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Sustainability and Health


Admission requirements

This is an Honours Elective module meant for second and if places available third year students of the Honours College FSW programme, Science & Society track. You have to participate in at least one Honours Elective module in your second year.


The 'shared transferable skills’ predominantly covered in this course are shown in bold:

(Meta-)cognitive (Researching) Interpersonal (Collaborating) Intrapersonal (Reflecting)
Analysing Oral communication Independent learning
Generating solutions Written communication Resilience
Project-based working Presenting
Digital skills Societal awareness


We take climate change as an entry point to study the intimate relationship between individual, collective, and planetary wellbeing. Going beyond neoliberalism’s technical-fixes and the reductionist neo-Marxist critique of ‘capitalism is to blame’, we think critically and holistically about what climate change can tell us about the kinds of relationships that constitute this young twenty-first century and discuss integrated ways forward.

We engage with sustainability science and transformation literatures as well as feminist, post-colonial, and more-than-human scholarship. We read reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and draw inspiration from documentaries, podcasts, songs, and poems. The course material reflects on the systemic nature of the climate crisis and the need to transform how we relate to ourselves and to others. We examine questions such as: What are the beliefs, values, worldviews, and paradigms underpinning a changing climate? How does climate change relate to other crises, such as growing inequality, political polarization, and the sixth mass extinction? What role does equity play in all of this? What is the relationship between sustainability and gender? Why is it not possible to ‘buy sustainability’? Why do many governments seem to pursue a politics of ‘re-growth’ and actively attempt to go back to the ‘old normal’ when the space to address the deeply entangled existential threats is getting ever shorter? What types of knowledge is needed to transform towards sustainability? How does sustainability touch upon the very foundation of my everyday life and is thereby personal?

The first part of the course introduces us to the physical science basis of a changing climate. We learn how climate change impacts form an increasing threat to the health of people alive today as well as those that still need to be born. We discuss the relationship between climate change and pandemics. The second part of the course allows us to understand how climate change is everything but an environmental problem ‘out there’. We explore how bending the curves of greenhouse gas emissions requires profound changes of our inner worlds and discuss how the beliefs, values, and worldviews underpinning growth-oriented societies are gendered.

The third part of the course confronts us with the fact that climate change is here to stay and that its impacts are unevenly distributed within and between societies. Adapting with rather than to climate change involves the recognition that we cannot adapt our way out of the climate crisis. The limits to adaptation shows the urgent need to transform the personal, political, and practical spheres of science and society. This includes shifting from a mechanistic paradigm of separateness to a relational paradigm grounded in multiple ways of knowing and modes of being. The final part of the course invites us to obtain a more demanding relationship with history and with the world by exploring the root causes of climate change. We discuss how climate change is connected to colonialism, the genocide of Indigenous peoples, and structures of organized violence that are foundational in forming the modern geopolitical order. A key insight is that transformation towards sustainability and decolonization are inextricable linked.

Moving away from disempowering doom and gloom scenarios, this course is concerned with reflection upon how we really matter more than we think and inquiry in how we can tap into our full potential to contribute to transformation towards sustainability. We answer individual and group reflective questions about ourselves and the course material prior to class to enhance the transformative potential of every session. We hold a group presentation where we reflect on our learning process (mind, heart, hand) during the final session of the course.

Course objectives

Through this course, we strive to achieve the following learning outcomes:

  • The student can explain the relationship between individual, collective, and planetary wellbeing

  • The student can explain how sustainability is foundational and thereby personal

  • The student has learned how to generate transformation towards sustainability

  • The student has learned to dialogue and reflect in an interdisciplinary context


Date Time Location Tentative programme
04-10-2022 18:00-20:00 The Hague The physical science basis of climate change
18-10-2022 18:00-20:00 The Hague A public health crisis
01-11-2022 18:00-20:00 The Hague The neglect of our inner worlds
15-11-2022 18:00-20:00 The Hague Bending the curves
29-11-2022 18:00-20:00 The Hague Adapting with the climate
13-12-2022 18:00-20:00 The Hague Going to the root



Mode of instruction

This course consists of six sessions. We start every session at 18:00 sharp. The sessions generally consist of a check-in round, one-minute reflective jottings, plenary discussion of an answered question from that week’s reflection note, a presentation about the first class-topic, a short break, and a presentation about the second class-topic. Time is allocated for dialogue and reflection.

Students are expected to invest approximately 112 hours for this 4 ECTS course by:

  • Attending 6 seminars of 2 hours each (participation is mandatory) – 12 hours

  • Engaging meaningfully with the course material – 60 hours

  • Writing the individual and group reflection notes based on iteration – 20 hours

  • Preparing the group presentation – 5 hours

  • Creating the creative project – 15 hours

Course material

We engage with a diversity of course material that can be divided into three groups. First, we read textbooks: Climate Change: A Very Short Introduction by Mark Maslin (2021) as well as Climate and Society: Transforming the Future by Robin Leichenko and Karen O’Brien (2019). These books complement each other very well and provide an accessible overview of the relationship between climate change and society. Second, we engage with interpretive social scientific literature as well as reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. And finally, we immerse ourselves in the vivid world of art by listening to songs and podcasts, reading poems, and watching documentaries. The multiplicity of sources enable us to relate to sustainability and health in a plurality ways.


The final grade is made up of the 6 x 2 weekly assessments and 2 final assessments.

6 x 2 Weekly assessments (Pass/ Fail)
Each week prior to the session, you submit on Brightspace your answers to two reflection notes. The first reflection note is to be answered individually and the second in the interdisciplinary groups that you have been assigned. You are required to answer at least 4 of the questions from each reflection note, but you are encouraged to answer more. Answers with an asterisk are mandatory. Answers do not need to be long, but they need to be relevant and display obvious engagement with the issues at hand. Answers to questions that relate to the work of author(s) from the course material need to include in-text citations. You are required to list a title for the reflection note, your name(s), student number(s), date of submission, and if applicable your group number. You are required to add an APA reference list at the end. The weekly assessments are evaluated on a Pass/ Fail system. You are not given feedback on your writing, but you cannot pass the course if you fail to submit the assessments. As we understand that life can get in the way, if you are facing difficulties with your workload or cannot submit your assignments for personal reasons, please contact the course coordinator in advance.

2 Final assessments (Pass/ Fail)
At the end of the course, you prepare two final assessments. The first assessment is a group presentation about your learning process (mind, heart, hand) during the final session of the course. You present the many ideas, thoughts, and preconceptions you have come to question and rethink during the course, and how interdisciplinary work has played a role in such a trajectory. We have a short discussion about each group presentation in plenary. The second assessment is a free creative project. This assessment can be done individually, in pairs, or in group. You are given the opportunity to engage personally with the course in the way that seems best for you. You are asked to bridge the things you’ve learned during the course with your immediate environment and anchor it in your reality. You may create a podcast, write a short story, reach out to an organization, and much more. The possibilities are endless.


Registration via uSis, activity code 13033.

You can register for the Elective Honours Modules via uSis until five days before the start of the course.

Courses starting in semester 1: registration opens 12/13 July .

Contact information

If you have any questions, please contact or the course coordinator: Jelle Buijs (