Course Syllabus

Sustainable Development in Northern Europe A

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Semester & Location:

Spring 2020 - DIS Copenhagen

Type & Credits:

Core Course - 3 credits

Core Course Study Tours:

Short tour: Western Denmark. Long tour: Hamburg & Berlin

Major Disciplines:

Environmental Studies, Public Policy, Sustainability

Faculty Members:

Silvia Dragomir -

Program Director:

Neringa B. Vendelbo -

Program Assistant:

Julia Magnuson -
Time & Place:

 Canvas | Zoom | Monday 5:00pm GMT+1


Description of course

Sustainable development has emerged as one of the most important discourses of the 21st century. It is a multi-dimensional concept, which aims to integrate environmental, social, and economic objectives, and no single academic discipline definitively addresses its problems or solutions. This course explores some of the key issues and themes of sustainable development, as well as pragmatic and practical strategies for promoting a truly sustainable society.


Learning objectives of the course

By the end of this course you will be able to …

  • Comprehend the underlying concepts, debates, and issues informing various actors, agencies, and activities working to realize sustainability goals;
  • Show a critical awareness of the diverse and contested meanings of sustainable development ideas and practices;
  • Show a critical awareness of the tensions between current economic growth and environmental degradation, as well as the range of discourses that address these important issues;
  • Identify a broad range of Danish and European stakeholders and activities currently shaping the sustainability agenda;
  • Compare and contrast sustainability discourses and practices in Denmark and Europe with those in your home countries;
  • Locate a broad range of sources of information on sustainability and to be able to engage in critical and reflective thinking on a number of sustainability issues;
  • Articulate your own values and strategies for a truly sustainable society.


Silvia Andreea Dragomir

Architect and advocate of Cities for People, with an MSc in Sustainable Urban Planning from Aalborg University and MSc in Architecture from Bucharest and Bordeaux Silvia's professional profile includes a collaboration with KANT architects, AS Architecture studio Paris, owner of an architecture studio with focus on sustainability, climate change adaptation and mitigation, co-founder of, a climate innovation platform. Her passion is sharing knowledge and creating better living environments. With DIS since 2015. 

Approach to Teaching

The class will meet online once a week during the remainder of the semester. Assigned readings, explorations and student presentations will act as background for class discussion. This course relies heavily on reading in order to gain a deeper understanding of varying case studies we will discuss. Assigned texts must be read before class. Copenhagen will also serve as a living laboratory to illustrate the forces behind sustainable development in a northern European context, when relevant. Moreover, group work is essential, rooted in real-life working scenarios.


The readings for this class consist of article readings, videos and podcasts, which are found exclusively on Canvas. The reading for each class is attached/indicated under Modules.

Martinussen (1999). Conceptions and dimensions of development.

Campbell (1996). The contradictions of sustainable development.

European Commission (2016). Sustainable Development Policy in the EU

Norden (2013). A Good Life in a Sustainable Nordic Region?

WWF (2018). Living planet report  

Climate one (2019). Sea Changes: Why Oceans Play a Bigger Role in Climate Change Than You Think.

Sovacool (2013). Energy policy-making in Denmark: Implications for global energy security and sustainability

World Economic Forum (2012) Sustainable Transportation Ecosystem 

Climate one (2019). Can a circular economy salvage the climate?

Martinussen (1999). Poverty and social development.

Beatley (2008). Planning for sustainability in European cities: a review of practice in leading cities.

Newman (2009). Urban resilience: cities of fear and hope.

Climate one (2018). From farm to table 2.0. Chefs cutting carbon.

Martinussen (1999). Focus on agricultural development.

Science Env. Policy 20 environmental topics covered) from "agriculture" to "water" 

Field studies

Field studies are visits or workshops lasting half a day. These field studies form an integral part of the course to support our understanding of how sustainable development is conducted in a practical setting.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020, 8:30-12:30: Cradle to cradle

Wednesday, Apr 29, 2020, 13:00-17:00: TBC

Study tours

Core Course week and study tours are an integral part of the course as we take the classroom on the road and see how theories presented in the class translate to practice in the field. You will travel with your classmates and DIS faculty/staff on two study tours, a short study tour during Core Course Week and a Long Study Tour to Hamburg and Berlin.

