An Interactive Planetary Boundaries Systems Thinking Learning Tool to Integrate Sustainability into Chemistry Curriculum

11 July 2022, Version 1
This content is an early or alternative research output and has not been peer-reviewed by Cambridge University Press at the time of posting.


Sustainability has a molecular basis that suggests a central role for chemistry in addressing today’s challenges to Earth and societal systems, and this role requires educators to see chemical reactions and processes as integral parts of dynamic and interconnected systems. Despite this prospect, few accessible resources are available for students and educators to facilitate systems thinking in chemistry for sustainability. We have developed an interactive digital learning tool ( based on the Planetary Boundaries sustainability framework, that uses interactive visualizations to help users better understand Earth system sustainability challenges and helps chemists and educators connect substances, reactions, and chemistry concepts to sustainability science. The tool highlights the fundamental role that chemistry plays in regulating the individual biophysical Earth system processes and in determining their control variables. It incorporates key features of a systems thinking framework by illustrating the dynamic interconnections among the processes and their control variables and demonstrates change of the Earth system over time. Finally, the interactive tool provides educators with accessible entry points to support the integration of chemistry curriculum content with sustainability considerations.


first-year undergraduate
systems thinking
planetary boundaries
interactive electronic tool
chemistry education

Supplementary materials

Sustainability frameworks engagement activity general chemistry
Activities and poll questions and student responses for the Sustainability Frameworks Engagement Activity used in a general chemistry honors class at a large Midwestern US University
Planetary Boundaries Activity for General Chemistry
Student Worksheet for Activity and Key Student Messages Introducing Planetary Boundaries Activity in General Chemistry (Term 1) at a small Canadian Undergraduate University

Supplementary weblinks


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