Teaching‎ > ‎

Undergraduate courses

I am involved in teaching various courses in the Global Sustainability Science bachelor and Sustainable Development masters courses at Utrecht University. 

Among others, I teach in the courses:

I also teach and coordinate the course GEO1-2413 - Socio-economic Processes.

GEO1-2413 - Socio-economic Processes


Sustainability science focuses on the dynamic interactions between nature and society. Many different social science theories have been employed to conceptualize and explain the nature-society interactions that are at the root of many sustainability issues, such as biodiversity loss, and climate change. But social science theories do not only contribute to increasing our capacity to understand sustainability issues; they also inform policy and action to realize sustainability. In fact, if sustainable modes of coexistence of society and nature are to be realized, it is crucial not only to understand, but also to change those dynamic interactions - and the social sciences have a key role to play in thinking about such change. In the words of the world-renowned geographer and sustainability scientists Karen O’Brien:   

“As the global discourse shifts from understanding and explaining environmental problems to addressing them quickly and effectively, there is a need to integrate insights from the social sciences and humanities into a new science of global change – a science that recognizes subjectivity and emphasizes the notion of change, including transformational social change.” (O’Brien, 2011:542)

This course will equip you with the skills to recognize, select and employ some of the key social science theories used in sustainability science. The first part of the course will introduce the students to the study of society, of society’s interactions with nature, and of societal change, thus also demonstrating the specificity of a social scientific perspective on sustainability. The second part of the course examines various socio-economic processes of change in nature-society interactions, thus introducing and discussing a range of different, but often complementary theories that are commonly used to conceptualize change toward sustainability. 

Socio-economic Processes is taught through interactive lectures, tutorials and practicals, and makes ample use of real world examples and case studies. The students can expect to be engaged in diverse learning activities which include concept mapping, small group discussions, writing exercises, and hands-on critiques of their own implicit assumptions about socio-economic processes that are critical for sustainability.  

Among the courses that I taught in the past there are the following ones:

Growth, Degrowth and Sustainability (at the University of Reading, Geography Bachelor Degrees)
Historically, the pursuit of social well-being through economic growth has been closely tied to increasing consumption levels as well as increasing loads on the environment, which has resulted in several environmental problems (e.g. depletion of natural resources, climate change). Besides, it has become apparent that economic growth is only limitedly associated with social prosperity. As a consequence, different models of development and of structuring the relationship between economic and social systems and the environment have been proposed, among which green growth and de-growth. These alternative models address the issue of the pursuit of economic growth on a finite planet differently, but agree on the need for socio-technical change at different levels, including behavioural (e.g. consumption patterns), institutional (e.g. social norms and values), and technical change. The module will discuss key concepts and a range of theoretical approaches to addressing these issues. The topics covered by this module include: economic systems and the environment; indicators of social prosperity; population, resources and environment; de-growth; dynamics of socio-technical change.

Environment and Development in Latin America (at the University of Reading, Geography Bachelor Degrees)
This module critically explores the relationship between environment and development in the context of Latin America from theoretical and applied perspectives. It addresses issues of sustainable development, the effects of economic activities, political decisions and social conditions on the environment, indigenous cultures and new trends of environmental governance in Latin America. The module focuses on formal and informal arrangements, interactions among state, private sector and civil society actors, at a range of geographical levels from the household to the community, regional, national and international level. The module focuses on contemporary trends and debates, especially those related to rural areas, but pays due attention to their historical, particularly colonial and post-colonial roots. Topics covered in the module include: conservation and environmental governance; agriculture and climate change; ‘buen vivir’ and indigenous conceptions of the ‘good life’; peasant struggles, land grabbing and rural change; water management; the role of Latin America in global environmental governance.