Online learning opportunity on the ecosystems approach

One of UNEP’s goals is to help build the capacity of professionals to tackle current and future ecological problems. Now UNEP, in cooperation with Concordia University in Montreal, Canada, is launching a new course on ecosystems. The Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) Wicked Problems, Dynamic solutions: The Ecosystem Approach and Systems Thinking will be disseminated through GUPES.

It is the first MOOC to focus on the ecosystem approach and systems thinking. The start date for the free six-week (50-hour) foundation course is September 2016; an additional week (10 hours) of training can lead to an Advanced Certificate.

The MOOC registration page link is here.

Why a course on the ecosystem approach?
We live in a complex and dynamic world. Many problems we face today involve interdependent structures, multiple actors, and are at least partly the result of past actions. Such problems are extremely difficult to tackle and conventional solutions have very often led to unintended consequences.

A systems thinking approach focuses on systems as a whole: how the parts interrelate and how interconnections create emerging patterns. Systems thinking tools allow us to map and explore dynamic complexity. With a better understanding of systems, we can identify leverage points that lead to desired outcomes and avoid unintended consequences.

Environmental problems are often described as “wicked problems” to highlight their complexity and the difficulties they entail. Finding answers to current crises such as fisheries collapse, climate change, biodiversity loss, infectious diseases, and inequitable access to resources will be among the greatest challenges of our time. The ecosystem approach applies systems thinking to gain a better understanding of how ecosystems function. It can help us identify potential solutions to a myriad of problems inspired in part by the complex dynamics of ecosystems themselves.

What will you gain from the course?

  • A well-developed knowledge of the basic features of ecosystems, the ecosystem approach and systems thinking from an interdisciplinary perspective
  • An understanding of the distinction between reductionist and holistic thinking
  • The ability to engage in critical systems thinking
  • Enhanced knowledge of the inter-relationships between ecosystems and social systems, including critical ecosystem functions and services; threats, drivers and direct and indirect impacts on human well-being and development; and opportunities for advancing the ecosystem approach
  • Specific awareness of case studies covering a range of ecosystems and global issues, demonstrating the benefits and challenges of ecosystem management.
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