• Course Code:  PB

  • Term:  On Demand

  • Start Date:  Sep 26 2016

  • End Date:  Aug 31 2018

  • Enroll by:  Aug 12 2018

  • Duration:  101 weeks

  • Course Author(s)
    Johan Rockström
Related Channels

Learn from experts in your community

  • 07 Affordable and Clean Energy
    Energy is central to nearly every major challenge and opportunity the world faces today. Be it for jobs, security, climate change, food production or increasing incomes, access to energy for all is essential. Sustainable energy is opportunity – it transforms lives, economies and the planet. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is leading a Sustainable Energy for All initiative to ensure universal access to modern energy services, improve efficiency and increase use of renewable sources.
  • 13 Climate Action
    Climate change is now affecting every country on every continent. It is disrupting national economies and affecting lives, costing people, communities and countries dearly today and even more tomorrow. People are experiencing the significant impacts of climate change, which include changing weather patterns, rising sea level, and more extreme weather events. The greenhouse gas emissions from human activities are driving climate change and continue to rise. They are now at their highest levels in history. Without action, the world’s average surface temperature is projected to rise over the 21st century and is likely to surpass 3 degrees Celsius this century—with some areas of the world expected to warm even more. The poorest and most vulnerable people are being affected the most. Affordable, scalable solutions are now available to enable countries to leapfrog to cleaner, more resilient economies. The pace of change is quickening as more people are turning to renewable energy and a range of other measures that will reduce emissions and increase adaptation efforts. But climate change is a global challenge that does not respect national borders. Emissions anywhere affect people everywhere. It is an issue that requires solutions that need to be coordinated at the international level and it requires international cooperation to help developing countries move toward a low-carbon economy. To address climate change, countries adopted the Paris Agreement at the COP21 in Paris on 12 December 2015. The Agreement entered into force shortly thereafter, on 4 November 2016. In the agreement, all countries agreed to work to limit global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees Celsius, and given the grave risks, to strive for 1.5 degrees Celsius. Implementation of the Paris Agreement is essential for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, and provides a roadmap for climate actions that will reduce emissions and build climate resilience.
  • 14 Life Below Water
    The world’s oceans – their temperature, chemistry, currents and life – drive global systems that make the Earth habitable for humankind. Our rainwater, drinking water, weather, climate, coastlines, much of our food, and even the oxygen in the air we breathe, are all ultimately provided and regulated by the sea. Throughout history, oceans and seas have been vital conduits for trade and transportation. Careful management of this essential global resource is a key feature of a sustainable future.
Planetary bounderies

Planetary Boundaries and Human Opportunities

On Demand

  • Sdg academy website announcment
    The SDG Academy Team


This course is self-paced – you can enroll anytime before August 12, 2018 and complete the course materials any time before August 31, 2018. To enroll for this course (and others) after August 12, 2018, please visit our website or sign up for our newsletter!


A thriving global society relies on the stability of the Earth and its resilience across oceans, forests, waterways, biodiversity, the atmosphere and more. So how do we shape sustainability at a global scale? The boundaries set by the planet’s natural resources, the resilience of those resources, and the human activities that impact sustainability all come into play.


In this massive open online course, see the rapidly evolving trends in global environmental change and the responses aimed at slowing or eliminating these changes. Get an overview of what is seen by some scientists as our current geological epoch – the Anthropocene, or an age of global change driven most significantly by humans. Learn how unsustainable patterns of production, consumption and population growth have challenge planetary resilience, all in support of human activity – and how our societies can develop in a just and safe way within the planet’s boundaries.


