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Content: Free Online Sustainability Course

Next starting January 21st 2014 and running for 8 weeks

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"Sustainability: an introduction" examines the global forces that will determine our sustainable future. We'll look at such questions as:

  • What are the biggest threats - is it loss of biodiversity, climate change, or population growth?
  • Is "peak oil" real, and can renewable sources bridge the energy gap?
  • Where are we headed - do demographics, economics, science and policy point towards a prosperous future?

The course is completely free, and delivered online. There will be a mixture of readings, short strangler figlectures, quizzes, collaborative projects and discussions. All participants who successfully complete the required activities (and tests!) will earn a completion badge.

This course is the first ever "MOOC" (Massive Open Online Course) on sustainability, and is being supported by the School of Earth, Society and Environment, the Office of Online and Continuing Education, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and by the University of Illinois. First taught in August 2012 with over 35 thousand participants from more than 160 countries!

The course has recieved much press, including from the New York Times.

Meet your Professor: Tomkin AntarcticaDr. Jonathan Tomkin is the Associate Director of the School of Earth, Society and Environment at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Dr. Tomkin leads the undergraduate program in sustainability and his research aims to uncover the processes of how changing climates, glaciers, and landscapes interact. This study has involved fieldwork all over the world - including the Olympic Mountains, the Swiss Alps, Patagonia and Antarctica.

In addition to his research into the Earth, Dr. Tomkin is interested in cutting-edge instruction - hear his talk on what MOOCs mean for Universities, here.

book coverThe textbook is free and downloadable from the web.

To download a pdf: click here

To download an epub: click here

To check for updates, go here

To learn more about the textbook, go here

This is what we'll be learning in each of the 8 weeks:

Week 1: Introduction & Population pessimism vs. optimism: Demographics, neo-malthusians and the disappearance of the third world

Week 2: Ecosystems, Extinction & Tragedy of the Commons A theory that threatens to doom us all?

Week 3: Climate Change The climate of the near future: hot, hotter, or hottest?

Week 4: Energy What happens when we reach “Peak Oil” Renewable energy: is there enough to make the switch?

Week 5: Agriculture and Water Can we continue to increase food production - or have we reached the limit of what the land can support?

Week 6: Environmental Economics and Policy Can economists lead the way to sustainability?

Week 7: Measuring sustainability How do we know we're making a difference?

Week 8: Ethics and Culture the long view