Accessibility statement

Sustainability II: understanding sustainability as change through time


Module leader: Daryl Stump


The course frames sustainability and resilience as fundamentally a question of change and continuity through time, and explores how we can use an understanding of the recent and distant past to assess the sustainability of a system. In some cases these systems may be small (e.g. community level resource procurement) and of short duration, or very large and of long duration (e.g. societal changes or climate change), or indeed complex interactions of small and fast changes that both influence and are influenced by gradual and expansive processes.

Module Aims

  • To provide a thorough grounding in past and present approaches to understanding sustainability
  • To demonstrate how perceptions of the past shape our perceptions of a system’s sustainability
  • To provide an appreciation of the complexity of how socio-ecological systems change or persist through time.

Learning Outcomes

By the end of the module, students should have:

  • A nuanced understanding of how the terms sustainability and resilience have been used within different disciplines and policies.
  • Knowledge of the intellectual approaches that influence contemporary understandings of sustainability and sustainable development, including colonial approaches to ‘betterment’ in the early 20 century, through ‘modernisation’, dependency theory, and underdevelopment, up to the UN’s current Sustainable Development Goals.
  • An appreciation of how understanding past changes through a variety of research techniques contributes to sustainability studies and sustainability science.

Academic and graduate skills

  • Development of transferable skills in independent research, and in written, verbal and visual communication, including the production of policy brief and practice briefs.
  • Understanding of the potential and challenges of evidenced-informed policy
  • An awareness of the need to tailor communication styles to audiences, and that different interest groups might take different messages from the same research results.

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