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In this module, you will learn how systems literacy is tailored specifically to the understanding and remedy of environmental problems, and the ways in which it differs from traditional disciplinary approaches to academic learning.

Learning objectives

After reading this module, students should be able to

  • define systems literacy, how it is tailored specifically to the understanding and remedy of environmental problems, and the ways in which it differs from traditional disciplinary approaches to academic learning
  • define bio-complexity as a scientific principle, and its importance as a concept and method for students in the environmental humanities and social sciences
  • identify a potential research project that would embrace applications of one or more of the following sustainability key terms: resilience and vulnerability, product loops and lifecycles, and carbon neutrality


Transition to a sustainable resource economy is a dauntingly large and complex project, and will increasingly drive research and policy agendas across academia, government, and industry through the twenty-first century. To theorize sustainability, in an academic setting, is not to diminish or marginalize it. On the contrary, the stakes for sustainability education could not be higher. The relative success or failure of sustainability education in the coming decades, and its influence on government and industry practices worldwide, will be felt in the daily lives of billions of people both living and not yet born.

The core of sustainability studies, in the academic sense, is systems literacy    —a simple definition, but with complex implications. Multiple indicators tell us that the global resource boom is now reaching a breaking point. The simple ethos of economic growth—“more is better”—is not sustainable in a world of complex food, water and energy systems suffering decline. The grand challenge of sustainability is to integrate our decision-making and consumption patterns—along with the need for economic viability— within a sustainable worldview. This will not happen by dumb luck. It will require, first and foremost, proper education. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, universal literacy—reading and writing—was the catch-cry of education reformers. In the twenty-first century, a new global literacy campaign is needed, this time systems literacy, to promote a basic understanding of the complex interdependency of human and natural systems.

Here I will lay out the historical basis for this definition of sustainability in terms of systems literacy, and offer specific examples of how to approach issues of sustainability from a systems-based viewpoint. Systems literacy, as a fundamental goal of higher education, represents the natural evolution of interdisciplinarity    , which encourages students to explore connections between traditionally isolated disciplines and has been a reformist educational priority for several decades in the United States. Systems literacy is an evolved form of cross-disciplinary practice, calling for intellectual competence (not necessarily command) in a variety of fields in order to better address specific real-world environmental problems.

Questions & Answers

Is there any normative that regulates the use of silver nanoparticles?
Damian Reply
what king of growth are you checking .?
What fields keep nano created devices from performing or assimulating ? Magnetic fields ? Are do they assimilate ?
Stoney Reply
why we need to study biomolecules, molecular biology in nanotechnology?
Adin Reply
yes I'm doing my masters in nanotechnology, we are being studying all these domains as well..
what school?
biomolecules are e building blocks of every organics and inorganic materials.
anyone know any internet site where one can find nanotechnology papers?
Damian Reply
sciencedirect big data base
Introduction about quantum dots in nanotechnology
Praveena Reply
what does nano mean?
Anassong Reply
nano basically means 10^(-9). nanometer is a unit to measure length.
do you think it's worthwhile in the long term to study the effects and possibilities of nanotechnology on viral treatment?
Damian Reply
absolutely yes
how to know photocatalytic properties of tio2 nanoparticles...what to do now
Akash Reply
it is a goid question and i want to know the answer as well
characteristics of micro business
for teaching engĺish at school how nano technology help us
Do somebody tell me a best nano engineering book for beginners?
s. Reply
there is no specific books for beginners but there is book called principle of nanotechnology
what is fullerene does it is used to make bukky balls
Devang Reply
are you nano engineer ?
fullerene is a bucky ball aka Carbon 60 molecule. It was name by the architect Fuller. He design the geodesic dome. it resembles a soccer ball.
what is the actual application of fullerenes nowadays?
That is a great question Damian. best way to answer that question is to Google it. there are hundreds of applications for buck minister fullerenes, from medical to aerospace. you can also find plenty of research papers that will give you great detail on the potential applications of fullerenes.
what is the Synthesis, properties,and applications of carbon nano chemistry
Abhijith Reply
Mostly, they use nano carbon for electronics and for materials to be strengthened.
is Bucky paper clear?
carbon nanotubes has various application in fuel cells membrane, current research on cancer drug,and in electronics MEMS and NEMS etc
so some one know about replacing silicon atom with phosphorous in semiconductors device?
s. Reply
Yeah, it is a pain to say the least. You basically have to heat the substarte up to around 1000 degrees celcius then pass phosphene gas over top of it, which is explosive and toxic by the way, under very low pressure.
Do you know which machine is used to that process?
how to fabricate graphene ink ?
for screen printed electrodes ?
What is lattice structure?
s. Reply
of graphene you mean?
or in general
in general
Graphene has a hexagonal structure
On having this app for quite a bit time, Haven't realised there's a chat room in it.
what is biological synthesis of nanoparticles
Sanket Reply
how did you get the value of 2000N.What calculations are needed to arrive at it
Smarajit Reply
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Practice Key Terms 9

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Source:  OpenStax, Sustainability: a comprehensive foundation. OpenStax CNX. Nov 11, 2013 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11325/1.43
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