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Sustainability TransitionsOrganization logo: Wageningen University & Research

About this course

Knowledge of and capability to work with sustainability concepts and issues belong to the core competences to be obtained in the environmental sciences. Sustainability is a concept that can be linked to many domains in society. This course is tailored towards three of the major environmental domains: water, energy and food systems. Food, energy and water systems are crucial for human subsistence and of major environmental relevance. This course deals with the major transformations (transitions) that are needed within these three intersecting systems to reach sustainability.
The course critically discusses the core concepts of ‘Sustainability’ and ‘Transitions’ from the perspectives of policy, history and technology. The multi-disciplinary perspectives on ‘Sustainability’ and ‘Transitions’ are applied to analysis of past and future transformations in food, water and energy systems in the domains of production, supply, distribution and consumption. In this course the concept ‘transition’ as it relates to sustainability is used analyse systems-based transformation processes in which sectors in society change in a fundamental way over one generation (25 years) or more. The course adopts a historically situated and contextual analysis. It considers major changes these systems have undergone in the past as a crucial perquisite to discussions on present and future transitions .
The course begins with a foundational week of historical and theoretical lectures on the key concepts of ‘Sustainability’ and ‘Transition’ (management) underpinning the course. Following this foundational week, the course progresses to offer three thematically structured weeks focused on the topics of energy transitions, food transitions and water transitions. Each of these thematic areas will be explored from the angles of Environmental History, Environmental Policy/Sociology and Environmental Technology. Through this thematic approach students will gain an interdisciplinary perspective of past, present and future transitions in the intersecting domains of food, water and energy through which conceptual, historical and present issues will be discussed through Dutch and international cases and examples.

Learning outcomes

After successful completion of this course students are expected to be able to:

  • understand different concepts and dilemmas of sustainability transitions from policy, technological and historical perspectives;
  • recognise the temporary dynamics of industrialized societies, particularly concerning past and future transitions in food, water and energy sectors;
  • critically evaluate and apply course concepts to appraise long-term strategies towards ‘sustainability’ in food, water and/or energy-systems transitions;
  • develop an appreciation and skill for critical review and feedback through participating in peer-to-peer review and learning activities;
  • develop and demonstrate individual research and scientific writing skills by producing an individual paper on a chosen subject covered in the course.

Prior knowledge

Assumed Knowledge:
General understanding of environmental problems and sustainability, achieved in introductory courses like ENP-11303 Sustainable Solutions to Environmental Problems and ESA-10309 Environmental Sciences and Society.

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There are currently no offerings available for students of Utrecht University