will review competing perspectives on sustainable development and sustainability science, and present the approach taken here as an outline and justification of the topics covered in the course. We begin with a review of the foundations of sustainability science: i.e. modern conceptualizations regarding the interactions between human and environmental systems. We highlight similarities and differences in the key assumptions, variables and relationships that have figured in alternative conceptualizations, and in the central questions that have concerned them. We then turn to a sampling of historical data and future forecasts or scenarios regarding long term trends and transitions in key attributes of human-environment systems. The session concludes with a discussion of the challenges posed by those trends and transitions for policy and the knowledge needed to support it.

Readings 1 | 2 | 3

Presentation


2. Knowledge systems for sustainability

Readings 1


3. The role of local communities in local management

Communities are increasingly seen as the focus for external attempts to achieve sustainable natural resource management at the local level.  This session raises critical questions concerning (1) the extent to which communities in fact have the means to manage land use collectively;  (2) the inherent conflict between reliance on traditional community norms as the basis for management and the (external) desire to promote  social equality and (3) the evidence that community management is successful. A more nuanced view of the role of communities in natural resource management will be discussed.

Readings 1 | 2 | 3

Presentation


4. Sustainable development and sustainability science; historical overview and long-term trends

This session presents the conceptual framework for analyzing sustainable development that
we will use throughout the rest of the course. Sustainable development is argued to be
development that entails non-decreasing human well-being, measured in terms of the assets
that contribute to human well-being including 1) ecosystem services and biodiversity, 2)
human capabilities and assets, such as knowledge, education, and health; 3) technology and
infrastructure; and 4) institutions and culture. These various components link the
environmental and social dimensions of sustainable development. The framework helps to
understand the central components of planetary and human assets that contribute to human
well-being and advance sustainable development. The session will introduce the concept of
stock and flows of various assets.

Readings 1 | 2

Presentation


5. An ontological perspective of the socioecosystem concept

The way we see ourselves and understand the world we live in, guides and determines the types of solutions we are designing and implementing to deal with our global change problems. Through history, humans have been developing a concept of reality arriving to many different terms: nature, environment, landscape, territory, ecosystem and, recently, coupled social-ecological system. Each of this terms refers to the same natural phenomena, but each one has a specific connotation and a particular philosophical load. System thinking is helping us to recognize humanity as complex, self-organized, multi-level, and highly integrated socio-bio- physical entities that we refer to as socioecosystems. By dissecting the differences between a purely physical system, an ecosystem and a socioecosystem, we can identify their nested ontological structure. What implications bring this perspective in our efforts to understand and trying to manage our common world?

Presentation
Readings 1| 2 | 3

6. Socio-ecological resilience tipping points and uncertainty

 

Presentation

Readings 1 | 2

7. Ecosystems services, reconciling supply and demand

Presentation

Readings 1 | 2

8. Institutions for managing human-environment systems sustainably

 

Readings 1 | 2 | 3

Presentation

9. IPBES: A framework for sustainability

Readings 1 | 2 | 3

Presentation

10. Trade-offs in components of sustainability.

Readings 1 | 2 | 3

Presentation