Why Study Sustainability and Environmental Sciences

“Sustainability, ensuring the future of life on Earth, is an infinite game, the endless expression of generosity on behalf of all.” – Paul Hawken

The Brundtland Report defines the word ‘sustainable’ as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”. Ultimately, it’s about maintaining the Earth’s natural resources to ensure the wellbeing of our children, our children’s children, and the generations beyond. They too will have needs, and what right do we have to say they can’t be met?

A lifestyle, community or environment that deems itself sustainable is one that supports itself alongside its surroundings. As Tim Murphy writes in Permaculture Design and Sequence, the philosophy of permaculture is one forged firmly on the foundations of sustainability, seeking to “comprehend and orchestrate the evolution of a climax ecosystem” in such a way that “interfaces with both existing natural systems and human culture”.

More than a decade ago, the World Summit on Social Development identified three crucial areas to strengthen the philosophy and social science of sustainable development. The core elements are:  Economic Development, Social Development and Environmental Protection, and they form the backbone of most national strategies and certification programmes. Since these values are undoubtedly interdependent, they are also inherently interwoven, and must therefore be examined in close connection with each other.

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While the so-called global ‘dirty’ energy sector suffers fatal blows – faltering prices have resulted in an 18 percent dip in employment rates in the Fossil Fuel business alone – the global renewable energy and sustainability sector is on a stable rise.

“Generation Y, those born between 1977 and 1998, is showing signs of a major shift in green attitudes and behaviour,” writes The Guardian’s Gwynne Rogers.

“Often considered to be ‘born green’ because they grew up in a society where eco-consciousness was becoming a norm, and often to baby boomer parents who founded the environmental movement, it is only recently that Generation Y has begun to show leadership in [sustainability].”

At this point, in the heat of our sustainable awareness, we know the steps that need to be taken to protect the precious ecosystems that allow life on Earth to thrive. Whether it’s by recycling, reusing, reducing our power consumption, or something as simple as riding a bike instead of taking the bus, environmental protection is perhaps the most critical pillar in the overarching theme of global and sustainable development.

In that case, we must look towards those with a passion for the natural world and a keen eye to preserve its limited resources, to commit to the study of Earth’s ever-changing environments and assure the future not just of humanity, but of every living entity across its lands and waters. Air quality, global warming, pollution of our oceans and agricultural uncertainty are all factors that could compromise our worldwide wellbeing, and reflects exactly why the environmental science graduate continues to be valued and respected on a global scale.

The minds of 2016 and the decades that precede it come already ingrained with an environmental conscience, so if you wish to hone yours to make positive waves in the realm of sustainability, here are 5 world-leading universities working to preserve a sustainable, global future:



Image courtesy of Monash University


Monash University is an international higher education provider with a strong campus presence on four continents. In 1999, Monash University was invited to be a founding member of the Group of Eight, the coalition of Australia’s most prestigious research-intensive universities. Through the provision of a progressive and optimistic outlook, Monash welcomes students from all walks of life and a disparate range of disciplines. Ranked in the top one percent of universities worldwide and 73rd overall, Monash students leave fully-equipped with the necessary expertise and desire to make positive changes in the workplace and beyond.

Sustainability encompasses a balance between environmental protection, social justice, economic well-being and diversity, and Monash brings together world-leaders of these fields in cross-disciplinary programs and centres of excellence. Monash inspires collaboration between scientists and lawyers, economists and psychologists, biologists and engineers, health professionals, training experts and more to address the problems currently facing our global society.

Drawing on researchers whose focus spans the environmental, engineering, social, and economic aspects of sustainability, Monash is well placed to provide real solutions to these complex global challenges. Together, world-leading experts from the Monash Sustainability Institute combine with the best from Monash University, industry, academia and civic society to envisage and create the stable world of the future.


The University of Oklahoma (OU) is a public research university located in Norman, Oklahoma just 20 minutes south of Oklahoma City. OU’s Norman undergraduate population is just over 20,000, giving students a major university experience in a private college atmosphere. With three campuses in Oklahoma, OU also offers study abroad opportunities at several locations and OU campuses overseas.

OU’s School of Civil Engineering and Environmental Science (CEES) offers many exciting degree options. Environmental Engineers, for example, are able to use principles of physics, biology and chemistry to develop solutions for environmental challenges, while Environmental Scientists learn how to monitor and diminish changes in our rapidly evolving climate.


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Through cross-discipline programming, innovative course design, diverse experiential learning and a supportive community environment, York University’s 53,000 students get the education they need to have big ideas and endless career opportunities.

Established in 1968 as the first faculty of its kind in Canada, the Faculty of Environmental Studies (FES) at York University continues to follow that ground breaking path. Internationally recognized for its interdisciplinary approach, its professors come from backgrounds as diverse as urban planning, fine arts, political science, sociology, biology and philosophy. Under their guidance, students are inspired and challenged to approach issues with an open mind in order to develop their own unique areas of study.


The University of Western Australia (UWA) is a research-intensive university and one of the internationally recognised Australian Group of Eight. Since 2012, UWA has appeared in the top 100 universities in Shanghai Jiao Tong University’s internationally recognised Academic Ranking of World Universities and consistently appears in the top one percent of universities as judged in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings.


Image courtesy of the University of Western Australia


UWA’s School of Earth and the Environment focuses on providing an integrated understanding of the Earth, including its geological structure, its physical and biological systems, and the people that inhabit it. The school presents exciting coursework and research opportunities spanning geosciences, geography and planning, soil science, environmental science and more.


With 175 degree programmes, 40 university continuing education and training programmes and about 94,000 students, the University of Vienna is the largest and most diverse educational institution in Austria.

Environmental Sciences takes an interdisciplinary approach to the investigation of processes that control Earth’s environment. Chemical, physical, biological, and geoscientific concepts and methods are applied to experimental work and field observations to arrive at a molecular scale mechanistic understanding of these processes. After studying Environmental Sciences here, students will be well equipped to seize opportunities presented by new developments in areas such as global cycles, bio-geochemistry, environmental pollution and remediation, and natural hazard.

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