The path to sustainability is vague and winding

Kursens sjunde vecka handlade om Measuring sustainability och innehöll den tredje och sista inlämningsuppgifter. Här kommer den.


In Module 1, we discussed how we would know if the world is on an unsustainable path. I would like you to revisit this idea now. Has your perspective changed as a consequence of what you have learned? Using the concepts and language we have examined in the course to write a concise response to the question: Are we on a sustainable path? Reference a news item or current event that has occurred since you started this course to illustrate your position (do not forget to include a link or citation to your source).

In the beginning of this course I thought I had a fairly good idea about sustainability and what we need to do to live a sustainable future. But, I now understand I wasn’t really close to knowing what it’s all about. The subject of sustainability is covering much more than I thought.

However, I don’t think I changed my opinion about us succeeding in creating a sustainable future, and I still don’t think we’re on the path to sustainability quite yet. But I have learned a lot of new ways to find the path and evidently we have the map to find it and the knowledge to follow it.

Just the other day, on 27th September, the Dutch environmental assessment agency, NEAA, published their latest report regarding green house gas (GHG) emissions [1]. They report that the global GHG emissions increased during 2016, but the CO2 emissions is stable or even decreasing in the five largest emitting countries plus European Union [2]. Only India is increasing among them. The decrease of CO2 emission is despite increased population and that is really good news.

The report also tells that global emissions of non-CO2 emissions increase and a large contributor is methane (NH4) which, among other things, occurs during production of fossil fuels (28%). So if we abandon fossil fuels the decreased production will decrease emissions drastically and perhaps a transition from developing to developed countries with increased meat consumption might fit within today’s volume.

However, we need to do more than just decreasing GHG emission. According to Earth Overshoot Day [3] we are currently using 1.7 earths which obviously isn’t sustainable. We need to consume more efficiently and from the sustainable consumption equation [4] one can see the impact of continuous non-improved consumption patterns.

If we help the developing countries to use the experience from our failures they will be able to skip a lot of environmentally bad steps by using technology, high yield farming, fossil free (energy) production and more. And if the prediction of faster demographic transitions in developing countries will come true we won’t be as many people to feed by mid-century as expected by the UN.

All together, we are on the way to or even at the beginning of the path to sustainability but we need to pick up speed to cover some distance in time. And it’s quite possible.


[1] The article – Greenhouse gas emission levels continued to rise in 2016:

[2] The trend report – Trends in global CO2 and total greenhouse gas emissions:

[3] World Overshoot Day

[4] SI = P x C/P x I/C

Growing mountains of waste reduce when the waste is weighed

Den andra av tre inlämningsuppgifter kom under kursens sjätte vecka som gäller Environmental policy. Trevlig läsning.


Write a response that promotes an environmental policy from your region or country, which you believe should be more widely emulated. Explain the policy and argue why other regions or countries should adopt it. Using the language of the text and lectures, describe why this is a good policy, or why it may not have been more widely adopted.

To stop the waste mountains from growing the municipality of Gothenburg 2011 started to change the waste tax in a few communities and let the people pay in proportion to the amount of waste the produced. The municipality was hoping that people would help each other to recycle more and decrease the amount of waste. The goal decided in the regional waste plan was:

”The amount of domestic waste produced in 2020 shall be lower than the amount produced in 2008, 453 kg/person” [my translation]

Another reason to introduce the new tax system was to break to correlation between increased consumption and increased amount of waste and to minimise the amount waste that isn’t recycled, and thereby creating a sustainable consumption.

Getting a new waste tax all of a sudden might seem to be a tough situation but for several decades, Sweden has had a very great system for recycling different materials. Newspapers and packaging of paper, plastic and metal are left at rather small recycling stations, located close to domestic areas, well in reach for many people. The waste can also be left at larger recycling facilities. Bulky waste and electronics are left at the recycling facilities and batteries, light sources, and hazardous waste such as paint residue, spill oil and other kinds of chemicals are left at environmental stations found within all recycling facilities. This should make the change for people a lot easier than at first glance.

In Gothenburg the amount of waste has currently decreased by 57 kg/person since 2008 so the goal is well within reach.

To change the waste tax to match the amount of each household’s waste gives each and everyone the opportunity to affect their own tax. The amount of tax might even be lower than prior to the change which would serve as a great incentive for a behavioural change i.e. a market incentive pigovian tax.

I think to whole Swedish system with recycling and weighing of waste is doing good for the use of the earth’s resources and if it also can break the correlation between consumption and the amount of produced waste it’s well worth to spread the system and this policy to other cities within and outside Sweden as well as to countries with high consumption and large amount of waste where the negative trend can be stopped and hopefully change the course toward sustainability.


My experience of the Tragedy of the Commons

Nu i höst har jag gått en online-kurs på University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign via Coursera. Kursen heter Introduction to sustainability och är inte helt överraskande en introduktion till hållbarhet.

Jag kommer här publicera de tre inlämningsuppgifter jag gjorde under kursen gång tillsammans med de instruktioner jag fick. Mycket nöje.

Här följer första av tre inlämningsuppgifter och den gjordes under kursens  tredje vecka som gick som Ecosystems and Climate Change.


Find a common (i.e., a shared resource) that is tragic (i.e., is inevitably degraded) in your own life. It may be something that you observe in your town, job, school, or home, but it must have the elements of a ”Tragedy of the Commons.” Explain who shares this resource. Why do they share it? Explain how these people use the resource for their own individual gain. Show how the result is the depletion of the resource. What ideas do you have to improving the situation and enabling long-term sustainability of the resource? Who would it take to implement such changes? What challenges would those people face and how could they be helped?

This year my and the neighbouring municipality are experiencing drinking water usage regulations due to low levels of ground water. The regulations apply to anyone connected to the common drinking water system, including individuals, companies, industries, farmers and municipal operations.

Depending on your roll within in the municipality the personal gain differs. Private home owners are no longer allowed to wash their cars at their own drive ways, filling their  private mini pools or watering their lawns. They are also suggested to not keeping the water running unnecessarily, for example when taking a shower the water could be turned off while applying shower cream or shampoo or they should not wash the dishes by hand with the water running. Some companies are using more water than others and the regulations are most often affecting them as well. House painting companies are no longer allowed to clean the facades using drinking water. They have to come up with another solution. One company is using sea water.

The regulations are already applied and have been since mid April. However, I perceive a huge behavioural differences between people as well as between companies. Some people continue as usual, some even questions whether the low ground water levels actually are real. Some companies, as mentioned above, are finding alternative and more sustainable ways of working while others somewhat advocates increased water usage. Like where I work. Employees are encouraged to rinse the dishes before putting them in the dish washer because ”otherwise it won’t get clean”. In my opinon the problem is not the amount of left-overs, but the amount of cutlery in the dish washer.

Most importantly we need a different story. The local municipality has already taken its responsibility in introducing the regulations but I don’t think it’s enough, not in the long run. We need a different story, a story everyone can relate to. A story that explains why the drinking water is important, that creates incentives for each individual and each company to work for the collective and and not solely for their own personal gain. A story that provides individuals with tools to create change within the local community or within the company they work. A story telling all the benefits of changing behaviour to a sustainable way of living.


Information about the local regulations in Swedish