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How to become a global environmental change maker

Source: Keele University

With an increasing recognition of the impacts we have on our environment, the question of how any one individual can make a real difference to environmental change is at the front of many people’s minds.

Perhaps the answer to this question is captured in a quotation by Nelson Mandela: “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” If we insert the words “Sustainability Education” at the start of this quotation, we start to understand how it’s possible for one person to make a difference. Education in the field of sustainability provides the foundations that enable you to become a global environmental change maker.

But while sustainability education provides the bedrock of the journey, what exactly is sustainability, and how do you find a degree or postgraduate course and institution that holds sustainability at its core? These are difficult questions.

Sustainability is by its nature, highly interdisciplinary, crossing the Natural and Social Sciences as well as Arts, Humanities and Health, with connections to a wide range of fields from geography, geology, environmental science, life sciences, chemical sciences, physics and computing to politics, psychology, sociology, law and business and management.

Source; Keele University

Global sustainability challenges are broad and far reaching, and therefore any degree or associated postgraduate programme must reflect this breadth. The need for interdisciplinary understanding for sustainability is highlighted by the 2015 United Nation Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s). They include seventeen overarching aims, each of which build on the principle of ‘leaving no one behind’, emphasising a holistic approach to achieve sustainable development for all by 2030.

Achieving these goals will require a new generation of interdisciplinary thinkers who think beyond traditional subject-specific agendas, providing new and innovative insights into long-standing, multifaceted problems.

There are an increasing number of programmes internationally that offer a broad-based sustainability education, but in the UK, there’s one clear leader in the field, not only offering the chance to undertake joint degrees across the full spectrum of Natural, Social Sciences and Health, but also embeds sustainability in every aspect of University life.

Situated in scenic Staffordshire in the heart of England, Keele University is perhaps the ultimate location for the study of sustainability, with its 600-acre campus of abundant woodland, lakes and diverse natural habitats making it third in the world in 2017 for its green setting, according to the UI Green Metric World University ranking.

And with its dedication to energy efficiency and carbon reduction,  Keele has also secured 17th place worldwide for overall campus sustainability, plus 5th in the world for performance in ‘Energy and Climate Change’. On top of trailblazing campus wide sustainability, it leads in education quality and student satisfaction, being ranked Gold by the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) and England’s number one in the 2018 National Student Survey.

Keele University has three faculties, Natural Sciences, Humanities and Social Sciences and Health. Within the Faculty of Natural Sciences, sustainability is at the heart of a lot research, as well as education.

Source: Keele University

The School of Geography, Geology and the Environment provides a core focus for sustainability education and research at Keele, with numerous programmes that enable the degree of flexibility required to equip students with the breadth of knowledge that will enable them to become global environmental change makers.

Offering broad-based undergraduate courses in Environmental Science and Environmental Sustainability, Geography and Geology, together with a Natural Sciences pathway there is an opportunity to tailor your degree to focus on key aspects of sustainability, whilst maintaining a broad-base that will provide the ideal foundations for any aspiring global environmental influencer.

“Dual honours is one of the best things about Keele, you get to match the things you really want to discover in a way you can’t do in other places,” notes another student review.

This can be done by choosing one of several possible Combined Honours options, which enables students to tailor their degree to open a remarkable breadth of interdisciplinary pathways.

The nature of the disciplines ­­within The School of Geography, Geology and the Environment means research crosses the natural and social sciences as well as humanities, covering such areas as sustainable resource extraction, natural hazards, clean and smart energy, sustainable materials and processes, geochemistry, hydrology, biology and climate change, as well as social equity, family health, and rural and urban planning.

Crucially, it’s also the home for widely-applicable technical skills and analytical capacity that are critical to addressing global sustainability challenges.

“I was looking at environmental science courses but, really, I was more interested in sustainability and wanted the social science side too – I saw Environment and Sustainability at Keele and had found that perfect combination,” says current student, Emeline, originally from the Seychelles.

Source: Keele University

The School also offers a unique range of postgraduate programmes, presenting the exciting opportunity to take your sustainability research ambitions further. Through MSc programmes in Geoscience, Geography and the Environment and Environmental Sustainability and Green Technology, students here get the chance to use the unique ‘living laboratory’ environment for research at the cutting edge of sustainability.

Beyond the School of Geography, there’s a breadth and depth of research activities in Sustainability which fall under the Institute for Sustainable Futures, the university -wide institute that co-ordinates research across the University around six key ‘challenges’, all aligned to the UN SDG’s. The Institute builds on Keele’s long-term commitment to high-quality interdisciplinary sustainability research that aims to:

By working with graduates, academics and businesses alike, the university is creating Europe’s largest ‘at scale’ living laboratory, where new energy-efficient technologies can be researched, developed and tested in a real-world environment. Other projects the university is involved with include the HyDeploy project, where the potential of blending hydrogen in the gas grid is being tested, plus various research projects that review the benefits of alternative energy sources. Click here to find out more about Keele’s sustainability and environmental activities.

If after reading this, you want to become a global environmental change maker, you may want to get in touch with Keele and arrange to explore the truly unique experiences on offer. With the potential of undertaking a truly interdisciplinary degree or postgraduate programme, all on a beautiful campus that represents one of the most remarkable and sustainable ‘living laboratories’ in the world, the opportunities on offer within The School of Geography, Geology and the Environment are remarkable.

This is captured beautifully in a quote from one of our recent international graduates Elizabeth Marie Thomason from the US:  ‘Once I saw the commitment the University was making to sustainability, I knew it was the place for me.  This programme has pushed me to stay on top of the ever-changing world of clean energy and I believe the skills I gained at Keele will give me an edge in the jobs market over other university graduates.’

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