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Online Course

Beyond the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): Addressing Sustainability and Development

University of Michigan via Coursera

Overview

We’re excited you’re here! This course, “Beyond the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): Addressing Sustainability and Development,” is the first course in the upcoming Sustainability and Development MasterTrack Certificate program (Fall 2020), but you can also take this course as a stand-alone learning opportunity.

Sustainability and development pose unprecedented challenges as human societies grow and seek to ensure future wellbeing and prosperity. In this course, we’ll focus on addressing the twin challenges of sustainability and development with actionable knowledge for innovating solutions to the world’s most pressing problems like climate change, poverty and inequality, and biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation. Rather than sustainability being a qualifier for development (e.g. sustainable development), we conceptualize Sustainability and Development as co-equal fields of inquiry and action that seek to build bridges between the natural, social and applied sciences and the humanities. When sustainability and development are placed on an equal footing, it requires us to think more explicitly about the trade-offs, co-benefits and synergies between them, which we will be exploring in depth in each week.

Throughout the course, you will be introduced to the theoretical currents in Sustainability and Development, and will garner an in-depth understanding of the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). We will also consider the methods and skills necessary for designing innovative solutions to sustainability and development problems through the emerging field of Sustainability Science.

In this course, we will explore three of the most pressing challenges undergirding the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) including climate change, poverty and inequality, and ecosystem degradation and biodiversity loss, with case studies to guide and challenge our thinking. In the final week of the course, we will discuss the trade-offs, co-benefits and synergies between these challenges, especially as they relate to designing innovative solutions for achieving our sustainability and development goals.

By the end of this course, you will be able to:
1. Understand and explain the world’s most pressing problems with a specific focus on poverty & inequality, ecosystem degradation and biodiversity loss, and climate change.
2. Critically analyze the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and their relationship to the world’s most pressing problems.
3. Use frameworks and evidence necessary to develop solutions.
4. Assess relevant solutions that would help realize the SDGs and at the same time solve the pressing problems.
5. Apply skills learned to implement solutions.

Syllabus

Introductions to the Course
-In this module you can expect to learn about the nuances between the terms 'sustainable development' and 'sustainability' AND 'development', as well as the history and scope of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Climate Change
-In this week, you can expect to learn about the different ways in which the climate is changing, and how and why different populations are disproportionately impacted by those changes.

Poverty and Inequality
-In this module you can expect to learn about the historical background on poverty and inequality around the world, different approaches to alleviate poverty and inequality, and opportunities for reducing poverty and inequality in a sustainable manner.

Biodiversity Loss and Ecosystem Degradation
-In this module, you can expect to learn about why environmental changes happen, what the drivers and impacts of these changes are, and how to share ecosystems between people and wildlife while preventing environmental degradation.

Trade Offs and Synergies
-In this module, you can expect to learn about sustainability science and how it applies to sustainability and development, transitions in human societies and how those lessons learned apply to sustainability transitions, and how you can improve sustainability solutions for better outcomes.

Taught by

Arun Agrawal, Maria Carmen Lemos, Bilal Butt and Pamela Jagger

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