Today, human civilization is growing at a faster pace than any previous point in history. Technology and industry are raising incomes and standards of living, accelerating productivity and urbanization, and connecting diverse societies around the globe. Because of these developments, three academic fields – sustainability, agriculture, and environmental sciences – have started to ask questions that may well determine the survival of our species.
Sustainability in forestry is based on two key premises: firstly, ecological systems must be held in balance in order to avoid disaster, and secondly, natural resources must be managed so we don’t ruin or run out of them. Think about it: ceaseless logging leads to deforestation which in turn leads to landslides and more severe floods; consistently planting on the same patch of soil depletes all its nutrients and renders it infertile for future use.
Image courtesy of The University of British Columbia’s, Faculty of Forestry
From forests to farms, sustainability experts promote measures to avoid such scenarios, often working with and within businesses to ensure processes are sustainable and ‘green’. This is not just a matter of corporate responsibility because sustainability often means reduced costs and conservation of limited resources.
The next important field is agriculture. The current international population is 7.4 billion, and by some estimates, that is set to hit 9.7 billion in 2050. All those human mouths have to be fed somehow, but many experts agree that our current-day food production systems are woefully inadequate to the task. What pesticides and fertilizers should be used, for example, and in what concentration, an issue that must be resolved as many are toxic and can therefore wreak environmental havoc. What is the viability of Genetically Modified Crops (GMCs) as a means to increase rates of global food production?
Tasked with answering these questions, agriculture experts often serve highly-paid consultants to farming consortiums or individual farmers, or might even consider getting into the business themselves. They can also provide valuable advice to governments in regards to agricultural policies and reforms.
Image courtesy of the University of Lincoln
The final field is environmental science, which has become common knowledge due to large-scale research into topics such as climate change. From oil spills to contaminated groundwater to radioactive waste, environmental scientists identify problems and propose policies to rectify them. They may even take an active role in government and politics, lobbying against polluters and imposing new industry regulations.
When it comes to all things climate, you’ll find environmental scientists at the very frontlines, wielding complex climatological models to convince governments and industries of the urgent need to change. With the rapid rise of developing countries in Asia (including China and India), those with advanced knowledge of these topics are now more in-demand than ever, whether the problem lies with urban smog or mine-related pollution.
If you’re keen to study one or more of these three related fields, you need to think carefully about what the perfect course would mean to you. As a guide, here are the world’s leading institutions in Sustainability, Agriculture, and Environmental Sciences:
Image courtesy of Texas A&M University
Lincoln University is New Zealand’s specialist land-based university and for more than 138 years has focused on improving New Zealand’s land-based knowledge, wealth and productivity. A uniquely and deliberately specialized university, it has a mission to help feed the world, protect the future, and promote a healthy well-being. To achieve this mission, it is well-positioned to work alongside industries, the communities, and people around the globe.
Qualifications range from certificate level through to PhD – and teaching and research covers all activity associated with the land-based sectors to meet the needs of not only New Zealand, but also of the world.
Lincoln is well-regarded for its academic rigor and its collaborative links with other top universities. QS World University Rankings 2015/16 places it among the top 400 universities in the world. Lincoln also has a QS Five Stars rating, and ranks in the top 100 in the field of agriculture and forestry.
Image via Pixabay
The Faculty of Forestry at the University of British Columbia (UBC) is world-renowned in forestry education. Based in beautiful British Columbia, Canada, UBC Forestry students benefit from state-of-the-art laboratories, classrooms, computer labs, and a coastal rainforest right in their backyard. .
While UBC’s Faculty of Forestry research program is globally known, it is its educational offerings which make it a truly world-class institution. The faculty offers a diverse range of degree programs that focus on conservation, sustainability, wood science, genetics, resource management, and the emerging frontier of urban forestry. Through education from some of the world’s leading experts in their respective fields, students learn to combine social and biological sciences with technical and business skills. Graduates are highly employable and have pursued careers with governments, international organizations, and private business leaders as forest biologists, wood engineers, forestry business administrators, conservationists, and renewable resource managers.
Situated in one of the world’s most beautiful cities, Vancouver, UBC is one of Canada’s top universities, counting 7 Nobel Prize winners and 3 Canadian prime ministers among its current or former faculty and alumni. In 2015, it was ranked the 34th best university in the world.
Texas A&M University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, the biggest in the U.S. with over 8,000 students, offers more than 100 undergraduate and graduate programs, ranging from ecosystems and soil sciences to biochemistry and plant pathology.
The College is focused on sustainable food systems from molecular design to the global level. Additionally, it designs production and processing systems based on the latest science and ecological principles to preserve the environment while increasing food security.
The College emphasizes Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) curriculum and produces more STEM graduates than any other US college of agriculture. International students comprise 36% of the College’s graduate students and it is home to the Norman E. Borlaug Institute for International Agriculture.
Image courtesy of the University of Queensland
The University of Queensland‘s (UQ) Faculty of Science is a leading teaching and research institution in Australia, home to some of the most innovative thinkers, lecturers, and scientists in the world. It offers programs in agriculture and food sciences, earth sciences, environmental management, and more.
Thanks to UQ’s emphasis on practical learning, students have the opportunity to visit and experience astounding scientific environments such as the Great Barrier Reef, Moreton Bay, Lamington National Park and the depths of outback Australia. The university ranks in the top 50 as measured by the QS World University Rankings and the Performance Ranking of Scientific Papers for World Universities.
The University of Manchester boasts a long and illustrious history in scientific discovery and academic excellence, with 25 Nobel Prize winners having worked or studied there. Ernest Rutherford first split the atom at Manchester and the world’s first stored-program computer was developed there too. It’s no wonder that the 2015 Shanghai Jiao Tong Academic Ranking of World Universities ranked Manchester as the 41st best university in the world, 8th best in Europe and 5th best in the UK.
Through various schools, the university offers programs in environmental science, environmental management and more. Manchester boasts an incredibly diverse and welcoming campus, with 160 nationalities represented on campus.