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Sustainability and Health



This course addresses the relationship between personal, societal, and planetary health. Going beyond technical-fixes and the 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 our times and explore integrated ways forward.

The course 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 worldviews underpinning a changing climate? How is climate change related to other contemporary trends, such as growing inequality and biodiversity loss? What types of knowledge can we draw on for transformative practice? How does sustainability touch upon the foundation of my everyday life and is thereby personal?

The first part of the course explores the nature of the climate problem. We discuss the biophysical drivers of a changing climate, such as the burning of fossil fuels. We learn about the impacts of climate change and how they form a severe threat to public health. We discuss the important, yet largely neglected role of inner worlds for sustainability. We transform our thinking of climate change by studying it through a relational lens.

The second part of the course explores responses to climate change. A rapid reduction of greenhouse gas emissions requires structural changes that challenge the status quo. We explore how critical feminist theory and practice can mitigate climate change. We discuss the role of resilience, relinquishment, restoration, and reconciliation in the adaptation to unevenly distributed climate change impacts. We study the pandemic as a case of a disruptive event that exposed how transformative change is turbulent.

The final part of the course invites us to obtain a more demanding relationship with history and the world. We explore how climate change relates 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 equitable and sustainable transformation implies addressing continuing colonial relationships.

Climate change shows that turbulent transformation is currently unfolding, and that a transformation towards socially just and sustainable futures is urgent for life on Earth. This course therefore addresses the existential question that many are confronted with in these turbulent times, namely how can I matter more meaningfully in the world?

Course objectives

Through this course, we strive to achieve that students are able to:

  • explain the relationship between individual, societal, and planetary health

  • explain how sustainability is multidimensional, foundational, and personal

  • critically reflect on how science, society, and self can scale sustainability up

  • dialogue, reflect, and collaborate in an interdisciplinary context

Course material

The material for this course comprises a course book, reports, articles, book chapters, documentaries, and podcasts. We read Climate and Society: Transforming the Future by Robin Leichenko and Karen O’Brien (2019). We cover the 2023 Synthesis Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. We engage with critical and reflexive social scientific texts, anchored in sustainability science and transformation literatures as well as feminist, post-colonial, and Indigenous scholarship.

Mode of instruction

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

  • Attending 8 sessions (participation is mandatory) – 16 hours

  • Engaging meaningfully with the course material – 52 hours

  • Working on the weekly reflective assignments – 24 hours

  • Preparing the group presentation – 4 hours

  • Working on the free creative project – 16 hours

Assessment methods

The final grade is made up of the 7 x 2 weekly assessments and 2 final assessments.

7 x 2 Reflective assignments (pass/ fail)
Each week prior to the session, students answer reflective questions about themselves and the course material to enhance the transformative potential of session 1 till 7. The first reflective assignment is to be answered individually and the second in the interdisciplinary groups that they have been assigned to.

1 Group presentation (pass/ fail)
For the final session, students hold a group presentation in which they answer the following question: How can science, society, and self scale sustainability up? We have a short question and answer session after each group presentation in plenary.

1 Free creative project (pass/ fail)
At the end of the course, students are given the freedom to engage with the course in a creative way. Students anchor the things they have learned during the course in the everyday. Possible formats include a podcast, a short story, interviews with practitioners, and much more. Students submit a proposal to receive feedback.


The English language is used during the sessions. Group assignments must be submitted in English. Individual assignments may be submitted in English or Dutch.


The skills predominantly covered in this course are shown in bold:

Researching Collaborating Reflecting
Analysing Oral communication Independent learning
Generating solutions Written communication Resilience
Project-based working Presenting
Digital skills Societal awareness


The sessions will take place in the Hague. The excursion in the Hague and the feedback session are not mandatory.

Date Time Location Tentative program
10-10-2023 19:00-21:00 the Hague A public health crisis
17-10-2023 19:00-21:00 the Hague The neglect of inner worlds
24-10-2023 19:00-21:00 the Hague The relational view of life
31-10-2023 19:00-21:00 the Hague Critical mitigation
11-11-2023 11:00-15:00 the Hague (Re-)connecting with nature (excursion)
14-11-2023 19:00-21:00 the Hague Deep adaptation
21-11-2023 19:00-21:00 the Hague Turbulent transformation
28-11-2023 19:00-21:00 the Hague Decolonizing relationships
12-12-2023 19:00-21:00 the Hague Scaling sustainability up
5-02-2024 19:00-21:00 the Hague Providing feedback

Admission requirements

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


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

Contact information

If you have any questions, please contact the course coordinator