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Limits to Growth PG (10061.3)

Level: Postgraduate Level
Credit Points: 3
HECS Bands: 2
Faculty: Faculty of Health
Discipline: Discipline of Public Health


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Unit Outlines

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  • Semester 2, 2019, ONLINE, BRUCE (188505) - View
  • Semester 2, 2017, ONLINE, BRUCE (164449) - View
  • Semester 2, 2016, ONLINE, BRUCE (163234) - View

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This unit will introduce students to the evidence and scholarship that recognises limits - limits to human population growth, resource use, economic growth, pollution and the concept of existential risk. This is a 21st century Public Health challenge and it is important that graduates can work within frameworks of sustainability. However, we are still learning how to do this, and existing approaches are not guaranteed success so it's important that students understand and critique these.

The titular "Limits to Growth" (LTG) was the best-selling environmental book of the 1970s. It emerged from a time of high-level concern about the rate of human population growth and the consequent risk of famine. Early computer models produced by the authors forecast a collapse of civilisation by the middle of the 21st century, under a "business as usual" scenario. Widely ridiculed by the neoliberal establishment, awareness of LTG faded, to be revived by concern about climate change, the "sixth extinction" and other elements of the closely related concept of "Planetary Boundaries". However, discussion of population control has since become politically sensitive. We revisit LTG conceptual models and those that followed to understand the complex, multisector and interacting issues that must be addressed and critique our current capacity to do this.

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this unit, students will be able to:

1. Interpret and transmit advanced and integrated specialist knowledge of the history of thinking on limits to human resource use and population growth, and key related concepts, such as the ecological footprint, human carrying capacity and sustainability, including the Sustainable Development Goals;

2. Critically analyse challenges to population health, including what is meant by the term existential risk;

3. Formulate an evidence informed argument of the major determinants of human population change (including the demographic transition, demographic entrapment, migration and conflict) and acquire a foundational knowledge of the long debate over human population;

4. Critically evaluate and synthesise complex factors which link demographic change, economic development, resource use and population health;

5. Critically analyse current approaches to achieving sustained health and wellbeing using the Sustainable Development Goals and related frameworks; and

6. Demonstrate the application of knowledge with creativity and initiative to new situations in professional practice.

Contact Hours

Up to 10 hours per week.





Assumed Knowledge


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