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Sustainable City Lecture Series


Admission requirements

Because of the limited capacity of this course, students from the BA Urban Studies always have priority. Students from any other programme than the BA Urban Studies must contact the Coordinator of Studies to see whether there are places left. If there are no places left, you may be placed on a waiting list. The waiting list will be cleared according to the amount of places left after the Urban Studies students have been placed and to the position on the waiting list.


Today’s quest for sustainability is largely carried out at the terrain of cities: Human urban activity is a major source of environmental challenges that needs to be counteracted. What is more, cities and their dwellers are increasingly seen not only as a source of sustainability problems but also as a potential source of promising solutions.

As technological innovations to sustainability are likely to be deployed in cities, the first question we ask is: What are the ethical and societal implications of technological solutions and how do these solutions interact with/are to be integrated in the cultural life of cities? We will tackle this question by discussing the values, assumptions and paradigms that drive our technological solutions; special attention will be paid to the role of art as a relevant force in (expanding) ethical debates. Furthermore, acknowledging the innovative force of citizens, their communities and their grassroots initiatives, we will examine how such initiatives allow us to revise our understanding of environmental problems and, subsequently, the solutions we envision.

A sustainable city implies urban planning and design that leads its citizens to appreciate city life and be attentive and willing to contribute to conditions that sustain high quality urban living.The environmental psychology perspective will focus on residential satisfaction and underlying causes as high density and crowding, cultural amenities and environmental aesthetics, place attachment, community initiatives to improve sustainability, e.g., regarding energy saving, management of parks and green areas, transportation, and green consumer behavior.

The Industrial Ecology perspective will be used to discuss the physical implications of the transition to sustainable cities. It will address the question how novel sustainable technologies will change the fabric of the city and how these physical changes will impact citizens.

During the course, we will guide our investigation by means of a case study on a technological innovation that is still under development, namely artificial photosynthesis. Artificial photosynthesis is a novel and promising technology characterized by a local and distributed model of energy production.

Course objectives

  • 1) Students will be able to identify the major sustainability challenges of the urban environment

  • 2) Students will be able to identify the major solutions to the sustainability challenges of the urban environment

  • 3) Students will be able to analyse the societal impacts of novel technological solutions in the urban context

  • 4) Students will be able to discuss the physical implications of the introduction of novel technological solutions in the urban context

  • 5) Students will acquire a broad psychological perspective of what inhabitants of cities experience regarding sustainability issues, and will become familiar with intervention programs that address sustainability issues.

  • 6) Students will be able to discuss technological innovations from the perspective of the values, assumptions and paradigms that drive these solutions.

  • 7) Students will be able to discuss the role of the city as a breeding ground for bottom-up initiatives to solve sustainability problems.


The timetable is available on the Urban Studies website.

Mode of instruction

  • Lecture

Course Load

Total course load for this course is 5 EC (1 EC equals 28 hours), which equals 140 hours, broken down by:

  • Attending lectures: 24

  • Assessment hours (exams): 4 hours

  • Study of compulsory literature: 96

  • Completing assignment(s), preparing for classes and exams: 16

Assessment method


  • Midterm exam
    Take home examination

  • Final exam
    Written examination with essay questions


Partial grade Weighing
Midterm Exam 30
Final Exam 70

End grade

To successfully complete the course, please take note of the following:

  • The end grade of the course is established by determining the weighted average of the midterm exam grade and final exam grade.

  • The weighted average of the midterm exam grade and the final exam grade needs to be 5.50 or higher.


If the end grade is insufficient (lower than a 6.0), or one of exam grades is lower than 5.50, there is a possibility of retaking the written examination material, replacing the previous exam grade(s).

Faculty regulations concerning participation in resits are listed in article 4.1 of the Faculty Course and Examination Regulations.

Inspection and feedback

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organised.


Blackboard will be used for:

  • Lecture slides

  • Readings

Reading list

Readings will be provided during the course, an indicative list is given below:

Block 1

  • Probably main input from “Sybil Derrible, Urban Engineering for Sustainability (to be published October 22, 2019)”

  • Chester, MV, Markolf, S, Allenby, B. Infrastructure and the environment in the Anthropocene. Journal of Industrial Ecology. 2019; 1– 10.

Block 2

  • Lederbogen, F. et al. (2011). City living and urban upbringing affect neural social stress processing in humans. Nature, 474, 498-501.

  • Moser, G., & Corroyer, D. (2001). Politeness in the urban environment: Is city life still synonymous with civility? Environment and Behavior, 33, 611-625.

  • Keizer, K., Lindenberg, S, & Steg, L. (2008). The spreading of disorder. Science, 322, 1681-1685.

  • Koole, S. L., & Van den Berg, A. E. (2005). Lost in the wilderness: Terror management, action orientation, and nature evaluation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 88, 1014-1028.

  • Evans, G. W., & Kim, P. (2007). Childhood poverty and health. Cumulative risk exposure and stress dysregulation. *Psychological Science8, 18, 953-957.

  • Hardin, G. (1968). The Tragedy of the Commons. Science, 162, 1243-1248.

  • Staats, H., Harland, P., & Wilke, H.. A. M. (2004). Effecting durable change. A team approach to improve environmental behavior in the household. Environment and Behavior, 36, 341-367.

  • Thögersen, J., & Ölander, F. (2006). The dynamic interaction of personal norms and environment-friendly buying behavior: a panel study. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 36, 1758-1780.

  • Gifford, R. (2013). Dragons, mules, and honeybees: Barriers, carriers, and unwitting enablers of climate change action. Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 69, 41-48

  • Schultz, P. W. (2014). Strategies for promoting proenvironmental behavior. Lots of tools but few instructions. European Psychologist, 19, 107-117.

  • Poortinga, W., & Whitaker, L. (2018). Promoting the use of reusable coffee cups through environmental messaging, the provision of alternatives and financial incentives. Sustainability, 10, 873

Block 3

  • Allenby, Braden R. and Daniel Sarewitz, We’ve made a world we cannot control. New Scientist, 14 May 2011, 28-29. (

  • Morton, Timothy, Poisoned Ground: Art and Philosophy in the Time of Hyperobjects, Symploke Vol. 21, Nos. 1-2 (2013), 37-50. (

  • Palsson, G., Szerszynski, B., Sörlin, S., Marks, J., Avril, B., Crumley, C., . . . Kirman, A. (2013). Reconceptualizing the ‘Anthropos’ in the Anthropocene: Integrating the social sciences and humanities in global environmental change research. Environmental Science & Policy, 28, 3-13.

  • Seyfang, G., & Smith, A. (2007). Grassroots innovations for sustainable development: Towards a new research and policy agenda. Environmental politics, 16(4), 584-603.

  • Sörlin, S. (2012). Environmental humanities: Why should biologists interested in the environment take the humanities seriously? BioScience, 62(9), 788-789.

  • Sovacool, B. K., & Gross, A. (2015). The social acceptance of artificial photosynthesis: towards a conceptual framework. Interface focus, 5(3), 20140089.
    Walker, G., & Devine-Wright, P. (2008). Community renewable energy: What should it mean? Energy policy, 36(2), 497-500.

  • Wüstenhagen, R., Wolsink, M., & Bürer, M. J. (2007). Social acceptance of renewable energy innovation: An introduction to the concept. Energy policy, 35(5), 2683-2691.


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.
General information about uSis is available on the website

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.


Dr. R. Kleijn Dr. H. Staats Prof. dr. ing. R. Zwijnenberg