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Published: 13 Nov, 2018

Sustainable trio of perspectives

FEATURE Barbara Schumann, Jon Moen and Rickard Lindberg have something in common — they share a worry over the future of society in the ongoing climate change. But they have different methods at their departments to help shape the future through sustainable development.

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Barbara Schumann

Works as: Researcher at the Department of Public Health and Clinical Medicine.
Topic of particular interest: Epidemiology and global health.
Suggested reading: A study of the correlations between temperature increase and mortality (in production).

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Jon Moen

Works as: Professor in ecology.
Topic of particular interest:
 How we should achieve a more sustainable society that uses less resources.
Suggested reading:
Applying resilience thinking to production ecosystems (2014)

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Rickard Lindberg

Works as: Sustainability coordinator at the Career Service at Umeå School of Business and Economics.
Topic of particular interest: Development that is financially, socially and environmentally sustainable in the long term.
Suggested reading: New Transportation Technology: Norm Activation Processes and the Intention to Switch to an Electric/Hybrid Vehicle (2016)

Barbara Schumann on sustainability in public health education

In the field of public health, it is important to explain how climate change can lead to an increase in health related problems worldwide. Barbara Schulman has been strongly engaged in developing the course "Health, environment and sustainability" that started in spring 2017.

"The Master's course in Public Health is needed now more than ever as the world is facing change whether we want it or not. The course aim is to teach students what health dangers are linked to environmental issues and how we can create communities that are more resistant to climate change.
Communities need to adapt as we are faced with many future outbreaks of dengue and malaria in new areas compared to previously, as a direct consequence of global warming and changes in precipitation patterns.

"Previously, we held the research course Climate change and health research methods, but we have developed the new course to see the wider picture, and give a more over- all view of sustainable development, something that runs deeper than climate change alone. So far, we've learnt a lot from the first semester as we see a clear need of project work starting earlier.

Sustainable development is important for our future, and our department has taken certain measures. For instance, we encourage colleagues to choose train before airplane for business trips or to hold Skype meetings instead of travelling. At the unit, we buy locally produced fairtrade tea, coffee, and conference meals and snacks. On our planning days, we plan for primarily vegetarian and locally produced meals."

Jon Moen on sustainability in engineering education

Since 2008, courses in sustainable development have been mandatory for students in the Master's of Science in Engineering Programme at Umeå University. Jon Moen, professor of Ecology, is working to change this part of the education and place even more emphasis on sustainability.

"When students graduate from the University, they stand at the start of a 30—40 year-long career. In that time, society is expected to radically change. Already at the University, we need to pass on available insights into how we're confronted with a vast readjust- ment towards a sustainable society, and also provide understanding for what an adjustment involves. In my mind, this is the biggest issue we can work with, and it's something all future generations will be affected by.

"Currently for many engineering students, the course on sustainable development is something that is taken as a side course and which is not given too much focus in the programme. However, a plan to change this is taking shape. Sustainable development is something that all students need to take seriously, and it's my firm hope and belief that the course will provide enough room for consideration. We're actually working along the line of let- ting the course run throughout the duration of the programme. That would give students an initial introduction using a theoretical course early on. It would then end with a problem-oriented project in order to work towards a set goal from start to finish."

Rickard Lindberg on sustainability in business education

At the Umeå School of Business and Economics, sustainable development work is something that is reflected in most areas, from its mission and vision to course syllabuses. Rickard Lindberg is one the responsible people behind the autumn annual Sustainability Day.

"We want this day to become an interesting event that makes students actively participate in discussions. The objective is to invite guest lecturers from the business sector as well as organisations that work nationally or internationally with these issues. This will be the fourth annual Sustainability Day. Its content has varied but the common theme has been the breaking point between the financial sector and its sustainability challenges with for instance the fashion and food industries. Sustainability is an important issue that students need to take with them, it needs to be included in their education, which leads to reflection and action in the working life. The Sustainability Day can be seen as a way to shed light on these issues.

"A huge challenge that we can see when it comes to sustainable development is how long it takes to penetrate through such a large organisation as ours. On the department level, we work with sustainable development by focusing on three main fields: education, research and outreach with the addition of direct environmental impact."

Text: Markus Välimaa
Photo: Mattias Pettersson

This article was first published in the magazine Aktum no. 2 2017.