Uppsala University's Centre for Sustainable Development offers a course "Actors & Strategies for Change – Towards Global Sustainabilities" for bachelor students with diverse study backgrounds. During spring term 2014 some 50 students from four continents participate in the course.

Stella Williams and Cornelia E Nauen of Mundus maris were invited guests for one of the weekly sessions (3 March), which serve as inputs to the study projects of the participants.

In an interesting arrangement through a skype connection, the students in Uppsala could listen to Stella speaking from the US and Cornelia from Germany, all the while looking at the slides of the talk. Short of eye contact, pictures had been exchanged beforehand. The voices had to do the rest in carrying the emotional charge of the exchange.

It started with a brief check-in across continents to ground the conversation. The introductory talk by Stella and Cornelia then blended concepts with empirical experience and gave some literature sources in addition to the texts that had already been included in the reader to the course.

The talk itself had three sub-sections (click here for the slides):

  • Sustainability research as more than multi-disciplinary enquiry
  • Change is happening all around us
  • Connecting concepts to practice towards global sustainabilities.

A subgroup of the students, Anton, Kylie, Lauren, Jonathan, Arvid, Patrick, Selena, then asked questions prepared in advance to probe further into the subject of change, which was the leading title for the specific course section. Unsurprisingly, we ran out of time to go into all questions. However, with such good chemistry bridging the geographical distance, exchange continues by e-mail.

At the closure, the students offered a quote from Reinhold Niebuhr, a Serenity Prayer in some form: “Give me grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed, courage to change the things which should be changed, and the wisdom to distinguish the one from the other.”

The course coordinators, Sebastian Welling and Sanna Barrineau, managed to put an interesting programme together and create a conducive atmosphere between all sides. That's something worth emulating, while saving on air travel, pollution and other costs.