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Population, environment and culture 7,5 hp UIS program

Institution
Södertörn University, School of Natural Sciences, Environment and Technology, Department for Environment and Tourism
Typology
Syllabus, Lecture, Seminar, Course material, Readings, Exercise
Thematic Area
Multi-disciplinary
Factual description
A search was made for courses dealing with complex issues at the School of Natural Sciences, Environment and Technology. Within the program Development and International relations three courses we found, the curricula and course materials were analysed and a focus group interview was conducted with the responsible teachers.

The course Population, environment and culture introduces students to global population growth and its consequences for the future. Factors like environmental degradation, climate change and health are brought up in relation to population growth and how cultures can respond to changed living conditions.
The teacher describes the approach to complexity and systems as taking the demographic transition as a point of departure. This theory for population growth emerged from a description of European demographics, but its validity in other situations can be questioned. The task then for the students is to examine the range of factors that may explain birth and death rates, including health, sanitation, economics, cultural issues etc.
Relevance in complex systems
Population dynamics is one of the most complex issues to understand with highly politicized interpretations. From a systems perspective, population was one of the major factors in the 1972 systems analysis “Limits to Growth”. The criticism towards the approach taken in that book has hampered further theoretical elaborations on demography as a complex system. The course as such provides opportunities to do a retake on population systems from better framings of the system of interest.
Strong points
The strong point is that student learn that many factors may influence the outcomes, and that the framing of systems may be biased by “blueprint theories” that do no work out of context.
Transferability potential
The critical view on system framing has a potential to be transferred also into other courses