Grand Challenges for Sustainability

Dit vak wordt in het Engels aangeboden. Omschrijvingen kunnen daardoor mogelijk alleen in het Engels worden weergegeven.

Doel vak

After successfully completing this course, the student
• can analyze and demonstrate an understanding of sustainabilibty
problems from different perspectives
• is able to put forward well-founded, substantiated points of view on
sustainable development

• After successfully completing this course, the student is able to
select, frame and qualitatively describe a challenge in the context of
sustainability that is urgent, multidisciplinary, and linked to your
personal interest and to present a well-founded research proposal that
is embedded in the media and the academic literature in an online pitch.

After successfully completing this course, the student:
• Can describe the biophysics behind global environmental problems such
as climate change and biodiversity loss;
• explain the importance of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (as
agreed upon in 2012 by the UN General Assembly) for achieving
sustainable development;
• explain the determinants of economic growth and development;
• can argue why the management of natural resources cannot be left to
the free market;
• can discuss whether the government can, and, if so, how the government
should intervene to obtain sustainable development and how to combat
poverty, climate change, biodiversity loss, and resource depletion;

After successfully completing this course, the student:
• can describe theoretical and empirical methods necessary to study
economic growth, the effects of market failures, the optimal management
of natural resources, and the effects of different policy interventions.

After successfully completing this course, the student:
• can present and actively discuss themes relevant to this course

After successfully completing this course, the student can explain:
• the interactions of the world economy, global society, and the natural
environment that are important for sustainable development
• why sustainable development calls for socially inclusive and
environmentally sustainable economic growth.
• can explain the role of good governance, both by governments and
multinational firms, for achieving sustainable development

Inhoud vak

Sustainable development is the central challenge of our days. Currently,
the Earth is inhabited by 7.6 billion people (9 times more than at the
start of the Industrial Revolution in the 18th century) who together
produce more than 90 billion US dollars of output (200 times more than
at the start of the Industrial Revolution). Both population and output
are projected to keep on growing during the next decades. Furthermore,
our world is increasingly interconnected through trade, migration,
technology diffusion, knowledge flows, and social networks. As a result,
human influence on the Earth’s physical processes has been increasing.
Nowadays, in the Anthropocene, human activity is even deemed to be the
dominant influence on the Earth’s climate and natural environment.
Although two decades of economic development have brought widespread
prosperity, more than a billion people are still living in extreme
poverty. Moreover, by crossing planetary boundaries human activities may
plunge the world into a gigantic environmental crisis caused by climate
change and biodiversity loss. In order to eradicate poverty and to
prevent environmental catastrophes, a transition needs to me made from
the business as usual (BAU) to a sustainable development (SD) path.
Making this transition requires good governance, not only by
governments, but also by citizens and businesses. The objective of this
course is to characterize a path of sustainable development and to
identify the Grand Challenges that the world faces in making the
transition from BAU to the SD path.

The course is organized around the Sustainable Development Goals as
adopted by the UN in 2015. The first week will start with a general
introduction that sketches several important sustainability issues,
illustrated by empirical evidence. During the course, we pay attention
to the scientific as well as to the economic and societal dimensions of
the identified challenges for sustainability. Furthermore, both the
positive or analytical side (i.e., how to make sense of the interactions
of the economy, society and the environment?) and the normative or
ethical side (i.e., what should be the objectives of a well-functioning
society?) of sustainable development will be discussed during the
course. The topics that will be dealt with during the course are:
1. Growth and development: capital accumulation and technological
2. Ending global poverty, education, and health;
3. Management of natural resources and planetary boundaries;
4. Climate change: climate science and environmental policies;
5. Biodiversity and land-use change;
6. Global governance.


Lectures (with interactive elements)
Tutorials (including presentation and discussion sessions)
MOOC (to prepare at home for the lectures and tutorials)


Written exam – Individual assessment
Interim Assignments – Group assessment


Sachs, Jeffrey D., The Age of Sustainable Development, 2015, Columbia
University Press, New York.
Collection of articles.

Aanbevolen voorkennis


Algemene informatie

Vakcode E_IBA3_GCS
Studiepunten 6 EC
Periode P1
Vakniveau 300
Onderwijstaal Engels
Faculteit School of Business and Economics
Vakcoördinator dr. G.C. van der Meijden
Examinator dr. G.C. van der Meijden

Praktische informatie

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