Planetary Boundaries

Can our planet continue to support the current scope of human activity?

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Estimated 8 weeks
2–4 hours per week
Self-paced
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About this course

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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

At a glance

  • Language: English

What you'll learn

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  • The Anthropocene: what it is and why it matters
  • Tipping points: the big three boundaries of the planet
  • Resilience thinking: understanding the social-ecological implications of sustainability
  • Global governance: how do we move forward as a planet for sustainability?

Module 1: Introduction and the Big Picture

Module 2: Welcome to the Anthropocene

Module 3: Social-Ecological Systems and Resilience Thinking

Module 4: Planetary Boundaries Framework – Part 1

Module 5: Planetary Boundaries Framework – Part 2

Module 6: Planetary Boundaries and Global Equity

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

Module 8: Conclusion

About the instructors