Sustainability is key to humanity’s survival. From heads of states to businesses, civil society to Silicon Valley, leaders are not immune to the forces of change before us. Developmental, environmental and other social challenges stand before us – and the outlook isn’t encouraging.
Despite technology progressing in leaps and bounds plus other milestones we have achieved, poverty remains, children still go hungry, and basic rights – from water to movement and liberty – remain out of reach for many.
At the time of writing, the Human Impact Lab’s Climate Clock estimates there’s only 14 years left before the average global temperature passes the threshold of 1.5 to 2°C above pre-industrial averages, the point where it becomes impossible to slow down the devastating effects of global warming.
Yet we continue emitting astronomical amounts of carbon dioxide by burning of fossil fuels, deforestation, land clearing for agriculture and degradation of soils. With climate change deniers in power and the business world unwilling to budge on such practices, a solution looks nowhere in sight.
But amid the doom and gloom, there are some glimmers of hope.
In 2015, world leaders gathered at the UN to adopt 17 Sustainable Development Goals to achieve several extraordinary things by 2030: end poverty, promote prosperity and well-being for all, and to protect the planet.
“First, 2015 is a year of historic opportunity. We are the first generation that can end poverty, and the last one that can take steps to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. With the adoption of a new development agenda, sustainable development goals and climate change agreement, we can set the world on course for a better future,” said UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon.
Academia is the leading torch bearer for global sustainability. Universities play a vital role in helping us understand climate change, and the scale of action taken across European and North American institutions is impressive. Last year, the University Climate Change Coalition, dubbed UC3, was announced, pledging to reduce higher education’s carbon footprint and foster climate change action among local communities.
Under the Climate Leadership Network, more than 600 colleges and universities in every US state and the District of Columbia have also committed to taking action on climate change matters, preparing students through research and education to solve the challenges of the 21st century.
Here are four cutting-edge universities generating global sustainability solutions…
There’s never been a better time to be a student at the College of Mines and Earth Sciences (CMES) at the University of Utah. It’s a vibrant, diverse college of both science and engineering disciplines, pursuing solutions to some of the world’s most pressing challenges.
Here, faculty and students solve problems related to a wide range of issues critical to society and the planet, including problems associated with economic, national and environmental security and sustainability. For example, they seek to understand and predict a variety of natural and anthropogenic hazards, such as earthquakes, avalanches, extreme weather, abandoned mines, toxins and radioactive materials.
With world-renowned expertise in areas such as paleoecology, extractive metallurgy and materials engineering, mining safety and exploration, and extreme weather and mountain meteorology, as a graduate of these programs, you’ll have highly marketable skills and respected credentials.
As all degrees are fully accredited with a low student/faculty ratio, world-class facilities, internship schemes and a network of alumni across the world, your experience will be truly one of a kind. CMES is also committed to keeping the cost of your education low. Last year scholarships in the college exceeded $500,000 and many students took on paid research roles.
Alternatively, if you enjoy the outdoors, many CMES courses and research experiences occur ‘in the field’. Graduates are actively recruited for employment by government, industry and academic institutions. The American Geological Institute estimates that by 2021 there will be at least 145,000 unfilled jobs in the college’s disciplinary areas, and consequently, the majority of CMES students find jobs soon after graduation.
For more information on the College of Mines and Earth Sciences, click here.
A signatory of both the Talloires Declaration and Universitas 21 “Statement for Sustainability”, the University of Queensland is committed in its quest to foster an institutional culture of sustainability.
At its Faculty of Science, researchers work on helping farmers access disease-resistant crops through technology, understanding diseases affecting koalas and developing vaccines that could potentially save 500,000 lives every year.
Studying here means gaining the opportunity to collaborate with industry, government and international partners in the complex problems of agriculture, health, business, security and environmental management. After all, the school is ranked first for biodiversity conservation (Center for World University Rankings (CWUR) 2017 by Subject), fifth globally for agriculture (National Taiwan University (NTU) Rankings 2017) and seventh globally for biotechnology (Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU) by Subject 2018).
With a vibrant community of over 50,000 students, there are also plenty of opportunities for students to join the school’s sustainability agenda, such as UQ Environmental Collective, UQ Sustainability Club, Vegetarian & Vegan Society, Oxfam UQ, UQ Food Co-op, UQ Fairtrade Collective, UQ Oaktree and more.
Located in Philadelphia, the College of Science and Technology at Temple University is home to more than 4,500 undergraduate and graduate students. As one of Temple University’s fastest-growing schools, with external funding that has increased by more than 85 percent in the last five years, here, students find new opportunities to take on today’s toughest scientific issues.
Sustainability awareness is inculcated throughout Temple’s curriculum. At its Main, Ambler and Health Science campuses, the university offers a range of environmental and sustainability-related courses.
The undergraduate Certificate in Sustainability is a 12-credit, interdisciplinary certificate in which students further their knowledge and skills to contribute to sustainable systems from the viewpoint of different disciplines. It shapes them into effective leaders and agents of change for sustainability, making them more competitive in the changing job market as some sectors move towards a green collar economy.
The Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science explores the interactions of our society with the Earth, using a combination of field and laboratory research to understand the physical, chemical and biological processes that underlie these interactions.
At the Asian School of the Environment (ASE), students focus on Asia’s environmental challenges. This interdisciplinary school integrates earth and environmental life science, ecology, engineering and technology, human ecology, humanities, and the social sciences to address key issues of the environment and sustainability.
The School, housed in Asia’s premier university, offers a Ph.D. in Earth Sciences, a Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental Earth Systems Science, a Double Major in Environmental Earth Systems Science and Public Policy and Global Affairs and a minor in Environmental Sustainability, open to all students at NTU.
For the BSc in Environmental Earth System Sciences, students have the chance to gain fieldwork experience in Bali, Indonesia, where they can apply the concepts they have learnt in the classroom to different tropical environments.
For their final year of study, undergraduates conduct a Research Project or Industrial Attachment where they collaborate with faculty to conduct work in a field, use computational data analysis or work in an Earth science laboratory at NTU.
*Some of the institutions featured in this article are commercial partners of Study International