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Sustainable Urban Environments

Trinity College via edX


How can we strengthen sustainability? By empowering individuals and communities to transform and balance dynamic natural resources, economic prosperity, and healthy populations.

In this course, you’ll explore productive and disruptive social, ecological, and economic intersections – the “triple bottom line.” You’ll investigate a spectrum of global, national, regional, municipal and personal relationships that are increasing resiliency. Most importantly, you’ll learn how to effectively locate your interests, and to leverage optimistic change within emerging 21st century urban environments.

This course will describe fundamental paradigm shifts that are shaping sustainability. These include connectivity, diversity, citizen engagement, collaboration source tracing, mapping, transportation, and integrative, regenerative design. We will take examples from cities around the globe; making particular use of the complex evolution of site-specific conditions within the Connecticut River watershed. In addition we will present tools and strategies that can be utilized by individuals, communities, and corporations to orchestrate effective and collective change.

Each week, lessons will highlight the significance of clean water as a key indication of ecosystem, community and human health. Learners will be asked to investigate and share information about their local environment.

Finally, we will note the impact of such disruptive forces as industrial pollution, changing governance, privatization of public services, mining of natural resources, public awareness, and climate change. A fundamental course goal will be to characterize indicators of economic prosperity and happiness that relate to environmental sustainability – and the capacity of individuals to create change.


Week #1: Basic Concepts
This week will offer an introduction to basic concepts of urban sustainability and key course points. Various sustainability rating systems will be reviewed, with respect to the capacity of metrics to leverage environmental change and indicate quality-of-life benefits.        
Week #2: Governance and Science
This week focuses on scientific and legal efforts to expand urban sustainability, as well as their impacts on human health, social and environmental justice, and both the management and stewardship of natural resources.
Week #3: Urban Planning for Everyday Routines
This week will emphasize the everyday world of urban sustainability, including tracing municipal services, urban parks and planning, as well as efforts to make cities more walkable. We will also explore links between sustainability and human happiness.
Week #4: Urgency and the Global Economy
We will look at the big picture to examine big corporations, development projects, and systems that can leverage climate change mitigation and adaptation, fair trade, food security, green finance – all at a planetary scale. The UN’s sustainable development goals (SDGs) will be reviewed along with international conservation and rapid urban development. We will analyze how our smart phones and computers are source of global information, and a physical trace of global resources and manufacturing.
Week #5: Adaptation and Individual Mitigation
This week, we will explore individual people’s strategies and capacities for addressing urban sustainability through consumption patterns, eating habits, health choices, energy usage, bicycling, recycling, and the new sharing economy.
Week #6:
The final week will focus on summarizing the course and completing all projects.

Taught by

Garth Myers and Mary Rickel-Pelletier


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