737114 VS Social ecology: Sustainability of society-nature interactions

Lecture and seminar
Semester hours
Lecturer (assistant)
Gingrich, Simone , Krausmann, Fridolin , Schmid, Martin , Erb, Karlheinz , Haberl, Helmut , Gaube, Veronika
Offered in
Sommersemester 2022
Languages of instruction


Maintaining functioning interactions between socio-economic systems and their natural environment is a fundamental challenge for sustainable development. This requires interdisciplinary approaches bridging natural and social sciences. The lecture introduces the interdisciplinary scientific field of Social Ecology and what it has to offer to core questions of sustainable development. It presents the basic conceptual approaches ‘social metabolism’, ‘colonization of ecosystems’ and ‘socio-ecological transformation’ and their application in sustainability science. Based on these concepts the lecture explores the evolution of resource use patterns and related challenges for sustainability through human history and the sustainability problems of modern industrial society. It introduces major fields of socio-ecological research spanning from the analysis of energy and material flows through socio-economic systems and land system change to environmental history and social-ecological transformation research. Potentials and limitations of different strategies to reduce resource use and environmental pressure (e.g., efficiency revolution, dematerialization, de-growth) are discussed.

Previous knowledge expected

Basic knowledge in sustainable resource use; interest in interdisciplinary sustainability studies

Objective (expected results of study and acquired competences)

After the successful completion of the course:
•Participants understand sustainability problems as a result of interactions of society with it’s natural environment and grasp the importance of interdisciplinary research approaches.
•They have acquired a basic understanding of the system-theoretical approach of social ecology for the description and analysis of society-nature interactions and core concepts of social ecology (social metabolism; colonization of ecosystems).
•They have an overview of important research fields of social-ecology and the applied methodological approaches.
•Students can apply the acquired knowledge in the context of scientific and practical issues related to sustainable development / social-ecological transformation.
You can find more details like the schedule or information about exams on the course-page in BOKUonline.