Tag Archives: stuff

4. The course and the passions

The course I am doing is a Graduate Certificate in Sustainability, and compared with my undergraduate degree there are many differences. This time around I have a passion in my belly, more time to focus on the subject (my study load is a quarter of what I was doing way back when) and I am less likely to spend hours at the uni bar or asleep on a pile of books in the library ūüôā I will be doing four subjects over four semesters.

The subject this semester SUS 101 covers seven modules over 13 weeks:

  • MODULE 1: Living in unsustainable times: sustainability and indicators of change
  • MODULE 2:¬†Biodiversity, capacity and limits to growth
  • MODULE 3:¬†Interdependence: ecological, social and economic systems
  • MODULE 4:¬†Justice, equality and ethics
  • MODULE 5:¬†Diversity, innovation and design
  • MODULE 6:¬†Governance and power
  • MODULE 7:¬†Agency and participation

When I started the course I had so many questions, I guess many naive, but they are slowly being addressed (answered?) with the course content, the reading and the related surfing I am doing on the web. Bless the www!

My current passions have to do with the overarching issues of sustainability with particular reference to climate change (a real biggie!), what drives us to consume, how food can become more sustainable and why we are addicted to plastics (hopefully the focus of my final piece of assessment).

Some stuff to go look at on each of the above:


One factoid that shocked me is that out of ¬†9 measured areas that constitute a safe operating space for humanity, we have already exceeded 3: biodiversity loss, human interference with the nitrogen cycle and climate change. Originally reported in¬†Nature¬†(see: http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v461/n7263/full/461472a.html) which is behind a paywall, it is also covered well in¬†Solutions¬†in the article ‘How Defining Planetary Boundaries Can Transform Our Approach to Growth’. (see: http://www.thesolutionsjournal.com/node/935)


The globe represents the proposed safe operating space for the nine planetary systems. The wedges represent an estimate of the current position for each variable. The boundaries in three systems (rate of biodiversity loss, climate change, and human interference with the nitrogen cycle) have already been exceeded. (from Solutions)


I have only read the first chapter of Affluenza: when too much is never enough (Hamilton, C. & Denniss, R. 2005), but there are some gems here. For example:

“In the coming decade most of our income growth will be spent on consumer products the craving for which has yet to be created by advertisers. Our public concerns may be about health and the environment, but our private spending patterns show that the majority of Australians feel that they suffer from a chronic lack of ‘stuff’ ‚Ķ People in affluent countries are now even more obsessed with money and material acquisition, and the richer they are the more this seems to be the case.

‚Ķ Rich societies such as Australia seem to be in the grip of a collective psychological disorder. We react with alarm and sympathy when we come across and anorexic who is convinced she (sic) is fat, whose view of reality is so totally distorted. Yet, as a society surrounded by affluence, we indulge in the illusion that we are deprived.”

Also, go have a look at:


I am fascinated that we accept that food is trucked for kilometres (and sometimes from one corner of the globe to another) and that we don’t seem to bat an eyelid. We are in an ‘entitlement zone’ that requires we have what we want, when we want it, even if it is not seasonal. We will consume food that has been picked when green, treated with chemicals to maintain it as it ¬†is transported and placed on shelves and not seem to either know or care. Even worse, we will buy eggwhites in a carton and avocados in a plastic container.

I know that not everyone can grow their own and/or afford organic options. One article I read (US based) piqued my curiosity (see: http://www.cuesa.org/learn/how-far-does-your-food-travel-get-your-plate) and the fact that at my uni, USC, has a project based on the fact that students can no longer afford good nutritious food is both heartening but also a bit jaw-dropping. Called ‘The Moving Feast’ (see: https://www.facebook.com/USCediblegarden) it aims to provide a solution.


OMG where do I start? Probably here … and here … Suffice to say I am looking closely at my plastic addiction/dependence …

… but also some good news!