Principles, Tools, and Approaches for a More Resilient World

Instructor: Thomas Murtha

Spring 2017: February 22, March 1, 8, 22, 29  (5 sessions; Wednesdays, 6:10-8:10 PM)


The great acceleration of human impacts on a finite planet is straining the resilience of earth system processes that support human society. Humanity has now crossed at least four planetary boundaries affected by climate change, loss of biosphere integrity, land system change, and altered biochemical cycles.

This is a survey course that examines the squeeze on planetary boundaries and introduces essential principles, tools, approaches, and resources for providing individual citizens with the agency to address sustainability issues in their homes, workplaces, and communities. Through the course lectures, readings, videos, and discussions, we will examine how individuals and civil society can better align lifestyles and societal values to enable a more resilient and diverse world. Topics may include climate change, freshwater use, land system use change, rate of biodiversity loss, economic benefits from the wise management of ecosystems, sustainable capitalism, and developing new narratives for humanity in the Anthropocene Era that enable prosperity, diversity, and good lives.

Thomas Murtha has over thirty-five years’ experience as a journalist, investment banker, institutional investment manager, director of corporate engagement at The Nature Conservancy (TNC), and as an environmental/investment activist working on issues related to the systemic and transition risk of climate change. At Preventable Surprises, he works with institutional investors and other NGOs to engage publicly traded companies in North American, Europe and Asia on the adoption of 2°C transition plans in accordance with the science-based targets of the UN COP21 Agreement. Prior to Preventable Surprises, his work at TNC focused on working with Royal Dutch Shell on approaches to replacing grey with green living infrastructure for improved coastal resilience and landscape scale mitigation of oil and gas development as well as scenario planning for climate change adaptation and pathways to net zero emissions. Also at TNC, Thomas worked with BHP Billiton to develop the Martu Living Deserts Project in Australia, the Valdivian Coastal Reserve in Southern Chile, and the Sustainable Rivers and Forest Initiative in Texas. At T. Rowe Price Associates in Baltimore, he was a portfolio manager for the International Stock Fund and the Global Technology Fund. Earlier in his career, Thomas was an investment banker in Asia for Jardine Fleming, a joint venture of Hong Kong based conglomerate Jardine Matheson and London based bank Robert Fleming. Prior to his career in finance, Tom was journalist for McGraw Hill Publications and Dun and Bradstreet where he covered technology and finance beats in Asia. Tom is an occasional contributor of op-ed articles to Institutional Investor, Pensions and Investments,, and the Huffington Post.