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Concepts in Sustainable Development: An Introduction to the Key Issues

University of Leicester via FutureLearn


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?

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 perspective. This course is aimed at learners who wish to engage with the challenges and potential solutions to sustainability at a conceptual level.


  • Sustainable development and complexity
    • Welcome to the course
    • Sustainable development
    • Complexity
    • Issues in sustainable development
    • Summary of the week
  • A metabolic view
    • Introduction
    • Energy and order
    • Material flows
    • Intergenerational Justice
    • A closed economy?
    • Summary of the week
  • Beyond the average
    • Beyond the average
    • World Economic Growth
    • Growth of wealth
    • Inequality
    • Summary of the week
  • History dependence
    • History dependence
    • Geographical determinism
    • Cultural determinism
    • Historical determinism
    • Summary of the week
  • Collective action
    • Tragedy of the commons
    • Values and frames
    • Globalisation
    • Fishing
    • Collective action
    • Summary of the week
  • Strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats
    • Resilience
    • Technology
    • Development aid or trade
    • Education
    • Summary of the week and the course

Taught by

David Avery


4.7 rating at FutureLearn based on 57 ratings

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