• Course Code:  PB

  • Term:  September 2015

  • Start Date:  Sep 14 2015

  • End Date:  Nov 17 2015

  • Duration:  10 weeks

  • Course Author(s)
    Johan Rockström Colleagues

This course has ended

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Planetary Boundaries and Human Opportunities

September 2015

Planetary Boundaries|Sustainable Development|Climate Change

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    Lisa Deutsch
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    Andrew Merrie
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    Garry Peterson


Since the concept of planetary boundaries was first published in 2009 it has generated enormous interest and debate. Our scientists have spoken at the United Nations. Businesses have asked, how do we apply “planetary boundaries” to our business models? The World Wildlife Fund has adopted planetary boundaries as a core part of its strategy.


The reason is clear: the last decade has seen an explosion in scientific knowledge about our planet. Now, the world is waking up to the realization that our relationship with our planet is changing rapidly. There is a new responsibility emerging for humanity to ensure the long-term stability of Earth’s life support system.


This course, Planetary Boundaries and Human Opportunities: The Quest for Safe and Just Development on a Resilient Planet, is designed to provide people everywhere with the latest science in clear simple modules accessible to all. We believe this knowledge will help empower more people to view themselves as “global citizens” and become “planetary stewards.”


The course will provide a basic understanding of each component of the Earth system - the atmosphere, oceans, forests, waterways, the rich diversity of life on our planet and our global economy. The course will focus on the processes of change and how these components interact, often in unexpected ways. The course will also include solutions from the community level to the global. Finally, the course will equip participants with a set of tools for thinking differently about the challenges and opportunities in the field of global sustainability.


Please note that this course is designed to be flexible and will support the amount of time and energy you are able to put in. Once content for a specific module is released, all that content is available until the course closes. Also, at any point after the course launches on the 14th of September, you can still enroll for the course and participate fully. So, do it today and we promise you can make it work with your schedule!


Course Syllabus:


Module 1 - Introduction and the Big Picture

1.1 Introduction
1.2 The big picture


Module 2 - Welcome to the Anthropocene

2.1 The Holocene and the Anthropocene
2.2 Visions of the Anthropocene


Module 3  - Social-ecological systems and Resilience thinking

3.1 Social-ecological resilience
3.2 Understanding complexity in a turbulent world


Module 4 - Planetary Boundaries Framework – Part 1

4.1 A new framework for human development
4.2 The big three boundaries: processes with global scale tipping points


Module 5 - Planetary Boundaries Framework – Part 2

5.1 The four slow boundaries
5.2 Human-made planetary boundaries processes


Module 6 - Planetary Boundaries and Global Equity

6.1 Natural resources and interactions between boundaries
6.2 A safe AND just operating space for humanity


Module 7 - Moving towards global sustainability within biophysical and social boundaries

7.1 Global governance
7.2 Promising pathways to success


Module 8 - Conclusion

8.1 Science in the Anthropocene and the Sustainable Development Goals

8.2 Conclusions


Throughout the course, Professor Rockström and colleagues from the Stockholm Resilience Centre will hold live hangouts to answer questions about the course and also engage in discussion around hot button issues in global sustainability. These hangouts are in addition to discussion forums where participants can engage with fellow students and course staff.    

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