"Solutions for a sustainable world"

Sustainability: challenges and solutions

The Solutions for a sustainable world? course (in French) is an introduction to the challenges of sustainability and the solutions that have been identified, either already in existence or yet to be developed, to meet them.

It provides an overview of the scientific knowledge available on these issues.

This course has been designed as part of a university module at Bachelor’s level and is aimed at anyone wishing to find out more about these issues.

Most of the content is presented in layman’s terms to make it as accessible as possible, with no pre-requisites.

The course is divided into two main parts:

I. The space of problems

II. The space of solutions

The sequence is important for grasping the key concepts. It is advisable to watch the different episodes of each part in order, especially for the first part, in order to follow the thought process.

The episodes are presented briefly below, with a list of references for further study of each chapter.

Different types of resources are offered

  • For further reading: suggested resources that can be browsed without any particular prerequisites.
  • Expert mode: scientific reports and articles that require familiarity with this type of material.
  • Other sources of illustrations: links to the sources from which the images, videos and graphics illustrating the course are taken.

Part I: The space of problems (in French)

The first part of the course presents the nature, complexity, orders of magnitude and interrelationships of the main environmental issues facing us.

By understanding the limits of the planet and its natural constraints, we can define the space in which human economic and social activities can develop without compromising the conditions of habitability on Earth.

It is made up of 4 episodes of around 30 minutes each, covering 8 chapters.

Episode 1

The first episode introduces the notion of the Anthropocene. It presents the main demographic, economic, social, and environmental characteristics of human development. It then expands on the central role of energy in these transformation processes and explains how the biosphere functions.

Chapter 1. Introduction to the Anthropocene

Chapter 2. The central role of energy

Chapter 3. The core principles of the biosphere

Episode 2

This episode introduces the scientific theory of planetary limits and its different components.
The exploration of the different orders of magnitude of humankind’s metabolism then begins with energy.

Chapter 4. Planetary limits

Chapter 5. The metabolism of humankind: orders of magnitude and limits of physical resources

  • 5.1 Energy

Episode 3

In line with episode 2, this episode introduces the other physical resources and limits of humankind’s metabolism, namely mineral resources, greenhouse gases, climate change and the other types of pollution.

  • 5.2 Metals and other mineral resources
  • 5.3 Pollution
  • 5.4 Greenhouse gases
  • 5.5 Other pollution

Episode 4

Lastly, this episode introduces the impact on the biosphere of the exploitation of resources coming from living organism, and its limits. It looks into humanity’s future needs and analyses some theoretical models and institutional frameworks that can help to build solutions to these global challenges. These will be further explored in the second (soon to be published) part.

Chapter 6. The metabolism of humankind: orders of magnitude and limits of living resources

  • 6.1 Biosphere
  • 6.2 Marine environments
  • 6.3 Land environments


Chapter 7. Future development needs

Chapter 8. Framing the solution space

Resources (in French)

In this PDF document you will find reference articles to deepen your knowledge on the topics presented in each episode, as well as the sources of their illustrations. 


Part II: The space of solutions (in French)

The second part of the course presents different ways of addressing the issues explored in the first part.

The episodes cover different and complementary subjects. They propose broad approaches, systematically illustrated by examples from the field or suggested by specialists in the subject.

The series comprises 9 episodes, each around 60 minutes long.

Episode 1 - Introduction

This introductory episode takes up the key elements of the first part and explains the construction methodology for the following episodes.

Episode 2 - Measuring what matters

This episode looks at what is really relevant to assess.

It presents work on the various components of ‘quality of life’ and on ways of measuring human prosperity.

The episode ends with examples of alternative indicators to GDP that have been proposed to measure the ‘richness’ of human life.

Episode 3 - Stabilising the climate

This episode looks at the various complementary courses of action being considered, depending on the sector of activity, in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to “net zero”, the point at which climate change could be halted.

Episode 4 - Changing the energy system

Following on from the episode on climate stabilisation, this episode presents the major levers identified to decarbonise energy production systems and limit their environmental impact.

Episode 5 - Transforming humanity's metabolism

Following on from the episode on the energy system, this episode looks at how humankind extracts and uses resources to keep itself going. It presents and illustrates, with examples, the main principles for limiting the quantity of matter that enters the cycle of production and consumption of material goods.

Episode 6 - Regenerating the biosphere

This episode presents various possible approaches to protecting and regenerating the biosphere, and to halting the collapse of biodiversity.

Once again, the main principles are illustrated by examples of successful initiatives.

Episode 7 - Feeding mankind differently

This episode explores the issues involved in transforming agri-food systems and suggests ways of producing and consuming differently, in order to reduce environmental pressures while enabling the whole of humanity to eat healthily.

Episode 8 - Transforming education

This episode explores the need to transform educational models.

It offers an overview of the innovative pedagogical models that are emerging to meet the challenges of contemporary education.

Through concrete examples, it encourages reflection on the new educational approaches needed to prepare the generations of today and tomorrow to meet our common challenges.

Episode 9 - Amplifying the evolution of our societies

To come

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