This course takes you on a wide-ranging journey through the many aspects of sustainability and explores ways to tackle a sustainable future positively. We will look briefly at issues such as ecological footprinting, globalisation, recycling, food production, fishing, waste heat, nature and culture.
This course will appeal to anyone interested in learning more about a sustainable future, as well as those who are interested in contemporary Scottish society.
Understanding what is meant by the terms 'sustainability' and 'sustainable development' can be the first hurdle. Nearly all academic and popular science books on the environment talk about these terms without giving a clear definition. The Brundtland Commission (1987), or Brundtland Report, is often referred to and it states that sustainable development 'is development which meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs'.
Generally, two types of sustainability are spoken about: weak and strong (Dresner, 2002). Sustainability can also be seen in economic terms, including the idea of natural capital that was used in the Brundtland Report (Pearce et al, 1989). The underlying principle here being that if, for example, something is taken out of the earth, something else renewable must be substituted as compensation. The extreme of this idea would be not to take anything out of the earth at all, but that would perhaps be a little unrealistic. If there is no decline in natural capital, then the sustainability is seen as 'strong'. If natural capital can have human-made capital substituted, then that is regarded as 'weak' sustainability.
Attitudes to environmental issues are affected by people's beliefs and background. Often environmentalists are perceived as middle-class people who don't understand the economic situations of those whose livelihood depends on a particular industry. Take the fishing industry for example. Fishing quotas are seen by environmentalists as a chance for regeneration of fishing stock, whereas the fishing folk see it as unemployment and an economic decline in the local area. This particular issue is revisited again later in the course.
People who concentrate on the future of environmental resources for their children and grandchildren are said to have a 'green sustainability agenda'. Those who concentrate on the difficulties experienced by those currently living in a low-income socially-deprived area are said to have a 'brown environmental health agenda'.
There are almost as many perspectives on the environment as there are on political parties.
This OpenLearn course provides a sample of level 1 study in