Sustainable Development

Subject GEOG30019 (2015)

Note: This is an archived Handbook entry from 2015.

Credit Points: 12.5
Level: 3 (Undergraduate)
Dates & Locations:

This subject has the following teaching availabilities in 2015:

Semester 1, Parkville - Taught on campus.
Pre-teaching Period Start not applicable
Teaching Period 02-Mar-2015 to 31-May-2015
Assessment Period End 26-Jun-2015
Last date to Self-Enrol 13-Mar-2015
Census Date 31-Mar-2015
Last date to Withdraw without fail 08-May-2015

Timetable can be viewed here. For information about these dates, click here.
Time Commitment: Contact Hours: 34: Twenty four hours lectures & ten hours tutorials
Total Time Commitment:

170 hours

Prerequisites: None
Corequisites: None
Recommended Background Knowledge:

Usually completion of 25 points of first year geography and GEOG20003: Environmental Politics and Management or the approval of the subject coordinator.

Non Allowed Subjects: None
Core Participation Requirements:

For the purposes of considering request for Reasonable Adjustments under the Disability Standards for Education (Cwth 2005), and Students Experiencing Academic Disadvantage Policy, academic requirements for this subject are articulated in the Subject Description, Subject Objectives, Generic Skills and Assessment Requirements of this entry. The University is dedicated to provide support to those with special requirements. Further details on the disability support scheme can be found at the Disability Liaison website:


Dr Brian Cook


Faculty of Science

Phone: 13 MELB (13 6352)

Subject Overview:

Everyone knows what ‘Sustainable Development’ is, but if you stop to think, it may become less clear. Sustainable development has become a chameleon, suiting different needs and fulfilling different roles for different people with different interests. In this subject, we will explore this appealing-yet-slippery concept with the aim of deciding whether it is a suitable concept with which to explore the cultural, environmental, and economic challenges facing society and future generations.

In addition to the debates over sustainable development, this subject will provide students with the skills needed to examine, analyse, and report on challenges related to their interests. At its heart, the subject explores the primary question of sustainable development, which is whether it can be useful in a world (seemingly) approaching numerous catastrophic tipping points. The climate is changing, the oceans are acidifying, the soils cannot keep producing our food, and wealth is being concentrated amongst a smaller and smaller segment of the world. Is sustainable development helpful in understandings, and ideally changing, this situation?

There are also more practical considerations surrounding the debate over sustainable development. Some might be interested in having a greater, positive impact on the world through development projects, micro-credit, or volunteering. Is sustainable development helpful? Can the concept help people actively engaged in improving our world (or at least trying)? Does it help ensure that their efforts are beneficial and not perverted by wider interests and processes? It is also worth considering if ‘Sustainable Development’ might not be better thought of as an analytical framing: as a way of pulling apart problems or projects in order to better understand or assess their impact on ecological sustainability, development, or economics?

In this subject we will review the history of sustainable development, which draws together literature from Geography, Sociology, Engineering, Psychology, Economics, and the Sciences. We will explore the critiques of sustainable development, and force ourselves to consider whether it is possible, practical, or even useful in the ‘real world’. We will explore several key challenges, using sustainable development as a lens. And finally and most creatively, we will attempt to reinterpret sustainable development in a world of growing inequality.

For more information see:

Learning Outcomes:

On completion of this subject students will:

  • understand and be able to compare a range of theories related to sustainable development;
  • be able to apply numerous methods designed to critically engage with debates over sustainable development;
  • be familiar with different framings of sustainable development;
  • be able to synthesise competing interpretations and debates;
  • be aware of the complex processes and issues that are incorporated into debates and controversies of sustainable development;

  1. Quiz or application (20% of final mark): Each week, there will be either an ‘online quiz’ (10 questions) or application (200 words). This will provide students with the opportunity to show their understanding of the weekly reading(s).
  2. Presentation (30% of final mark): Once during the term, each student (in groups if needed) will give a presentation to their tutorial group (15 minutes) on the theme covered in the weekly reading; they will also develop and deliver an activity of their choosing (15 minutes).
  3. Essay Outline (15% of final mark): Approximately at the mid-term, students will develop an essay outline (900 words). In ‘bullet point’, this document will show how students would prepare and plan for an essay; it will show their argument, rationale, and sources.
  4. Take home final exam (35% of final mark): In the first week of the exam period, students will submit their final ‘take-home’ essay (1800 words). The topic will be provided on the final day of class.

It is a hurdle requirement that students attend 7 out of 10 weeks of tutorials.

Prescribed Texts:


Breadth Options:

This subject potentially can be taken as a breadth subject component for the following courses:

You should visit learn more about breadth subjects and read the breadth requirements for your degree, and should discuss your choice with your student adviser, before deciding on your subjects.

Fees Information: Subject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date
Generic Skills:

Students who have completed this subject will:

  • be capable of thinking critically about issues relating to sustainable development;
  • be capable of developing a conceptual framework appropriate to understanding and interpreting problems relating to sustainability;
  • be able to learn research skills appropriate to understanding and interpreting issues and problems of sustainable development;
  • be able to write coherent and well-researched essays;
  • be capable of engaging in effective oral presentations.
  • Please note that this subject is only available to third year students.
  • Students enrolled in the BSc (both pre-2008 degree and new degrees), or a combined BSc course (except for the BA/BSc) may receive science credit on the completion of this subject.
Related Course(s): Master of Science (Geography)
Related Majors/Minors/Specialisations: Development Studies
Development Studies
Environmental Geographies, Politics and Cultures major
Environmental Geography
Environmental Studies
Environments Discipline subjects
Human Geography
Human Geography
Human Geography
Human Geography
Integrated Geography
Integrated Geography
Integrated Geography
Integrated Geography
Science-credited subjects - new generation B-SCI and B-ENG.
Selective subjects for B-BMED
Related Breadth Track(s): People and Environment

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