Core Course Week Copenhagen and Western Denmark: Monday, Feb 3 – Saturday, Feb 8, 2020

Long Study tour to Hamburg and Berlin: Sunday, Mar 15 – Friday, Mar 20, 2020 

Expectations of the Students

This course is not a traditional lecture class, but relies heavily on class discussion informed by an in-depth, critical reading of the assigned texts. The readings for each class have purposely been kept to a reasonable amount, and it is expected that all students have read, seen, or played the material prior to the lectures.

In class:

I expect you to fully engage in the lectures, participate actively in discussions, and be open minded about your fellow students' points of view. Your overall grade will depend on an engaged, informed, and highly active participation in class discussion.

During study tours:

  • Participate in all activities
  • Engage in discussions, ask questions, and contribute to achieving the learning objectives
  • Respect the destination, the speakers, DIS staff, and your fellow classmates
  • Represent yourself, your home university, and DIS in a positive light

 While on a program study tour, DIS will provide hostel/hotel accommodation, transportation to/from the destination(s), approx. 2 meals per day, and entrances, guides, and visits relevant to your area of study. You will receive a more detailed itinerary prior to departure.

Travel policies: You are required to travel with your group to the destination. If you have to deviate from the group travel plans, you need approval from the program director and the study tours office prior to departure. You are free to return to Copenhagen on your own if you choose to do so, but you must stay with the group through the last visit and inform your study tour leaders of your plans in advance.  


Class participation

Participation will be evaluated by the extent to which students attend classes, actively engage in class discussions, contribute to workshops, and critically reflect on the assigned readings. You are expected to bring your reading notes as well as questions to class. The reading required is the one going beyond finding information, or identifying main ideas. It will ask you to dig deep to identify the meaning, relationships between ideas, and to challenge yourself to find your own response to these ideas and their impact on the world. Responses involve analysis, synthesis and creativity. You are encouraged to bring your own experiences into the discussions.

Reflections of the day

This is your collection of class reflections, representing the connection between readings, discussions and our field visits. There is a minimum of one critical thinking page per class, each with structured observations and critical reflections on what you experienced, learned, and thought about during and after the lectures. This is meant to hone both your observational and critical reflection skills, as well as to practice concise writing techniques and develop your creative skills.

These reflections form the foundation for the final project.

Deadline for the Reflections page is after class, by the end of the week.

Green solutions case studies

This is your collection of reflections from tours, representing the connections between our field visits, discussions and readings. There is a minimum of 3 critical thinking pages per case study, plus relevant graphics. Each entry will include structured observations and critical reflections on what you experienced, learned, and thought about during and after the visits.

CS1 - Green solutions in Western Denmark _ February 14, 2020

CS2 - Green solutions in Northern Germany _ April 3, 2020

These reflections form the foundation for the final project.

Deadline for the case studies is Friday, by the end of the day.

Road Map for Sustainable Development _ Final project

The assignment is a group exercise, consisting of:

  1. Answering the question: How can the balance between resources and the desire for growth be achieved ?
  2. Producing a road map connecting previous topics, and containing your plan towards sustainable development
  3. Presenting your strategy to the class 

Deadline is May 7, 2020.

All assignments must be handed in on the due date electronically through Canvas, unless otherwise mentioned. Late hand-in and lack of references are not accepted. To be eligible for a passing grade in this class you must complete all of the assigned work.







Class participation


Reflections of the day


Green solutions case studies (10% each)


Road Map for Sustainable Development



Academic Regulations

Electronic Devices in the Classroom

Use of laptops is allowed for the purpose of note-taking ONLY and requires prior consultation. Students should refrain from all other computer activities, as they prove distracting to themselves and fellow students. Mobile phones and other electronic communication devices should of course be turned off and stored away. Using the laptop for other purposes than note-taking will have a negative impact on your grade.

Please make sure to read the Academic Regulations on the DIS website. There you will find regulations on:



DIS - Study Abroad in Scandinavia -


Course Summary:

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