Sustainable development is one of the most pressing challenges facing humanity. How can the world’s growing population meet its requirements for food, energy, water and other basic needs without undermining the planet’s ecological systems? Major challenges such as poverty alleviation, climate change and food security are so intertwined that none can be viewed apart from the others.
“Sustainable” refers to managing the world’s economy in a manner consistent with the continued healthy functioning of Earth’s ecosystems, oceans, atmosphere and climate. “Development” refers to continued social, political and economic progress aimed at the improvement of global human well-being, especially for the poorest of the poor.
Achieving sustainable development requires holistic and integrated approaches that consider the complex interplay between the planet’s natural and social systems and work at multiple levels of society, from the local to the international.
The Earth Institute; Columbia College; the School of General Studies; the Department of Earth and Environmental Science; the Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Environmental Biology; the Department of Earth and Environmental Engineering; and the School of International and Public Affairs have collaborated to bring students both a major and a special concentration in sustainable development.
The program benefits from the pioneering work of Earth Institute faculty and researchers in the field. Students will take classes specifically designed for the program—classes that were developed by experienced Earth Institute faculty and practitioners in the field through a series of collaborative discussions. Students will address the fundamental issue of how to move toward a trajectory of sustainability that will allow future generations to pursue further progress in human well-being without causing irreparable harm to the planet.
The Earth Institute believes that complex Earth processes and the challenges of sustainable development can be understood and addressed only through an intensified and ongoing partnership of the natural sciences and the social sciences. For this reason, the interdisciplinary academic program addresses sustainable development through the lens of interacting natural and social systems.
Students will learn, for example, how to navigate through complex public health and urbanization problems, and to use analytical skills to develop solutions to water management problems. Students will take away a unique experience that will be the first step toward addressing the challenges facing today’s world. We invite you to learn more about the program.
For more information on the undergraduate major and special concentration in sustainable development, please contact:
Natalie Unwin-Kuruneri, Assistant Director
Office of Academic and Research Programs