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43700-01 - Lecture with practical courses: Perspectives of Economics on Sustainability 3 CP

Semester spring semester 2024
Course frequency Every spring sem.
Lecturers Vera Calenbuhr (, Assessor)
Content The course is offered within the scope of the program "Pathways to Sustainability" (formerly known as "Transfaculty Cross Section Program Sustainable Development/Transfakultäres Querschnittsprogramm TQNE":
The program consists of 3 introductory lectures with practical courses (lecture A and B are offered in fall semesters, C is offered in spring semesters) dedicated to conveying the foundations of sustainable development. An additional integration seminar (D, offered in spring semesters) engages with interdisciplinary work. The assignment and completion of D requires the successful completion of two lectures from the above mentioned lectures A, B and C.
The topic "Food and Sustainability" serves as an integration focus for the entire program and, thus, also for this lecture.

The present lecture on the economic perspective of sustainability starts with an introductory section on the discipline of economics building on the 10 basic rules of economics following the text book of Mankiw & Taylor.
Moreover, the course presents and discusses various aspects of producing and consuming food including the challenge of malnutrition and hunger from the perspective of economics, i.e. understanding the driving forces that govern people's and socities' decisions and behaviour.

A.o., the course covers the following topics e.g.
- concepts of development and sustainable development incl. related indicators (e.g. GDP, Human Development Index); the capabilities approach;
- the relation between income and societal development;
- the economic perspective of sustainable development (e.g. the 3-pillar-model, strong and weak sustainability);
- the relation between income and nutritional state incl. hunger.
- the concepts of food security and water security
- challenges on the path towards sustainable development.

Numerous case studies help to provide an understanding of key issues and trade-offs:
- Industrial countries: increase of productivity through intensive agriculture vs. decrease of biodiversity and increased pressure on the environment;
-Threshold countries: the links between economic growth, increased income, - increased protein consumption (in particular increased meat consumption), increased pressure on the environment (in particular increased emission of greenhouse gases);
- Low-income countries: agricultural vs. technological development paths?
- Global: Who profits from fairtrade-products? Do modern financial sector products lead to more hunger? What is the impact of foreign land acquisition (aka land grabbing) on the economic situation of the indigenous population? What are the costs of providing clean water? Are consumers paying an appropriate price for water? Discussion of water management systems. Is there a commoditisation of the resource water?

The lecture content also includes national and international political initiatives and scenarios conceived for facing food system challenges in the coming 20-30 years.

On top of the economic perspective, the lecture will take a systems perspective investigating the roles of system boundaries, relevant time scales, as well as the interaction of (nested) subsystems. This approach helps to better understand the basic assumptions underlying economic models.
Learning objectives The scientific field of economics analyses the allocation of resources in a society. The objectives of the course are to
a) provide the basic knowledge for understanding the food system, and
b) to discuss what a sustainable food system means,
from an economic perspective. This includes discussing the question whether ending hunger is equivalent to achieving a sustainable food system.
Bibliography The lecture uses many online resources and original scientific literature. Hence, there is no need to acquire a text book.

Nonetheless, interesting books on the related subjects include the following:
. "Introduction to Ecological Economics". CRC Press (2014) (the book introduces the new perspective of ecological economics)
N. Gregory Mankiw und Mark P. Taylor. "Economics" Cengage Learning, 2014 (3rd Edition) (economics text book used in basic economics courses at University of Basel).
Comments Practical course (tutorials):
Each student has to attend four sessions of group work (each 90 minutes) under the supervision of a tutor. Group details tba at the beginning of the course.

Extra certificate
Upon completion of the entire program "Pathways to Sustainability" and the enrolled degree program at the University of Basel students may order an additional certificate. For this purpose students send an email to, attach their official final degree transcript (Zeugnis) and put their address. The certificate will be sent by postage.

MSD 2017
Credit points may be transferred to the "Focal Areas of Sustainability Research" module (learning agreement), unless you have a Bachelor's Degree in Economics and Business or you have attended a class with similar content earlier (then the CP of this lecture C cannot be recognized for the MSD curriculum).

This course is offered by the program "Pathways to Sustainablilty (formerly named as TQNE) & MSD. For details see:
Dr. Vera Calenbuhr holds a teaching assignment.


Admission requirements Students are supposed to study at least in their third semester (bachelor level) or higher.
MSD students: recognition of CP according to information in the medium-term syllabus/list of recommended courses for the FASR module.
Course application Course enrollment on MOnA should be completed by the beginning of the teaching period
(withdrawal possible until Monday of week five).
Language of instruction English
Use of digital media No specific media used


Interval Weekday Time Room
wöchentlich Thursday 16.15-18.00 Kollegienhaus, Hörsaal 119


Date Time Room
Thursday 29.02.2024 16.15-18.00 Kollegienhaus, Hörsaal 119
Thursday 07.03.2024 16.15-18.00 Kollegienhaus, Hörsaal 119
Thursday 14.03.2024 16.15-18.00 Kollegienhaus, Hörsaal 119
Thursday 21.03.2024 16.15-18.00 Kollegienhaus, Hörsaal 119
Thursday 28.03.2024 16.15-18.00 Ostern
Thursday 04.04.2024 16.15-18.00 Kollegienhaus, Hörsaal 119
Thursday 11.04.2024 16.15-18.00 Kollegienhaus, Hörsaal 119
Thursday 18.04.2024 16.15-18.00 Kollegienhaus, Hörsaal 119
Thursday 25.04.2024 16.15-18.00 Kollegienhaus, Hörsaal 119
Thursday 02.05.2024 16.15-18.00 Kollegienhaus, Hörsaal 119
Thursday 09.05.2024 16.15-18.00 Auffahrt
Thursday 16.05.2024 16.15-18.00 Kollegienhaus, Hörsaal 119
Thursday 23.05.2024 16.15-18.00 Kollegienhaus, Hörsaal 119
Thursday 30.05.2024 16.15-18.00 Kollegienhaus, Hörsaal 119
Monday 03.06.2024 16.15-18.00 tba, tba
Thursday 20.06.2024 16.15-18.00 tba, tba
Modules Grundkurse (Transfakultäre Querschnittsprogramme im freien Kreditpunkte-Bereich)
Vertiefungsmodul Global Europe: Umwelt und Nachhaltigkeit (Master's Studies: European Global Studies)
Assessment format record of achievement
Assessment details Regular attendance of lecture and practical course.
Final group presentations: 20.06.24: 16.15 - 18.00h, room according to information in section "dates and rooms".
Written examination: 03.06.24: 20.06.24: 16.15 - 18.00h, room according to information in section "dates and rooms".
Assessment registration/deregistration Reg.: course registration, dereg: cancel course registration
Repeat examination no repeat examination
Scale 1-6 0,1
Repeated registration as often as necessary
Responsible faculty University of Basel
Offered by Departement Umweltwissenschaften