This course is for:

  • Anyone new to the concept of sustainable development who wants to understand the interplay between human actions and what the planet can support.
  • Graduate students and advanced undergraduate students interested in the key concepts and practices of sustainability, environmental science, responsible consumption and related topics
  • Sustainable development practitioners – as well as private-sector actors, such as those who work in corporate sustainability and responsibility – who want a concise overview of the latest developments in the field

Course Syllabus

Week 1: Introduction and the Big Picture

  • Chapter 1: Introduction
  • Chapter 2: The Big Picture

Week 2: Welcome to the Anthropocene

  • Chapter 1: The Holocene and the Anthropocene
  • Chapter 2: Visions of the Anthropocene 

Week 3: Social-Ecological Systems and Resilience thinking

  • Chapter 1: Social-Ecological Resilience
  • Chapter 2: Understanding Complexity in a Turbulent World

Week 4: Planetary Boundaries Framework – Part 1

  • Chapter 1: A New Framework for Human Development
  • Chapter 2: The Big Three Boundaries: Processes with Global Scale Tipping Points 

Week 5: Planetary Boundaries Framework – Part 2

  • Chapter 1: The Four Slow Boundaries
  • Chapter 2: Human-made Planetary Boundaries Processes 

Week 6: Planetary Boundaries and Global Equity

  • Chapter 1: Natural Resources and Interactions Between Boundaries
  • Chapter 2: A Safe and Just Operating Space for Humanity 

Week 7: Moving towards Global Sustainability within Biophysical and Social Boundaries

  • Chapter 1: Global Governance
  • Chapter 2: Promising Pathways to Success

Week 8: Conclusion

  • Chapter 1: Science in the Anthropocene and the Sustainable Development Goals
  • Chapter 2: Conclusions

About the Instructors

Johan Rockström, Lead Instructor

Johan Rockström is a Professor in Environmental Science with emphasis on water resources and global sustainability at Stockholm University and the Executive Director of Stockholm Resilience Centre. He is an internationally recognized scientist on global sustainability issues, where he led the recent development of the new Planetary Boundaries framework for human development in the current era of rapid global change.


He is a leading scientist on global water resources, and strategies to build resilience in water scarce regions of the world, with more than 15 years experience from applied water research in tropical regions, and more than 100 research publications in fields ranging from applied land and water management to global sustainability.


Sarah Cornell, Instructor

Sarah Cornell is the research coordinator of the Planetary Boundaries research group at the SRC, and a co-convenor of the international Planetary Boundaries Research Network. Both of these initiatives take a transdisciplinary approach and link insights from Earth system science and social-ecological resilience, to better characterise the complex issues of global sustainability. 


Sarah’s research background is in marine and atmospheric biogeochemistry, but like many global change scientists, she has a very interdisciplinary research trajectory. She has worked on integrated environmental assessment, risk management, sustainability governance, and the philosophy of science. Her current research focuses on conceptualisations of humans in the Earth system. Her main interests are in obtaining a multidimensional understanding of anthropogenic global changes and what they mean for people.


Garry Peterson, Instructor

Garry Peterson is a Professor in Environmental Sciences with focus on resilience in social-ecological systems and head of the PhD programme in Sustainability Science at the Stockholm Resilience Centre, at Stockholm University.  He co-leads a research project on social-ecological dynamics of ecosystem services in the Stockholm region, contributes to IPBES, and contributed to the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment.  He is co-leader of the regime shifts research theme at the Stockholm Resilience Centre (regimeshifts.org). 


Garry Peterson has an interdisciplinary background and his research has consistently combined theoretical development with applied practical work. His current research focusses on how interactions among people and nature produce diverse benefits for people, or ecosystem services, and how social-ecological systems can abruptly reorganize. He is also currently working on identifying how alternative social-ecological trajectories that could lead towards 'good' futures for people in the Anthropocene can be identified and compared.      


Carl Folke, Instructor

Carl Folke, professor, is the founder and Science Director of the Stockholm Resilience Centre and the Director of the Beijer Institute of Ecological Economics at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. Carl has contributed to the development of new research areas, interdisciplinary arenas, and concepts that have spread in science, policy and practice. He works with interdisciplinary and integrative science for sustainability with a focus on social-ecological systems, resilience thinking, and ecological economics, emphasizing that people are embedded parts of the biosphere and at the same time shaping it from local to global levels, and how to adaptively govern and manage for resilience and transformation in social-ecological systems.   


