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Resilience and Sustainable Development

MESS54, 7.5 Credits

The course examines perspectives on an emerging discourse in sustainability science, resilience, in the context of sustainable development. Resilience is society’s ability to continue to develop during shock and stress.

The course deals with how theories about the resilience concept have developed within sustainability science. The course starts with a historical overview of the resilience concept within development- and sustainability science. The course then goes on to critically examine resilience as a concept and as an approach.

Resilience has come to mean many things. There is for example, a resistance among some to the idea that it is possible for societies to continue to identify a common desirable or stable level of greenhouse emissions, deforestation and overfishing.

The course will examine questions about whether resilience can help researchers and practitioners improve their critical understanding of how societies can continue to develop under stressors caused by global environmental changes. For example, which political decisions and institutional changes occur under the threatening shadows of environmental changes? How can resilience as a model and an analytical tool help societies to rethink and generate ideas about change in ways that can avoid undesirable tipping points?

Global environmental changes bring about consequences for life and livelihoods for millions of people around the world. Uncertainty frames these environmental stressors and interacts with human vulnerability and poverty. Global climate change in particular poses significant consequences for resilience, community governance and livelihoods of people in the global South. Climate change poses a challenge to handling extreme weather events, and will exacerbate existing problems such as water shortages, floods and loss of natural resources. The course focuses on these consequences.

The course consists of a series of lectures with the aim of providing a systematic evaluation of resilience both as a theoretical framework and as a practical tool. In light of the resilience concept, existing theories of development, and how they address global environmental challenges and uncertainty are reconsidered, with a specific focus on climate change and its consequences. Special importance will be given to highlighting that societal change is closely connected to how a society sees itself relation to nature.

Literature list

Literature list, established 2023-06-22 PDF (553 kB)