KULT8124 - Environmental Sustainability and Societal Transformation


Examination arrangement

Examination arrangement: Assignment
Grade: Passed/Failed

Evaluation form Weighting Duration Examination aids Grade deviation
Assignment 100/100

Course content

The course aims to provide PhD students with the concepts and tools to understand what environmental sustainability (ES) is, the kind of challenges it raises, the actors involved in such issues, and how we can initiate societal transformations towards this goal. The course will depart from the model of strong sustainability, i.e. the biosphere is considered to be a life-supporting system that restricts human activity. Consequently, the course will explore how this affects technological and scientific development, economic issues, policy-making and the organisation of society. First, students are introduced to ES with the UN's global sustainability goals (SDGs) as background and to the history of the concept of sustainable development, environmental concerns and the environmental movement. Second, the course will present the students with critical accounts of the concept of sustainability, including potential controversies between sustainability concerns and the conservation of nature. This includes an introduction to the concept of biodiversity and biodiversity policy as well as to environmental ethics. In addition, the course will engage with the challenges of providing measurements of sustainability and methods and approaches to assess the sustainability of industrial products and processes as well as human lifestyles (industrial ecology). Third, the course will provide an overview of theories and approaches to sustainability transitions. This includes a focus on green innovation, circular economy, and policy-making for sustainable energy, climate mitigation and urban sustainability. Finally, the course will prepare for the writing of individual essays, which together with participation in the course, forms the basis of formal approval of the course.

Learning outcome

Knowledge: The candidate must be able to document a good understanding of the important dimensions and challenges of ES and how the SDGs can be used as a basis for strategies and actions for change. The candidate must show command of the most relevant environmental systems tools. The candidate should be able to explain the advantages and disadvantages of continuous societal innovation vs radical change, in the context of sustainable development implementation. The candidate must be able to demonstrate the potential role of science and ethics in contributing to the actual change in real-life problems. The candidate should also be able to show how different systems (the political system, the economic system, the technological system, the biological system, etc.) are interlinked and how problems and solutions in one system may interfere with other systems. It is required of the student to recognise and reflect upon the political, social and ethical tensions associated with the design and implementation of measures towards SD.
Skills: The candidate should be able to formulate research questions related to ES and the SDGs. The candidate must be able to discuss how theory and methodologies covered in the course can be applied in sustainability strategies. Additionally, the candidate must show a reflexive and inquisitive approach to the subjects of the course. The candidate must be able to demonstrate and justify how the concepts and tools taught can be used in concrete research work and real-life problems.
General competence: The candidate must be able to access distinctive pathways towards SD implementation while showing how and why it is appropriate to apply a multidisciplinary approach to sustainability. The candidate must be familiarised with the most relevant theoretical and practical SD frameworks and be able to argue about their advantages and limitations.

Learning methods and activities

The course is delivered by use of a series of seminars, each focusing on themes as indicated above. Seminars contain expert lectures, student presentations, discussions and time for discussion of essay writing and topics. Students write individual essays that must be evaluated "Bestått" (equivalent to grade B or better) in order to pass the course.

Compulsory assignments

  • Participation

Further on evaluation

The assessment is a written essay where the candidates demonstrate their understanding of theories and methods taught in the course and how it relates to their own discipline or a specific topic or practical application.

The essay is an expanded version compared to KULT8123.

Specific conditions

Exam registration requires that class registration is approved in the same semester. Compulsory activities from previous semester may be approved by the department.

Course materials

Selected scientific articles and reports, to be decided.

More on the course

Version: 1
Credits:  7.5 SP
Study level: Doctoral degree level


Term no.: 1
Teaching semester:  SPRING 2021

Language of instruction: English

Location: Trondheim

Subject area(s)
  • Environmental and Resource Engineering
  • Science and Technology Studies
  • Environmental Management
Contact information

Department with academic responsibility
Department of Interdisciplinary Studies of Culture



Examination arrangement: Assignment

Term Status code Evaluation form Weighting Examination aids Date Time Digital exam Room *
Spring ORD Assignment 100/100
Room Building Number of candidates
  • * The location (room) for a written examination is published 3 days before examination date. If more than one room is listed, you will find your room at Studentweb.

For more information regarding registration for examination and examination procedures, see "Innsida - Exams"

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