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

Semester spring semester 2021
Course frequency Every spring sem.
Lecturers Vera Calenbuhr (, Assessor)
Content The lecture is offered within the scope of the transfaculty cross section program "Sustainable
Development (TQNE)". The program consists of 3 introductory lectures with practical course
(lecture A and B offered in fall semesters; this lecture is C, offered in spring semesters) dedicated to conveying the foundations of sustainable development. An additional integrative seminar (D, offered in spring semesters) engages with interdisciplinary work. The assignment and completion
of D requires the successful completion of two lectures from A, B, or C.
The topic "Food and Sustainability" serves as an integration focus for the entire TQ NE and,
thus, also for this lecture.

The lecture builds on the 10 basic rules of economics (following the text book of Mankiw & Tayler) as well as models and scenarios of societal development, i.e.: Malthus; the relation between soil, income and food; the limits to growth. Moreover, the lecture covers the economic perspective of sustainable development (e.g. the 3-pillar-model, the concepts of efficiency, consistency and sufficiency. Finally, it presents 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);
- Developing countries: agricultural vs. technological development paths?
- Global: who profits from fairtrade-products?
- Global: do modern financial sector products lead to more hunger?
- Global: what is the impact of foreign land acquisition (aka land grabbing) on the economic situation of the indigenous population?
- Global: 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 ressource 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 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 towards ecological economics)
N. Gregory Mankiw und Mark P. Taylor. "Economics" Cengage Learning, 2014 (3rd Edition) (economics text book)
Comments Practical course (tutorials)
Each student has to attend four sessions of a group for the tutorial (each 90 minutes):
Group details tba.
Final presentation (common for all groups): tba.

Extra certificate
Upon completion of the entire program (Transfaculty Cross Section Program Sustainable Development) 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 (= list of all attended courses) 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 transfaculty cross section program "Sustainable Development" (TQ NE) & MSD. Dr. Vera Calenbuhr holds a teaching assignment.


Admission requirements Students are supposed to study at least in their third semester (bachelor level) or higher.
Language of instruction English
Use of digital media No specific media used


Interval weekly
Date 04.03.2021 – 17.06.2021
Time Thursday, 16.15-18.00 - Online Präsenz -
Date Time Room
Thursday 04.03.2021 16.15-18.00 - Online Präsenz -, --
Thursday 11.03.2021 16.15-18.00 - Online Präsenz -, --
Thursday 18.03.2021 16.15-18.00 - Online Präsenz -, --
Thursday 25.03.2021 16.15-18.00 - Online Präsenz -, --
Thursday 01.04.2021 16.15-18.00 Ostern
Thursday 08.04.2021 16.15-18.00 - Online Präsenz -, --
Thursday 15.04.2021 16.15-18.00 - Online Präsenz -, --
Thursday 22.04.2021 16.15-18.00 - Online Präsenz -, --
Thursday 29.04.2021 16.15-18.00 - Online Präsenz -, --
Thursday 06.05.2021 16.15-18.00 - Online Präsenz -, --
Thursday 13.05.2021 16.15-18.00 Auffahrt
Thursday 20.05.2021 16.15-18.00 - Online Präsenz -, --
Thursday 27.05.2021 16.15-18.00 - Online Präsenz -, --
Thursday 03.06.2021 16.15-18.00 - Online Präsenz -, --
Thursday 10.06.2021 16.15-18.00 - Online Präsenz -, --
Thursday 17.06.2021 16.15-18.00 - Online Präsenz -, --
Modules Grundkurse (Transfakultäre Querschnittsprogramme im freien Kreditpunkte-Bereich)
Vertiefungsmodul Global Europe: Umwelt und Nachhaltigkeit (Master's Studies: European Global Studies)
Assessment format proof of course participation
Assessment details Regular attendance of lecture and practical course.
Final presentation venue tba: 10.06.21/16.15 to 18.00h.
Written examination online: 17.06.21/16.15 to 18.00h.
Assessment registration/deregistration Reg./dereg.: course registr./cancel registr. via MOnA
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