Sustainability Science

Tun Myint, Political Science, Carleton College


This course is conceived within the dual challenge of the need to understand how societal dynamics and environmental dynamics interact over time AND how they help induce or inhibit sustainability of social ecological systems. The course introduces students to theories, concepts, analytical frameworks, and research designs that will help us advance in understanding the dynamic relationship between societal changes and environmental changes.

Course URL: Syllabus linked from
Course Size:
less than 15

Course Format:
Small-group seminar

Institution Type:
Private four-year institution, primarily undergraduate

Course Context:

This is a course aimed at juniors and seniors with some previous study of political science and international relations. It also fills a requirement for the Food and Agriculture, Conservation and Development, and Water foci of the Environmental Studies major. The course attracts Political Science majors, Environmental Studies majors and other students interested in the environment.

Course Content:

Sustainability Science reviews the ontological and epistemic foundations of "sustainability" and then examines the dynamics and diversity of natural ecosystems and human institutions. After these topics are discussed, the major focus of the course is on understanding how social ecological systems respond to change: vulnerability, resilience, adaptation, collapse.


Assessment criteria are embedded into each of the specific assignments for the course.


Sustainability Science (Acrobat (PDF) 128kB Jun18 12)

References and Notes:

  • Fritjof Capra, The Hidden Connection: A Science for Sustainability Living
  • Simon Levin, Fragile Dominion: Complexity and Commons
  • Brian Walker and David Salt, Resilience Thinking: Sustaining Ecosystems and People in a Changing World
  • Lance H. Gunderson and C. S. Holling, Panarchy: Understanding Transformations in Human and Natural Systems
  • Donald Kennedy (ed), State of the Planet 2006-2007