The 2012 Sustainable Europe course is designed around a sequence of three interrelated modules.

Part 1: History and Theory of Contemporary Sustainable Development: How is Switzerland Translating Theory into Practice? (Instructor: Dr. Ralph Hall, VT)

Like other courses with the word ‘sustainability’ in the title, the motivation of this course stems from a dissatisfaction with the current state of the world and from a desire to identify more positive – i.e., less environmentally and socially destructive – development pathways. It could be argued that the main driving forces that have sent us in the wrong (unsustainable) direction are the same forces, but differently fashioned and designed, that could be used to reverse course and improve the state of the world.

Since the late 1980s, the idea of sustainable development has received growing attention from government agencies, businesses, non-government organizations, and civic groups. As a result, it can now be found behind many public policy initiatives and business activities in virtually all sectors of the economy. Yet, people using the idea often lack a firm grasp of the origins of the concept.

This first module will lay the foundation for a common understanding of sustainable development. We will explore the emergence of sustainable development and will review and discuss several critical ideas frequently used when describing the concept. Further, given the importance placed on innovation as an engine of “green” growth/development, we will review the idea of innovation and the role of businesses and government in promoting innovation for sustainability. Each student will then apply their knowledge of sustainability to critically evaluate the Swiss government’s approach to sustainable development.

Part 2: Sustainable and Equitable Neighborhood Development: How are European Housing and Community Development Policies related to the Creation of Socially Integrated, Mixed-Income Communities? (Instructor: Dr. Derek Hyra, VT)

Having formed a solid foundation on the concept of sustainable development, the second module will focuses on the social equity component of sustainability by interrogating notions of ethnic/racial diversity, social exclusion, and neighborhood regeneration within metropolitan areas in Europe and the United States. The module explores cross-nationally the redevelopment of neighborhoods that suffer from physical and social deprivation. We will investigate the relationships among race/ethnicity, social housing initiatives, and economic development policies, and explore how these relationships in different contexts contribute to circumstances in socially-excluded communities. We will not only assess the ways in which a range of nation-state policies contribute to creation of socially-excluded neighborhoods but we will also explore different nation-state policies that have attempted to alleviate ill conditions through forming socially integrated, mixed-income communities.

In this module we investigate neighborhood conditions in Milan, Italy, and will compare urban areas in France and the US. These countries are ideal settings to investigate and compare social exclusion and neighborhood regeneration for at least two reasons. First, despite having different notions of citizenship, welfare states, and immigration histories, since the mid-20th century, both countries have had an increase in the number of disadvantaged minority neighborhoods, and these distressed areas have spawned civil unrest. Second, both countries in the 2000s have attempted to improve these disadvantaged areas, with various housing and community development policies, in an attempt to produce more sustainable, integrated and equitable neighborhoods.

Part 3: Globalization, Immigration, and Post-Conflict Rebuilding: How are European Institutional Frameworks used for Collaborative Public Engagement and Planning? (Instructor: Dr. Frank Dukes, UVA)

In the final module, we will examine how European communities are addressing the conflicts that efforts to promote sustainability engender, through conflict transformation and collaborative planning processes. As populations grow and economies suffer, pressures on historic and natural resources mount. These issues offer particular challenges because of their impacts on multiple communities and levels of government, and on so many inter-related issues – health, community development, immigration, housing, transportation, water, and beyond – and because the consequences of these issues are so profound to individual and community life.

The President’s Commission on Sustainable Development has found that such conflicts “increasingly are exceeding the capacity of institutions, processes, and mechanisms to resolve them. Adversarial administrative, legal, and political processes … typically stress points of conflict, dividing communities and neighbors. What is usually missing from the process is a mechanism to enable the many stakeholders to work together to identify common goals, values, and areas of interest through vigorous and open public discussion.” Sustainable solutions, then, require overcoming the barriers of fragmented knowledge and governance – the disconnections within and among science and government and the public sphere – as well as the barriers of race, ethnicity, class, and other elements of communal conflict.

We will include case studies in three very different EU countries where sustainability encounters these complifying issues – Marseilles, France (immigration and multi-culturalism); Zurich, Switzerland (integrating old with new); and Belfast, Northern Ireland (legacies of conflict). For each of these cases we will examine how they are confronting these challenges through collaborative planning and conflict transformation.