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FutureLearn Concepts in Sustainable Development: An Introduction to the Key Issues Course - University of Leicester

Concepts in Sustainable Development: An Introduction to the Key Issues Course - University of Leicester

Online United Kingdom

6 Weeks


Part time

USD 59 *

Distance Learning

* you can learn it for free or upgrade the course and have extra benefits for $59


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Explore some of the key issues in sustainability, tackling the big questions with examples from around the world.

Get an introduction to the key issues in sustainability

In this course, you will study the conceptual foundations of sustainable development, and discuss the issues around sustainability as a complex problem.

We’ll look at the flow of energy and materials worldwide; social and political issues; wealth inequality; the impact of geography, history and culture on sustainability today; and the problems of collective action. Finally, we’ll conduct a SWOT analysis, looking at our resilience and prospects in the face of climate change and other global issues in sustainability. We’ll ask: are we doomed?

What topics will you cover?

  • Week 1: Sustainable development and complexity
  • Week 2: The economy and ecology as a metabolic system
  • Week 3: Economic growth and inequality
  • Week 4: The importance of geography, history and culture and the impact of human activity on the environment
  • Week 5: The problem of collective action
  • Week 6: Strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats

When would you like to start?

Start straight away and learn at your own pace. If the course hasn’t started yet you’ll see the future date listed below.

  • Available now

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to:

  • Explain what is meant by a complex system and its relevance to sustainability.
  • Explain how the economy and ecology work together as one system.
  • Identify the effects of the agricultural and industrial revolutions.
  • Evaluate the difficulty in assigning causation in complex systems.
  • Describe what is meant by the term 'tragedy of the commons'.
  • Discuss the major problems of sustainability and the prospects for solutions.
  • Evaluate the Brundtland definition of sustainable development.
  • Summarise the prospects for a circular economy.
  • Identify and discuss the practical and moral issues around inequality.
  • Discuss the implications of past actions for current generations.
  • Explain what is meant by globalisation, and its implication for sustainability.
  • Discuss the range of views on approaches to development.

Who is the course for?

This course is open to anyone interested in exploring the general technical and social issues around the concept of sustainability and sustainable development. The course explores the theoretical basis of sustainability from the natural sciences, political and economic perspectives. This course is aimed at learners who wish to engage with the challenges and potential solutions to sustainability at a conceptual level.

Who will you learn with?

Derek Raine

Derek Raine MBE is an emeritus professor of interdisciplinary science at the University of Leicester and the recipient of several awards for novel approaches to science teaching in higher education.

Who developed the course?

University of Leicester

The University of Leicester is a leading research-led university with a strong tradition of excellence in teaching. It is consistently ranked amongst the top 20 universities in the United Kingdom.

Join this course



$279.99 for one year

Join free and you will get:

  • Access to this course for 8 weeks

Upgrade this course and you will get:

  • Access to this course for as long as it’s on FutureLearn
  • Access to this course’s tests as well as a print and digital Certificate of Achievement once you’re eligible

Buy Unlimited and you will get:

  • Access to this course, and hundreds of other FutureLearn short courses and tests for a year
  • A printable digital Certificate of Achievement on all short courses once you’re eligible
  • The freedom to keep access to any course you've achieved a digital Certificate of Achievement on, for as long as the course exists on FutureLearn
  • The flexibility to complete your choice of short courses in your own time within the year


About the School


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