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GEOG204 - Environmental Sustainability: The Global Challenge

Unit rationale, description and aim

What is sustainability? How can we manage the rapid environmental changes taking place in our world? This unit will introduce students to the principles, theory and actions of sustainability, and also introduce the role of key human and environmental processes that shape the modern world, with a focus on understanding the interaction of humans with their environment and the causes of environmental crises.

Using an interdisciplinary approach, students will become equipped with a comprehensive understanding of sustainability and the global challenges of population growth, urbanisation, natural resources, energy supply, agriculture, development and environmental pollution and degradation. The connections between our environment, poverty and social justice issues are central themes to be explored, with domestic and international initiatives to promote sustainability evaluated. This unit highlights indigenous sustainability practises and processes, and how Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and world First Peoples knowledges can advance sustainable environmental management. The aim of this unit is to prepare students to apply the principles of sustainability and environmental management to their future careers and wherever sustainability ideas and actions are needed. Many of the important subjects introduced in this unit can be investigated at greater depth in senior-level geography and environment units. This unit forms part of ACU’s response to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals on Quality Education (SDG4.7).

Learning outcomes

To successfully complete this unit you will be able to demonstrate you have achieved the learning outcomes (LO) detailed in the below table.

Each outcome is informed by a number of graduate capabilities (GC) to ensure your work in this, and every unit, is part of a larger goal of graduating from ACU with the attributes of insight, empathy, imagination and impact.

Explore the graduate capabilities.

Learning Outcome NumberLearning Outcome DescriptionRelevant Graduate Capabilities
LO1Discuss local and international sustainability and environmental issues in terms of their economic, political, social and ethical dimensionsGC1, GC5, GC6, GC11
LO2Implement literature and/or field-based research on sustainability and environmental issues and report findings in written or oral formsGC1, GC3, GC7, GC8, GC9, GC10, GC11, GC12
LO3Develop and apply skills in using geographical and other forms of information and scholarshipGC2, GC8, GC9, GC10
LO4Summarise the need for sustainabile living and environments, and assess the challenges posed by sustainabilityGC2, GC6, GC7, GC9, GC11


Topics will include:

  • What is sustainability? Introducing theories and principles
  • The United Nation's Sustainability Development Goals (SDGs)
  • Environmental and sustainable development approaches and objectives 
  • Population growth and challenges for sustainability
  • The Anthropocene, and environmental pollution since the industrial revolution
  • Natural resource management and sustainability
  • Sustainable energy solutions for our planet
  • Global food supply systems and security, diets, and agricultural production
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and World Indigenous environmental knowledge and sustainability
  • Corporate sustainability, sustainability assessment, audits, and standards.
  • Sustainability and developing nations, including environmental displacement and migration
  • The moral and ethical dimensions of sustainability, including Catholic Social Teaching perspectives

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

This unit may use both face-to-face and multi-media forms of instruction during class. Lectures are used to provide core content and begin the process of exploring it and offer students the chance to engage and ask questions of teaching staff. Tutorials are designed to provide students with a peer-to-peer learning environment where they can discuss, and debate issues and problems raised in lectures, in set readings, and gain knowledge that can be applied in their unit assessments. Students consolidate their understanding, knowledge, analytical and communication skills through negotiation and interaction with both other students and staff. Students will have opportunities for fieldwork or site visits in this unit, providing immersive learning experiences and hands-on research opportunities.

This is a 10-credit point unit and has been designed to ensure that the time needed to complete the required volume of learning to the requisite standard is approximately 150 hours in total across the semester. To achieve a passing standard in this unit, students will find it helpful to engage in the full range of learning activities and assessments utilised in this unit, as described in the learning and teaching strategy and the assessment strategy. The learning and teaching and assessment approaches include a range of approaches to support your learning such as reading, reflection, discussion, webinars, podcasts, videos etc.

Assessment strategy and rationale

A range of assessment procedures will be used to meet the unit learning outcomes and develop graduate attributes consistent with University assessment requirements. The assessment tasks and their weighting for this unit are designed to demonstrate achievement of each learning outcome. In order to pass the unit, students are required to submit and participate in all assessment tasks. Students must obtain a pass mark or better overall from the combination of marks from the three assessment tasks in order to pass the unit. The tasks are linked in a developmentally progressive sequence with the final assessment tasks given more weighting than the first since students’ knowledge and understanding of the unit should increase over time and, therefore, their ability to perform better at the later tasks.

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning Outcomes

Building sustainability and environment research skills: Students are required to complete activites in their tutorials that develop a range of research and geographical skills that sequentially build their understading of local and international sustainability and environmental issues through the unit. These activities are assessed by quizzes administered via Canvas providing early and regular feedback on student progression.


LO1, LO2, LO3

Sustainability project: In this assessment, students will produce a written report that details the results of their individual research project on an environmental sustainability issue, including field work activities and data collected


LO2, LO3, LO4

Exam: Formal semester-end examination where students will be required to

(a) discuss local and international sustainability and environmental issues in terms of their economic, political, social and ethical dimensions, and

(b) reflect on different values and perspectives concerning the needs of individuals and communities 


LO1, LO3, LO4

Representative texts and references

Brinkmann, R. 2020. Introduction to Sustainability, 2nd edition. Wiley-Blackwell.

Charlesworth, S.M. and Booth, C.A. 2018. Urban Pollution: Science and Management. Wiley.

Christensen, N., Leege, L. 2018. The Environment and You , 3rd edition. Pearson.

Da Rosa, A.V. and Ordonez, J.C., 2021. Fundamentals of renewable energy processes. Academic Press.

Dastbaz, M. et al. (Eds.) 2018. Smart Futures, Challenges of Urbanisation, and Social Sustainability. Springer.

Head, L., 2016. Hope and grief in the Anthropocene: Re-conceptualising human–nature relations. Routledge.

Hendry, J. 2014. Science and Sustainability: Learning from Indigenous Wisdom. Palgrave Macmillan, London.

McNeill JR, Engelke P. 2016. The great acceleration: an environmental history of the Anthropocene since 1945. The Belknap Press of the Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA

Nagothu, U.S. (Ed.) 2018. Agricultural Development and Sustainable Intensification: Technology and Policy Challenges in the Face of Climate Change. Routledge.

Pope Francis. 2015. Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home [Encyclical]. Available at 

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