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Society's Metabolism


Admission requirements

This course is obligatory for students of the MSc Industrial Ecology (joint degree TU Delft and Leiden University).


Society’s metabolism can be defined as society-nature interactions characterized by material and energy flows – i.e. input of raw materials, processing to manufactured products, services, and release of waste and emissions, including the energy conversion and use. Society's metabolism is determined by the modes of production (economy), technology, and the lifestyle (culture) of society.

This course introduces students to the evaluation of the impacts that society’s metabolism has on the functioning of the earth’s physical and biological systems. The main themes addressed in this course are the Anthropocene, Economics of the Anthropocene, The environmental and social impacts of society’s metabolism, Resources and Energy scenarios, Water, and the Food System.

Each lecture session of the course consists of an analysis of readings facilitated by the course lecturers, a content lecture given either by the course coordinators or by an invited speaker and/or class exercises and student presentations.

Workshops and interactive tutorials complement the lectures. The workshops support students in structuring their group projects. At times, course coordinators facilitate hands-on tutorials to deepen the students’ understanding of some course topics.
Preparation before class and active participation in class are fundamental for the success of the course. For this reason, we stimulate discussions in class so that everyone can bring and share their experience, values and opinions with their peers.

Course objectives

After completing this course, students are able to…

  • Describe society’s metabolism and the pressures it exerts on the environment;

  • Understand the connections between the drivers of demand for energy and natural resources;

  • Design effective ways to assess and analyse the interactions between society’s metabolism and the environment;

  • Analyze the water, food and energy systems and understand their contribution to society’s metabolism;

  • Investigate the extraction and use of natural resources at the global level and examine societal issues related to these;

  • Discuss economic constructs, theories, and models to establish relationships between economic growth and the environment.


You will find the timetables for all courses and degree programmes of Leiden University in the tool MyTimetable (login). Any teaching activities that you have sucessfully registered for in MyStudyMap will automatically be displayed in MyTimeTable. Any timetables that you add manually, will be saved and automatically displayed the next time you sign in.

MyTimetable allows you to integrate your timetable with your calendar apps such as Outlook, Google Calendar, Apple Calendar and other calendar apps on your smartphone. Any timetable changes will be automatically synced with your calendar. If you wish, you can also receive an email notification of the change. You can turn notifications on in ‘Settings’ (after login).

For more information, watch the video or go the the 'help-page' in MyTimetable. Please note: Joint Degree students Leiden/Delft have to merge their two different timetables into one. This video explains how to do this.

Mode of instruction

The course will be given one day a week, with lectures given in the mornings and workshops/tutorials in the afternoons.
Education methods include lectures (including flipped classroom format), presentations, discussions, elaboration of group projects, writing of reports.

Assessment method

  • 50% final exam (Take-home)

  • 50% final project (40% group project report + 5% group project proposal + 5% in-class presentation)

Reading list



From the academic year 2022-2023 on every student has to register for courses with the new enrollment tool MyStudyMap. There are two registration periods per year: registration for the fall semester opens in July and registration for the spring semester opens in December. Please see this page for more information.

Please note that it is compulsory to both preregister and confirm your participation for every exam and retake. Not being registered for a course means that you are not allowed to participate in the final exam of the course. Confirming your exam participation is possible until ten days before the exam.

Extensive FAQ's on MyStudymap can be found here.


Coordinator: Stefano Cucurachi
Other involved teacher: Carlos Felipe Blanco


The course will be held on Fridays. Plenary lectures will take place in the morning, tutorials in the afternoon.

This course is open for students of the MSc Industrial Ecology (joint degree TU Delft and Leiden University). Students can register for the course and exam via uSis.