There are only 10 places on this course this year, so if you are interested in participating, please register as soon as possible through WebOodi.
About the course
As the song by Madonna goes, we are “living in a material world” – literally! Our culture and economy is intimately linked to the transformation of materials into products for our use – for construction, for transportation and for the host of other artefacts deemed necessary by current society. With our use of raw materials, and the energy used in their transformation, we are now irrevocably changing our environment, to such an extent that a new geological epoch has been espoused – the Anthropocene.
Historically, we learned to use the natural materials around us, or those derived from the animals hunted for food - stone, wood, vegetable fibers, leather, bone, horn, sinew etc. Later, we learned to produce metals from ores, and in the past century or so to synthesize polymers and resins from fossil oil. Through the scientific study of materials, we have become adept at creating new materials with radically new properties – properties never before seen, nor even dreamed of.
Despite our undoubted ingenuity at developing new materials and producing new products from them, we still take little account of the impact that our materials’ use has on the environment and, in many cases, on our fellow humans. This paradigm needs to change. Recognizing this, new policy, at national and EU level has been developed, embodied in the concepts of the Circular Economy and the Bioeconomy, the aim of which is to change the current situation to a (more) sustainable use of materials. Even with these intentions, a gulf remains between the status quo and a sustainable materials economy.
In this course, we will explore the nexus between materials and sustainability, adopting a systems thinking approach to materials cycles. We will look at how the use of material and the choices we make in their selection, and the design of materials and products, affect sustainability. We will look at how we can improve resource efficiency and will explore the limits to this. We will look at material flows and the stakeholders involved in often highly complex value chains.