Course syllabus


FFR160 FFR160 Sustainable development lp1 HT21 (7.5 hp)

Course is offered by the department of Space, Earth and Environment

The syllabus is also available on the study portal, here (select academic year 2021/2022).

Contact details

Names and contact details of all teaching and administrative staff for this course are available here: Course staff - names and contact details.

Course purpose

The aim of this course is to give students the opportunity to acquire a systems perspective on society of today, and based on this develop their insights into restrictions and possibilities that follow from the need to transform the industrial society to conform to a sustainable development. Besides attaining knowledge of the concept of sustainable development, including different perspectives on this concept, students will learn about the consequences of societal resource use, and about strategies for changing this use into a more sustainable direction.


You can find a PDF version of the schedule here [update Sept 27]. Note that zoom links will be provided as the course progresses. Exercises with multiple rooms will be conducted in groups, and the relevant room for your group will be announced ahead of the exercise. 

Course literature

All students need to obtain a copy of the book ‘Sustainable development – perspectives and nuances’ by Fredrik Hedenus, Martin Persson and Frances Sprei, before the start of the course. This book can either be bought online (e.g. from Studentlitteratur, Adlibris or Bokus) or from the bookstore at Chalmers campus Johanneberg.

All other literature will be made available as pdf documents for download on the course portal. You will find info about relevant literature in the module for the respective lecture or seminar/exercise sessions. For some lectures, we will also provide links to film clips that you should watch before the lecture.

Guest lecturers may be invited to the course and they may propose reading material associated with their lectures. If so, these documents will be uploaded on the course portal.

Course design


The course starts with a block of lectures giving perspectives on the concept sustainable development and on Man's interaction with nature from a historical perspective. Environmental ethics and intergenerational justice are discussed. After this, lectures are dedicated to the concept of industrial ecology, providing systems perspectives on human-nature interactions and the societal metabolism in a sustainable development perspective. A second block of lectures concerns sustainable use of land, minerals, and other resources, including agriculture and forestry, energy systems, and materials systems. Lectures are also dedicated to principles of international environmental agreements and specifically to climate agreements and connected international processes. In a third block of lectures - working for sustainability - guest lecturers present their own experience of working for sustainability in various functions in society. Earlier themes include environmental diplomacy and climate negotiations, work on eco-labeling, sustainability certification of forestry, and Agenda 21 work in Göteborg.


During the course, exercises will provide opportunities for the students to discuss and learn more about specific topics of relevance for sustainable development. The exercises will facilitate orientation and learning related to central themes in the course.

These sessions should thus be seen as an opportunity to work with and apply, e.g., core concepts and definitions that have been introduced during lectures, thus allowing students to deepen their understanding and clarify open questions about these concepts. Active participation in group and classroom discussions is highly encouraged to make the most of this learning opportunity.

The seminars and exercises are compulsory. Students not participating in a specific seminar or exercise will need to perform an individual task that relates to the theme that was covered in the respective course session. 

Before each seminar or exercises session, you will be assigned preparatory tasks. These can for example involve reading and calculations to obtain information that are illustrative for the seminar or exercise theme.

Some preparatory tasks can be done individually or in groups containing 2-3 students. Others need to be prepared in pre-defined groups. You will hand in your tasks before the course session via the course portal, where you will also find further information about the hand in process. Deadlines for hand-ins are given in the schedule. The teachers will use the hand-ins in their planning of the seminars and exercises. However, no individual feedback will be given.

You will also be presented with a number of issues related to the seminar or exercise themes. These issues will be subject to discussion and debate during the course session. You should think them through and be prepared to state your own views in relation to the issues, with a presentation of the bases for these views. You can prepare in groups (where you do not need to reach consensus) or individually.

We recommend students to consult Chalmers guidelines (Links to an external site.) on academic honesty that informs about the most common ways in which to use and refer to the work of others. It is very important to follow these guidelines.

Learning outcomes

After completion of the course students should be able to:

  • Account for the meaning of sustainable development and its three principal dimensions: the ecological, the economic and the social dimension, including intergenerational justice;
  • use a systems perspective, to describe sustainability challenges and possibilities for major technical systems and for their transformation to meet sustainability requirements;
  • account for major restrictions and options for the use of resources and technologies from the standpoint of sustainable development;
  • account for, on a basic level, socially and economically related conflicts of interests that may block implementation of sustainable development;
  • account for strategies, international agreements and major policy instruments for a sustainable use of resources and ecosystem services;
  • account for relevant analytical concepts, and have the capability to use these for analyzing issues related to sustainable development;
  • account for basic ethical theory and apply it to analyze arguments and decisions on issues of sustainability.

Examination form

There will be a written examination at the end of the course. The grade scaling (for points) are failed (<25), 3 (25), 4 (32), or 5 (40), respectively. Maximum achievable points are 50.

Submission of all assignments, and participation in all exercises and hand-in of any associated reports is necessary to pass the course.

Course summary:

Date Details Due