About this Course
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Intermediate Level

Approx. 32 hours to complete

Suggested: 4-6 hours/week...


Subtitles: English

100% online

Start instantly and learn at your own schedule.

Flexible deadlines

Reset deadlines in accordance to your schedule.

Intermediate Level

Approx. 32 hours to complete

Suggested: 4-6 hours/week...


Subtitles: English

Syllabus - What you will learn from this course

1 hour to complete


1 video (Total 3 min), 8 readings
8 readings
Welcome learners!10m
Course organization10m
Grading and logistics10m
FAQ - General topics10m
FAQ- Time management10m
FAQ - Quizzes and assignment10m
FAQ - Certificate10m
3 hours to complete

Module 1. Introducing the basic concepts

9 videos (Total 118 min), 1 quiz
9 videos
The challenges faced in nexus analysis17m
Examples of “different” analyses of the nexus14m
Basic concepts of metabolic analysis12m
The bio-phsyical roots of metabolic patterns9m
Too rich to be green12m
The “intolerable” dependence on fossil fuel imports10m
Circular economy, Bioeconomy and Zero-emissions14m
Jevon’s paradox and the myth of resource efficiency as a solution for sustainability9m
1 practice exercise
Quiz 150m
3 hours to complete

Module 2. Acknowledging the poor quality of existing quantitative analyses

9 videos (Total 123 min), 1 quiz
9 videos
The fragility of numbers10m
Handling the issue of scale15m
Narratives vs. Storytelling12m
The identity in Complex Systems11m
The Concept of Holon16m
Grammars: how to keep quantitative analysis semantically open10m
Mosaic Effect: integrating quantitative analysis across different hierarchical levels17m
The Sudoku Effect – how to handle impredicativity in quantitative analysis11m
1 practice exercise
Quiz 230m
3 hours to complete

Module 3. The challenge of food accounting

9 videos (Total 137 min), 1 quiz
9 videos
An example of an integrated quantitative analysis of food metabolism: Ecuador13m
What are qualities of the produced food that cannot be considered in qualitative analysis?18m
Pre-industrial metabolic pattern18m
Technological lock-in of agriculture11m
The post harvest sector16m
Feeding the cities12m
The mission impossible of agriculture in modern times16m
Multifunctional agriculture15m
1 practice exercise
Quiz 330m
2 hours to complete

Module 4. The challenge of energy accounting

9 videos (Total 123 min), 1 quiz
9 videos
Exosomatic Metabolism11m
EROI a critical appraisal14m
Energy grammar13m
Functional and structural components12m
Quality of PES13m
Energy efficiency for policy targets12m
The problem with agro-biofuels13m
Energiewende and the problem of intermittents9m
1 practice exercise
Quiz 420m
10 ReviewsChevron Right


got a tangible career benefit from this course

Top reviews from Sustainability of Social-Ecological Systems: the Nexus between Water, Energy and Food

By ALMar 31st 2018

Everybody should learn this !\n\nIt will change my way of looking at sustainability as promised by Prof. Giampietro.\n\nTHX



Mario Giampietro

ICREA Research Professor
Institute of Environmental Science and Technology (ICTA)

Andrea Saltelli

Guest researcher
Institute of Environmental Science and Technology (ICTA)

Tarik Serrano

Post-Doc Researcher
Institute of Environmental Science and Technology (ICTA)

About Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona

The Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB) is a public university located in the metropolitan area of Barcelona. International in its outlook, it is fully consolidated within its local surroundings, and offers quality education in close association with research activity, the transfer of scientific, technological, cultural and educational knowledge, the promotion of its human potential and the responsible management of available resources. The UAB currently offers 81 degrees, 130 official Master Programmes and 183 UAB-specific Masters Degrees. In addition, it offers 174 lifelong learning programmes and 65 PhD Programmes, 27 of which have been distinguished through Quality Awards. The UAB has a total of over 3,500 teaching and research staff, over 2,000 administrative staff and over 40,000 students....

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Once you enroll for a Certificate, you’ll have access to all videos, quizzes, and programming assignments (if applicable). Peer review assignments can only be submitted and reviewed once your session has begun. If you choose to explore the course without purchasing, you may not be able to access certain assignments.

  • When you purchase a Certificate you get access to all course materials, including graded assignments. Upon completing the course, your electronic Certificate will be added to your Accomplishments page - from there, you can print your Certificate or add it to your LinkedIn profile. If you only want to read and view the course content, you can audit the course for free.

  • The course is directed toward upper-division undergraduate and graduate students from a wide variety of disciplines (environmental sciences, engineering, agricultural sciences, social sciences) as well as professionals (NGOs, think tanks) and policy makers concerned with sustainable development in both developed and developing countries.

  • You can request the certificate at any time: before, during or once you finish the course.

  • · The course name

    · The instructor's signature

    · The logo of the partner institution offering the course

    · A verification URL that allows others to check the Certificate's authenticity

    · A statement that Coursera has confirmed the identity of the learner who completed the course

  • · Academic credit from the partner institution offering the course

    · The final grade you got in the course

    · Your ID photo

    · The hours you spent working on coursework

    · A printed or mailed copy of the Course Certificate.

    Certificates are provided as downloadable PDF files, which you can print yourself. You can also share them electronically.

    Unfortunately, Coursera cannot provide course Certificates with any more information than they already include.

  • No. The certificate shows that the student has passed the course, but it is not an official qualification of the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona.

More questions? Visit the Learner Help Center.