Course Syllabus


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Semester & Location:

Fall 2023 - DIS Copenhagen

Type & Credits:

Core Course - 3 credits

Core Course Study Tours:

Samsø, Denmark and Stockholm, Sweden. 

Major Disciplines:

Environmental Studies, Public Policy, and Sustainability

Faculty Members:

Inger Kærgaard 


Esther Michelsen Kjeldahl 

Time & Place:

Monday, Thursday 08:30-09:50 

Classroom: N7-B21

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 more sustainable future.

The aims of the course are:

  • To present a coherent and analytical framework for understanding the key ideas and issues

    informing the sustainability debate in the global north (especially from a European perspective);

  • To examine the current and potential roles of government, civil society, and business in shaping a sustainable future;

  • To provide a framework for understanding that links knowledge with practice and bridges the gap between the classroom and the outside world;

  • To examine and evaluate real world strategies for change.


Learning Objectives

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;
  • 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 states;
  • Locate a broad range of sources of information on sustainability, and be able to engage in critical and reflective thinking on a sustainability issue;
  • Articulate your own values, positions, and possible strategies for a sustainable future.
  • Be prepared for leading roles in dealing with the challenges of the 21st Century.



Inger Kærgaard holds a MSc in biology (University of Copenhagen, 2004). Focused on sustainability and conservation biology. Project manager at the University of Applied Sciences in Switzerland. Designer of a project in environmental education funded by the EU, another project funded by the Swiss government involving sustainable income generating activities for organic farmers in the Swiss Alps (2004-2006). Worked for various NGOs on forest protection and sustainable development in Thailand and Indonesia (2007 and 2010). Taught biology in an upper secondary school in Denmark and was also involved in an education program for sustainability education (2010-2013). Organized two photo exhibitions on forest issues. The exhibitions were supported by Danida and were based on qualitative research which Inger carried out in South East Asia (2009 and 2012). Inger is engaged with sustainability in many different ways: in 2014 she co-funded a bee-coop with funding from the Copenhagen Municipality, she has a share in a coop farm and also she has a shares in a value-based bank. Furthermore she is doing research on urban bats. With DIS since 2014.
Esther Michelsen Kjeldahl holds an MSc Philosophy & Public Policy (London School of Economic, 2019) and a MA in Philosophy (University of Copenhagen, 2023). She is a co-founder of the youth climate movement Den Grønne Ungdomsbevægelse and has recently co-founded the campaign Fossilfri Fremtid (Fossil Free Future) that seeks to stop oil and gas exploration and production in the Danish part of the North Sea. She works as a teacher and workshop organizer in sustainability related topics and is also a frequent public speaker. In 2020, she wrote a book called Vi er sammen om at mærke det, which focuses on how to constructively deal with emotions related to the climate crisis and is a co author of the utopian ecological manifesto Retfærdig naturbevarelse (Just Nature Protection). 



There is no textbook for this course and most readings are found exclusively on Canvas.

  • Susan Baker’s “Sustainable Development” (2006)
  • Tim Jackson’s “Prosperity without Growth” (2009) 
  • Jeffrey D. Sach’s “The Age of Sustainable Development” (2015)
  • “Good, Better, Best – The City of Copenhagen’s Bicycle Strategy 2011-2025”
  • CPH 2025 Climate Plan: A Green, Smart and carbon Neutral City (2012) Mondaymorning: The Nordic Model: Local government, global competitiveness in Denmark, Finland, and Sweden (2012)
  • Stichele, M.V., Mobilising the financial sector for a sustainable future (2015)
  • Mont et al.(2014): Nudging - A tool for sustainable behavior?
  • Wand Z. et al (2016): Take responsibility for electronic waste disposal
  • Höhne N. et al. (2016) The Paris Agreement: resolving the inconsistency
    between global goals and national contributions
  • Hilten I. & Kerr O.: The Paris Agreement: China’s ‘New Normal’ role in international climate negotiations)

Sometimes we will also read and discuss newspaper articles.


 All will be in pdf form or with links on canvas.


Field Studies

27th September, 8:30-11.45 field study 1: Schoolgardens - Københavns Skolehaver

6th December, 14.00-17.00 field study 2: Greencubator

Study Tours

Core Course week and the Long Study Tour are integral parts of the core course as we take the classroom on the road and see how theory presented in the classroom is translated into 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 Sweden.

Expectations for 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 or the destination. You will receive a more detailed itinerary prior to departure. The dates for core course week, including short study tour, and your long study tour are below for your reference.


Short study tour to Samsø:

Core Course Week Short tour to Samsø:  14 - 16 September:

Samsø is place right at the center of Denmark!
We will be visiting the energy academy and the local straw district heating plan.
Further more we will visit a local coop farm, where young small scale farmers gets part of their education.

Is it easy being green? Bike & hike the Danish island of Samsø to discover how it became selfsufficient with 100% renewable electricity in only 10 years. With its 4,080 inhabitants on 114 km2, Samsø is a rural island located in the center of Denmark. The landscape has rolling hills, quaint half-timber villages hugging the narrow roads, and open fields with organic crops and livestock. Underneath this picturesque landscape is a community at the forefront of sustainable initiatives. The two-day trip to the island will give you the opportunity to understand how this very ambitious energy plan was accomplished - not only from a design and technology perspective, but the political and community processes that made the project a success as well.

Long study tour to Stockholm:

Long Study tour to Sweden: 8  till 13 October: A six day tour to Stockholm, Sweden. 

Students will be encouraged to examine the different approaches of mainstream and grassroots initiatives, as well as questions of scale, in implementing sustainable practices, and gain specific awareness of these issues in a Swedish context. Specific visits have previously included national-level policy organizations, international NGOs, and examples of urban (re)development.


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 must stay with the group through the last visit and inform your study tour leaders of your plans in advance. 

Approach to Teaching

Class sessions will combine lectures (including guest lecturers) and discussions, which examine theory, current debate, and case studies. The classroom experience will be enhanced by experiential learning, through cooperative learning methods, along with field studies and study tours. With such a broad topic, it is impossible to cover all issues and themes, therefore topics are selective rather than comprehensive.



Case Studies 1 & 2:
Writing two case studies where the main idea is to embed learning of key concepts in a way that simulates a real-life Project Briefing – something that you may encounter in the world as an employee at NGOs, government, or think-tanks etc. Combined, these exercises are worth 40% of your total assessment.

The assignment is designed as a two-person, group exercise – so please feel free to pair-up with someone you are happy to work with. Tip: sometimes it can help to work with someone that has complementary skills and perspectives, which will enable you to produce even greater results!
You are free to choose any cases studies that you encounter from Denmark, Sweden or any other location in Northern Europe.

The themes you choose are up to you – the key point is to be consistent across your case studies – to ensure that meaningful comparisons and lessons can be drawn between your case studies – so, please make sure the theme you choose is interesting and motivating for you to follow through on.

Case study 3/ Positive future story presentations in class:
The last assignment before the final exam is a positive future story writing exercise, where we pretend to have reached 2030. Imagination plays a huge role in changing world situations. If no one can imagine a change, it will not happen! You will work on a case you know well, maybe one of your first case studies and then you will look into the future!





Case study 1 (Country A, 5 pages)


 Case study 2 (Country B, 5 pages)


 Case study 3/ Positive future story presentations in class






Participation will be based on the following criteria:

  • Taking an active role in class discussions
  • Attendance

  • Preparation for each class

  • Reading all assigned texts

  • On-time submissions of all class assignments

  • Active participation in study tours and field studies

    To be eligible for a passing grade in this class you must complete all of the assigned work.


Academic Regulations

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:

Date Details Due