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Sustainability Science

MESS18, 7.5 credits

The course allows students to develop skills that foster more nuanced understandings of complex sustainability challenges.

The course builds on student learning outcomes from the first three courses, and creates opportunities for students to broaden, deepen and nuance their knowledge and competencies in relation to socio-ecological processes, states and drivers. The course also provides a foundation for understanding and addressing the sustainability challenges that are covered in subsequent programme courses. 

Initially the course describes and accounts for the evolution of sustainability science and the subject field’s key concepts and perspectives, including their limitations. Examples include socio-ecological theory, political ecology, resilience, systems theory and transition theory and management.

The course emphasises the following approaches, methods and techniques to analyse current sustainability challenges, decrease uncertainty, and assess their potential long-term effects: DPSIR, causal loop diagrams, multi-level frameworks, scenario analysis, strategic visioning and narratives.

The course places particular emphasis on critical reflection, presentation skills and collaborative ability when solving problems and co-authoring reports and texts.

Literature list

Literature list, established 2023-06-07 PDF (438 kB)


I found the systems thinking block particularly interesting and intellectually stimulating. I also found all the frameworks we covered very helpful and relevant.


Student, Batch 23

Interview with Barry Ness about the LUMES course Sustainability Science