Carl has produced over 250 scientific papers (16 in Science and Nature) and 13 books, including Linking Social and Ecological Systems: Management Practices and Social Mechanisms for Building Resilience (with F. Berkes) Cambridge 1998, Navigating Social-Ecological Systems: Building Resilience for Complexity and Change (with F. Berkes and J. Colding) Cambridge 2003, and Principles of Ecosystem Stewardship: Resilience-Based Natural Resource Management in a Changing World (with Chapin, F.S, III, and G.P. Kofinas) Springer Verlag 2009. He serves as advisor to international research institutes, has a long record of science and policy collaboration, and more recently collaboration between science and the business community.   


Lisa Deutsch, Course Director and Instructor

Dr. Lisa Deutsch is a Senior Lecturer and the Director of Studies at the Stockholm Resilience Centre. Lisa is responsible for the innovative activities and study programs that focus on developing the next generation of resilience and sustainability scientists. She also teaches at both undergraduate and post-graduate levels.


Lisa's research examines the couplings between the ecological effects of globalization of food production systems and national policy and economic accounts. She particularly focuses on the impacts of global trade on food systems. She also works on the challenge of tracing and mapping food flows to cities to explore how cities feed themselves. Her work contributes to the development of a set of complementary tools that can be used to understand global food flows and the dependence of cities and nations on services from ecosystems globally.


Kevin Noone, Instructor

Kevin Noone is Professor of Meteorology at the Department of Applied Environmental Science at Stockholm University. He was the founding Director of the Swedish Secretariat for Environmental Earth System Sciences (SSEESS) at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences from 2010-2014, and has been affiliated with the Stockholm Resilience Centre. From 2004-2008 he was the Executive Director of the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP). He has a background in Chemical Engineering, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Oceanography, Meteorology, and Atmospheric Physics. He has been on the faculty at both Stockholm University in Sweden and the University of Rhode Island in the U.S.


His early research work in Chemical Engineering focused on transparent semiconductors for use as solar cells. His primary research interests at present are in the areas of sustainability science, atmospheric chemistry & physics, the effects of aerosols and clouds on air quality and the Earth's climate, and Earth System science. He is an advocate of using holistic approaches to obtaining a solid scientific basis for decisions on environmental and climate issues. He is author/coauthor of more than 120 scientific articles, two books and 10 book chapters. 


Victor Galaz, Instructor

Victor Galaz is an Associate Professor and Senior Lecturer in political science, and is currently working as a researcher and co-theme leader for Global and Cross-Scale Dynamics at the Stockholm Resilience Centre, and as Acting Executive Director for the Global Economic Dynamics and the Biosphere programme at The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.


His current research interests are in global environmental governance, planetary boundaries, emerging technologies and emerging political conflicts associated with the notion of the Anthropocene. His work has been featured in international media such as Wired, The Guardian, New Scientist and Nature. He is a regular contributor in the Swedish public and policy debate about environmental policy and emerging technologies. Victor is also the author of "Global Environmental Governance, Technology and Politics - The Anthropocene Gap" (Edward Elgar, 2014).


Thomas Elmqvist, Instructor


Thomas Elmqvist, PhD, is a professor in Natural Resource Management at the Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University. His research is focused on ecosystem services, land use change, urbanization, natural disturbances and components of resilience including the role of social institutions. He serves as associated editor for the journals Ecology and Society, Ecosystem services, and Sustainability Science. He has led the “Cities and Biodiversity project” (www.cbobook.org) and currently leading a Future Earth project “What is Urban” and part of the scoping expert group on regional and sub-regional assessments in IPBES.

One Last Thing!

Check your email inbox and click on the email verification link we just sent you.

If it doesn’t reach your inbox in a few moments, it might be in your spam folder. Don’t forget to add our email address to your contacts if it did end up in spam! That’ll make sure it doesn’t happen again.

As soon as you’ve verified your email, you’ll be able to continue.



Confirm Payment

Payment Unavailable. Try again later.

Planetary Boundaries and Human Opportunities


Credit Card