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workers building a solar panel

Environmental Grand Challenges: What Impact Will You Have?

What does it mean to live a life that aligns with your values in a time of rapid global environmental transformations driven by climate change, mass extinction of plant and animal species, and the increasing pollution of our oceans, atmosphere, and soils? These are challenging questions, but there are resources, knowledge, and capacity across the University and the broader community that can help answer questions such as: How can we live sustainably, as individuals and societies, and what disciplines and approaches will we need to achieve this? Where does one start--at this University, in Minnesota, or around the world? Our tour of these capacities will include:

  • an overview of sustainability science, both what it says about about human and natural systems and how it comes to make these claims

  • exploration of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals

  • exploration of what we know about effective leadership within complex grand challenges, both social and environmental, and how this is enabled through a systems thinking approach

  • Examination of the conflicts that exist within and between differing visions of sustainability through Minnesota-based case studies in climate change and ensuring safe drinking water

Throughout the course, we will meet with campus and community leaders who are working to address our environmental grand challenges and focus on solutions that are working and ways that each of us can have a positive impact. The course is directed by staff at the Institute on the Environment with direct connections to people working on sustainability and led by the Institute’s executive director. It is ideal for first year students striving to understand how they might engage sustainability research, education and action while a student at the UMN.