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Introduction Sustainability and Health


Entry requirements

Second year students of the Honours College FSW programme, Science & Society track.


As the world population increases and consumption expands, pressure on ecosystems intensifies. Although industrialisation and globalisation have generated unprecedented levels of material affluence for some parts of the world population, exploitation of ecosystems and human resources has led to health issues on physical and mental levels for humans and non-human agents alike.

In this introductory course, we will discuss a variety of insights on the influence of contemporary economic systems on ecosystems and human physical and mental health. We will explore the possibilities of developing sustainable alternatives that allow for a healthier society.

Learning objectives

After completing this course, you will:

  • be familiar with a broad range of insights on sustainability and the interplay between economy and physical and mental health

  • be familiar with current debates on sustainable alternatives for our economy

  • be able to take and defend your position in current scientific debates on sustainability and health

  • be able to describe the position of a specific group in society in relation to sustainability and health

Mode of instruction

The course consists of three interactive meetings and one meeting for final presentations.
Before the first meeting, you will read relevant literature and listen to inspiring perspectives on sustainablity and health. In the first meeting, you will be challenged to critically examine these perspectives. You will form a group of 3 to 5 students to conduct your research. In the second meeting, the instructor will present a case study from her own research and a number of controversial statements as a source of inspiration for you to tackle your own case study. In the third meeting, you will discuss issues of representation: how can you secure a both academically and ethically sound representation of your research findings?
In between the meetings, you will conduct a very short field research of a controversial topic within the field of sustainabilty and health among a societal group of your own choosing. You will present your findings in an academic blog series or an academic mini movie.
In the final meeting, you will present your blog series or your movie to your instructor and the second-year students of the Science & Society track.

Literature & Podcasts

For The Wild podcast with Joanna Macy: One hour.

Hothouse Earth study of August 2018 worldwide headlines in mainstream media: Make sure to read this part too: 7 and 15 pages, plus references.

Radio EcoShock 13 Sept 2018: - interview with Will Steffen (lead author Hothouse Earth) = 30 mins.

For The Wild podcast with Robin Wall Kimmerer: 1 hour on combining science and indigenous ways of knowing.

Charles Eisenstein essay 14 pages.
IPCC Special Report on 1.5 Degrees: Please read the Summary for Policymakers, 33 pages.

“An Integrating Story for a Sustainable Future”, Mary Evelyn Tucker and Brian Thomas Swimme. Chapter 27 in Costanza, R., & Kubiszewski, I. (2014). Creating A Sustainable And Desirable Future: Insights From 45 Global Thought Leaders. New Jersey: World Scientific. 4 pages, available online through the UBL catalogue.

Intersectionality 101 (if this concept is new to you): 3-minute video.
Mindfulness in UK Parliament report: Download from Executive summary, 4 pages, Foreword, 2 pages, and What is Mindfulness (4 pages, if you do not already know).

This literature must be read before the first meeting. Take a document to the first meeting in which you answer the following questions:

1) What three new insights did you gain from the literature and podcasts?
2) Which three topics do you wish to explore further after reading the literature and listening to the podcasts?
3) Please formulate a provocative academic and/or societal statement inspired by/based on the literature and podcasts.





Number of Participants

Maximum number of participants: 50


You will receive qualitative feedback on your blog series or movie. Assessment of your participation in the categories insufficient, good or excellent will be based on commitment, courage and academic rigour.


Date Time Location Room
15-10-2019 18:00-20:30 P. de la Courtgebouw 5A47
29-10-2019 18:00-20:30 P. de la Courtgebouw 5A47
12-11-2019 18:00-20:30 P. de la Courtgebouw 5A47
29-11-2019 15:15-17:00 P. de la Courtgebouw 5A47


Registration via uSis, activity code 12326.

Contact information

If you have any questions, please contact your coach, Nienke van der Heide or Dorothée Out.