“And no challenge poses greater threat to future generations than climate change.” – Barack Obama, State of the Union Address, 2015
The need to forge a sustainable global future has never been more pressing.
With the burgeoning scourge of climate change being felt around the world, climate scientists are stark in their warnings as to what the future holds if we don’t get our carbon emissions under tight control.
With sea levels rising, ice sheets melting and global temperatures reaching the highest levels ever seen, universities and the innovative graduates they produce are at the forefront of the fight, striving to relieve the reckless damage that contaminates our world.
The effects are already felt around the globe, with extreme weather events dominating headlines and plaguing communities worldwide. The bad news is, these droughts, floods, famines and fires are only expected to increase throughout the coming years.
All things considered, our global future depends on the promotion of widespread sustainable measures.
Sustainability is also proving good for business, with industry leaders cashing in on the financial benefits of sustainable practices. Studies have shown that customers are willing to pay for more sustainable products. A 2015 Nielsen survey found that 66 percent of worldwide digital consumers were willing to pay more for products and services from companies that support a positive social and environmental impact.
Sustainability’s influence on stock value has also been noticed by business leaders in environmental, social and governance policies, with an average 25 percent lead in stock performance against those behind the curve.
Increased desire to stick to sustainable principles has urged businesses to comply to stricter legislation, while sustainability-savvy graduates have never seen greater demand.
With renewed international focus being placed on the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Climate Agreement, universities will prove crucial in reaching these ambitious but necessary global targets.
These institutions represent the innovators, anchors and shapers that support the development agenda. While some rethink their mission statements and programme offerings to ensure they fall in line with development’s changing face, others already ride the wave of positive change, rewriting the science and practices that shape the sustainability debate.
Are you keen to remain ahead of the curve? Here are 5 faculties standing at the forefront of today’s sustainable issues…
With a Faculty that’s determined to improve our understanding of climate change science, human and environmental systems, and how best to respond to the challenge of climate mitigation, Concordia truly stands at the forefront of climate science and sustainability.
Through its innovative Human Impact Lab, the institution seeks to spread the climate message through the medium of art and design. Founded by artist David Usher and supported by Concordia, this ground-breaking initiative gives real-life perspective to abstract ideas. Nowhere is this seen more clearly than their world-famous climate clock, which demonstrates just how long we have until we reach the point of no return.
The Loyola College of Diversity and Sustainability dedicates resources to the pursuit of environmental and community sustainability, producing an influential research portfolio aimed at shaping our sustainable future. Their work in Green Chemistry also seeks to reduce or eliminate the use of hazardous materials at the design stage of the materials process, thus diminishing levels of toxicity and environmental harm.
The Division of Physical & Biological Sciences at UCSC is a recognised figurehead of climate research. Here, you’ll get the opportunity to work alongside leaders of the debate, including Gary Griggs, who recently published an analysis of the sea level rise along the California coast that will provide the scientific basis for state-wide policy.
Emphasising things we can do today to combat the problems of tomorrow, the University equips students with the know-how needed to expand the debate. On top of undergraduate courses – including Earth Sciences, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and Biochemistry & Molecular Biology – UCSC also provides graduate training programs in Earth and Planetary Sciences that are among the best in the world, as well as Physics, Ocean and Biological Sciences that are considered outstanding.
Here you can be safe in the knowledge that you’re gaining first class knowledge from those at the top of the field of sustainable living.
UVM’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) believes science remains firmly grounded in humanity. Here, there is a real emphasis on getting your hands dirty, with a wide range of internships and experiences that equip students with the knowledge that can be used in improving surrounding communities and ecosystems.
The most noteworthy of these is UVM’s cooperative for real education in agricultural management (CREAM), which sees students take control of real life farms to gain an understanding of the sustainable practices needed in the farming of the future. Current projects include a 34-cow dairy herd, a cross-discipline horse barn cooperative, and a three-acre vegetable farm.
Committed to enhancing the vitality of rural communities and agriculture, CALS maintains four off-campus facilities that provide relevant research, educational and outreach opportunities. These include testing labs, a greenhouse, a working farm to test horticultural technology, and a horse farm. Centers are designed to determine key elements of sustainability and how they can be applied to benefit the wider world.
UCF are trailblazers of coastal conservation, with their efforts receiving recognition from the Coastal Conservation Association for the invaluable work they do along the Floridian coast.
On top of conducting detailed research studies, the College also carries out large-scale volunteer projects to protect local habitats and restore natural ecosystems after the devastation of natural climate change disasters.
“Our goal as scientists is to work to continuously improve the science of restoration in the presence of natural disasters as well as anthropogenic threats,” said UCF Professor of Biological Sciences, Linda Walters, whose research focuses on human impacts in the marine environment.
Walters’ project on restoring oyster reefs is just one offered in the UCF Biology experience. Students can also research the foraging ecology of marine mammals, map the forest canopy in Belize, and use the Ecosystem Process and Services laboratory to examine carbon storage in urban forests, just to name just a few.
The Faculty of Science at SFU offers a litany of choice when it comes to bettering our environment and the ways we use our planet. Their diverse portfolio includes Environmental Toxicology, Earth Sciences and Biological Sciences.
Here, students gain first-hand experience of how human behaviour affects the environment, learning skills that can be applied to real-world problems like resource development, remediation and urban planning.
Within the remit of Ecology, Evolution & Conservation, students concentrate on the processes that lead to the diversity of life on earth and interactions among communities, populations, and organisms (including us) that are relevant to applied ecology and conservation.
“I chose SFU because…it is a well-respected School, and the Earth Science program offers more field School and hands-on opportunities than most other universities,” says Gaby, a second-year Earth Science major. “I am considering a career in mineral exploration or environmental geoscience, there are a lot of possibilities and it’s difficult to choose!”
*Some of the institutions featured in this article are commercial partners of Study International