5371 Wahlfach - Umwelt und Wirtschaft II
Dr. Ernest Aigner, M.Sc.
Contact details Office hours after appointment Please always write the course number “PI 5371” in the header of emails or contact me through learn@wu!
Weekly hours
Language of instruction
02/12/19 to 03/01/19
Registration via LPIS
Notes to the course
Day Date Time Room
Monday 04/29/19 01:00 PM - 05:00 PM D2.0.038
Monday 05/06/19 01:00 PM - 05:00 PM D2.0.038
Monday 05/13/19 01:00 PM - 05:00 PM D2.0.038
Monday 05/20/19 01:00 PM - 05:00 PM D2.0.038
Monday 05/27/19 01:00 PM - 05:00 PM D2.0.038
Monday 06/03/19 01:00 PM - 05:00 PM D2.0.038

The goal of the seminar is to gain a comprehensive understanding of the interactions and dependencies of social, ecological and economic systems. In the first session students are introduced to urgent environmental challenges and critical thinking, plural and ecological economics to understand and conceive the embeddedness of systems and importance of institutions. The second session critically discusses economic growth as a development paradigm, and its links social flourishing as well as environmental limits. Further, it explores the entrenchment of modern economies in fossil fuels. The third session focuses on work and in particular on working time. It establishes links between working time, economic growth, and energy form and discusses approaches to relieve pressures on environment and unemployment by working time reduction. The fourth session discusses social welfare and environmental policy in a needs-based context to outline a socially balanced approach to stay within planetary boundaries. The fifth session outlines options for actions as consumer, producer or citizen. Finally, in the last section students prepare a proposal for action to address climate change. 

Learning outcomes

After taking this seminar, the students are able to

  • understand socio-ecological systems as embedded systems and their respective institutional context.
  • critically analyse and act to address challenges on the intersection between social, ecological and economic systems. Challenges that include inequality, environmental pollution and exploitation, growth dependency, and overwork.
  • understanding the entrenchment of the economy with fossil fuels.
  • Perceive necessities, and conceive options for change towards social prosperity and environmental sustainability.

The seminar promotes the students

  •  to analyse and critically reflect (‘critical thinking’) on the framing of social and ecological challenges and policies.
  • to select and apply theoretical concepts in the context of ecological and plural economics.
  • to critically reflect on current debates taking place in influential media outlets.
  • engage in open discussion, conceive their own opinion based on state-of-the-art academic research and give substantial-constructive feedback
Attendance requirements

Class will start at 1pm sharp and last until 5pm. Please make sure you arrive in time. You may miss one of the six sessions. For exceptional reasons it is possible to miss another session, in that case please contact the lecturer.

Teaching/learning method(s)
  • Inputs by teachers
  • Discussions and critical reflection of news and magazine articles in leading international and social media. 
  • Variety of group exercises including beehive discussions, collective reading exercise, fish-bowl discussions, panel discussions and role games.
  • Use of videos, film clips, lecture casts and podcasts
  • Engagement in digital medias and reflection on online debates taking place, for instance, on blogs and twitter.

Individual Seminar Paper (30%)

Discuss a topic related to the class and of your interest. The seminar paper does not necessarily refer to the topic of your presentation, though you need to cite at least two texts of the course literature. The seminar paper may not exceed a length of five pages, without cover page, table of contents and references. Please format the text with 1.15 lines pacing, 11pt, Times New Roman, author-date referencing style. Source used in the literature should stem from peer-reviewed journals and official statistics. Newspaper and Wikipedia are not a suitable source.

Submission by July 31st on learn as PDF file.

Grading criteria: Structure & processing: well organised, good legibility/spelling/grammar, referencing system, use of graphics processing (12%). Accuracy, understanding and coverage: focused on the question and understanding of subject, wide use of relevant material, excellent use of illustrative examples (12%). Clarity: clarity of expression, innovative and critical reflection (6%).

Presentation (25%)

Presentation of one academic text in a group of three students. Maximum 15 minutes. The presentation should cover the key content and conclusions from the text. Each student should be active in the class presentation.

Submit the slides to the instructor latest on the evening preceding the respective session.

Grading criteria: Structure & processing: well organised, good legibility/spelling/grammar, referencing system, use of graphics processing (10%). Accuracy, understanding and coverage: demonstrates understanding of the text, excellent use of illustrative examples (10%). Clarity: clarity of expression and critical reflection (5%).

Reading Task in four of six sessions (20%)

Read actively the current readings of the week. Submit three discussion questions to one of the texts and an answer to one of the three questions with about 300 words.

Submission latest at midnight on the evening preceeding the respective session.

Grading criteria: relevance of the questions in the light of the text and quality of the answer. Each submission counts 5% of the total grade.

Online engagement (10%)

Engage at least once in on an online media platform in a discussion on an issue related to the class. The media and specific format is up to you. Possible platforms or media include discussion forums in newspapers (e.g., in Austria), a group in a messenger (e.g. Signal, Snapchat or Whats-app), an online platform (e.g. Facebook or twitter), your personal blog, a video (e.g. Youtube).

Please upload a screenshot of your online engagement by 31st of July on learn. Please make sure that you do not violate any privacy law and hence anonymize names and pictures.
Grading criteria: Quality of contribution.

In-class participation (10%)

Grading criteria: active participation in discussions and other in class exercises, enhancement of open and inclusive discussion atmosphere, and meaningful use of digital tools.

Prerequisites for participation and waiting lists

Please contact the lecturer in case the class if fully booked.

Last edited: 2019-04-26