Sustainability as a discipline

Introduction to what we do in sustainability?

Sustainability emerged as a discipline to support addressing the dynamic complexity of modern life. Sustainability is a discipline for managing the challenges presented by global change. It looks to transition society and also the practice of science . 1]Pahl-Wostl, C., Giupponi, C., Richards, K., Binder, C., de Sherbinin, A., Sprinz, D., … van Bers, C. (2013). Transition towards a new global change science: Requirements for methodologies, methods, data and knowledge. Environmental Science and Policy, 28, 36–47. Frequently many people want to define sustainability in one of its antecedents – environmentalism. Worse, some people think sustainability is about nostalgia and trying to live as we imagined past eras. Sustainability supports living here and now acting under conditions of complexity and uncertainty which we humans have created.

When society does not have the tools to support solving its problems political and social unrest emerge as we are currently witnessing. Sustainability is a new approach for integrating social and physical sciences to support human flourishing.

Geels 2]Geels, F. W. (2010). Ontologies, socio-technical transitions (to sustainability), and the multi-level perspective. Research Policy, 39(4), 495–510. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.respol.2010.01.022 explains new environmental problems are on a different scale and levels of complexity which cannot be solved by only looking at incremental changes in technology. The scale of the problems are global and not always visible and tangible in contrast to problems like water pollution, Acid Rain etc which are immediately visible and tangible with identifiable victims which could be mobilized and even compensated. Current problems will happen in the future and who and how people are impacted is unclear. These are sustainability problems which require system changes which “… not only entail new technologies, but also changes in markets, user practices, policy and cultural meanings.”

Our program learning objectives guides how we prepare students to solve dynamic complex societal problem i.e. sustainability problems.

Program Learning Objectives

  • Know Sustainability Broadly and Deeply 
    • Students will develop broad foundational knowledge with deep topical knowledge in one area of sustainability 
  • Solve Practical Sustainability Problems  
    • Students will learn professional tools and practical and creative problem-solving skills to implement sustainability solutions 
  • Communicate Sustainability Clearly 
    • Students will learn to effectively communicate sustainability problems, solutions and opportunities to a broad base of stakeholders  
  • Lead and Follow on Sustainability 
    • Students will gain the ability for transformative leadership, teamwork, and collaboration on sustainability problems and opportunities  
  • Understand Sustainability to Achieve Wellbeing 
    • Students will acquire a holistic understanding  of complex systems for the purpose of achieving individual, environmental, community, and economic wellbeing in one or more UN Sustainable Development Goals.    

The complexity and system view of sustainability problems requires students master learning objectives in four domains.

Domains of expertise

  • Evidence-Based Knowledge
    • Knowing the foundations of transdisciplinary sustainability and professional practice and understanding the evidence for them
  • Human Interaction
    • Working with people building connection, and communicating knowledge responsibly to support and sustain positive change
  • Professional Methodology and Strategies
    • Understanding the availability, appropriateness, selection, and application of methods to solve problems
  • Action-Oriented Practices
    • Defining and interpreting problems, implementing strategies, and assessing outcomes

Students graduate the master program with the ability to initiate, guide and implement changes in society which support sustainable development..

References   [ + ]

1. Pahl-Wostl, C., Giupponi, C., Richards, K., Binder, C., de Sherbinin, A., Sprinz, D., … van Bers, C. (2013). Transition towards a new global change science: Requirements for methodologies, methods, data and knowledge. Environmental Science and Policy, 28, 36–47.
2. Geels, F. W. (2010). Ontologies, socio-technical transitions (to sustainability), and the multi-level perspective. Research Policy, 39(4), 495–510. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.respol.2010.01.022