Undergraduate courses

I have taught at the Universities of Zurich, Reading and Utrecht. Most of my teaching has been about social research methods, alternative economic thinking, and introductory courses to the social and sustainability sciences.

Ongoing teaching

I am teach in various courses in the Global Sustainability Science bachelor and Sustainable Development masters courses at Utrecht University. I also led the design, and now coordinate the track (i.e., specialization) in Politics, Ecology and Society of the Sustainable Development Masters programme. 

At Utrecht University I (c0-)designed and lead the following courses:

GEO1-2413 - Foundations of Social Sciences for Sustainability (Global Sustainability Science Bachelor programme) 

Sustainability science focuses on the dynamic interactions between nature and society, which are at the root of many environmental issues. For example, how does human behaviour affect the environment? When do decision-makers respond to which environmental issues and why? Is technological development a cause or a solution to environmental degradation? And what are ‘the environment’ and ‘nature’ in the first place? Social science perspectives have been employed to help answer these and many other questions regarding nature-society interactions in multiple socio-economic and geographical contexts. Therefore, this course provides insight into the some of the most relevant social sciences and social scientific perspectives commonly used in global sustainability science. It introduces the students to social science – broadly the study of the relationship between individuals in their context within society – and its application to our understanding of environmental issues. A social science perspective does not only contribute to increasing our capacity to understand environmental issues. It also informs policy-making and action to transition our societies towards sustainability. If sustainable modes of coexistence of society and nature are to be realized, it is crucial not only to understand, but also to change those dynamic nature-society interactions - and the social sciences have a key role to play in thinking about such change. In the words of the world-renowned geographer and sustainability scientist Karen O’Brien: “As the global discourse shifts from understanding and explaining environmental problems to addressing them quickly and effectively, there is a need to integrate insights from the social sciences and humanities into a new science of global change – a science that recognizes subjectivity and emphasizes the notion of change, including transformational social change” (O’Brien, 2011:542). This course will equip you with the skills to recognize, select and employ some of the key social science concepts and theories that are commonly used in sustainability science. The first part of the course will introduce you to the study of society, of society’s interactions with the environment, and of societal change, thus also demonstrating the specificity of a social scientific perspective on sustainability. The second part of the course examines various socio-economic processes of change in nature-society interactions, thus introducing and discussing a range of different, but often complementary theories that are commonly used to conceptualize change toward sustainability. Socio-economic Processes is taught through interactive lectures and tutorials, and makes ample use of real world examples and case studies. The students can expect to be engaged in diverse learning activities which include concept mapping, small group discussions, writing exercises, and hands-on critiques of their own implicit assumptions about socio-economic processes that are critical for sustainability.

GEO4-2346 - Social Innovation and Alternatives to Development (Sustainable Development masters programme)

At the end of this course, the students will be able to recognize, analyse and critique transformative grassroots movements and social innovation initiatives: transformative movements that create new ways of doing, thinking and organizing with ambitions to spearhead radical sustainability transformations beyond modern industrial and capitalist development models. The students will learn about ongoing European and Latin American experiences that respond to capitalist organization of economies and ecologies, and in contrast promote a range of alternative socioeconomic imaginaries (e.g., green growth, buen vivir, degrowth, postgrowth, pluriverse), ontologies, institutional forms (e.g., cooperatives, social movements, prefigurative initiatives, intentional communities), forms of political action (e.g., prefiguration, resistance, protest), socio-material innovation across themes such as agri-food or extractivism, and alternatives modes of organizing (e.g., autonomy, deep democratic praxis, political coalitions, translocal networks). The course entails a combination of lectures, seminars, field visits, and engagement with a diverse range of European and Latin American theories incuding social innovation, social and socio-territorial mobilization, decoloniality, and post-development.

Past courses

Among the courses that I taught in the past there are the following ones:

Growth, Degrowth and Sustainability (at the University of Reading, Geography Bachelor Degrees)

Historically, the pursuit of social well-being through economic growth has been closely tied to increasing consumption levels as well as increasing loads on the environment, which has resulted in several environmental problems (e.g. depletion of natural resources, climate change). Besides, it has become apparent that economic growth is only limitedly associated with social prosperity. As a consequence, different models of development and of structuring the relationship between economic and social systems and the environment have been proposed, among which green growth and de-growth. These alternative models address the issue of the pursuit of economic growth on a finite planet differently, but agree on the need for socio-technical change at different levels, including behavioural (e.g. consumption patterns), institutional (e.g. social norms and values), and technical change. The module will discuss key concepts and a range of theoretical approaches to addressing these issues. The topics covered by this module include: economic systems and the environment; indicators of social prosperity; population, resources and environment; de-growth; dynamics of socio-technical change.

Environment and Development in Latin America (at the University of Reading, Geography Bachelor Degrees)

This module critically explores the relationship between environment and development in the context of Latin America from theoretical and applied perspectives. It addresses issues of sustainable development, the effects of economic activities, political decisions and social conditions on the environment, indigenous cultures and new trends of environmental governance in Latin America. The module focuses on formal and informal arrangements, interactions among state, private sector and civil society actors, at a range of geographical levels from the household to the community, regional, national and international level. The module focuses on contemporary trends and debates, especially those related to rural areas, but pays due attention to their historical, particularly colonial and post-colonial roots. Topics covered in the module include: conservation and environmental governance; agriculture and climate change; ‘buen vivir’ and indigenous conceptions of the ‘good life’; peasant struggles, land grabbing and rural change; water management; the role of Latin America in global environmental governance.