Environmental studies is a subject that analyzes the natural environment, the built environment and the interaction between them. It is thus connected to various fields like physical sciences, social sciences and economics. Basically, environmental studies enlighten us on what is going on in the natural/built environment. Hence, we understand natural interactions better and how our daily activities affect them. A degree in environmental studies can lead to quite exciting jobs such as journalist, marine biologist, engineer etc.
The roots of environmental studies date to the turn of the century, heavily founded on the concepts of conservation and preservation. In the past, environmental education was mostly related to the wise use of natural resources. Eventually, Rachel Carson published a book, Silent Spring, on the effects of pesticides in 1962. Consequently, this caused a shift in paradigm in environmental studies. She modernized ecology by pinpointing the harmful effects of pollution on human health and wildlife.
During that time period, there were also conflicts in the US due to the Civil Rights movement and the Vietnam war. These rebellions further reinforced the environmental movement initiated by Carson’s findings. Consequently, environmental protection became a top priority and environmental studies rapidly spread throughout the US.
Even today, Carson’s book remains a model of environmental activism. All around the world, environmental laws and policies coordinate efforts to prevent environmental damage. Nonetheless, there are still many environmental processes that we do not understand and are difficult to predict.
Therefore, environmental studies permit us to actively study the environment to better manage it and solve environmental issues. In this way, we can develop sustainable lifestyles while conserving important natural resources such as water.
Today, where we currently stand, environmental studies is critically important because of
Right now, urban development is increasing alarmingly. By 2050, 7 out of 10 people will live in cities. When we build cities, we change its physical form and land use patterns for years to come. As more and more people flock to these cities, they unquestionably exert pressure on natural resources and land.
Sadly, every year, 7 million people worldwide die because of air pollution. Likewise, around 8 million tons of plastic end up in the world’s oceans each year. Marine pollution rises dangerously at the minute. Presently, some 500 dead zones exist in our oceans because of land-based pollutants.
Therefore, wise planning is critical if we are to live sustainably, healthily and resiliently wherever we are in the world. The COVID-19 pandemic reflects how negligent land uses can have global repercussions affecting the rich and poor alike.
At a time where natural disasters may be peaking due to climate change, wise planning is of utmost importance.
When it comes to environmental issues, they are often not limited to a single place. Since the environment is dynamic in nature, environmental problems can quickly spread across national borders to the whole world in a matter of time.
More often than not, it is the rich countries that cause the most environmental damage such as greenhouse gas emissions. And unfortunately, it is the poor countries that suffer the most from them. So, we must address such issues at the international level to limit environmental impacts.
And lastly, it is about our own survival. Earth’s history reveals that mass extinction occurred several times in the past. After the eruption of Mount Toba in Indonesia some 70,000 years ago, only 500 reproducing females remained in the world.
Today, we are living in an era eerily called the Anthropocene. This is because of the damaging effects that human activities are having on Earth’s climate and ecosystems. Unless we contain and regulate these activities, the planet can become inhabitable and threaten our survival in the future.
In general, each university and college has its own requirements to admit students in the environmental studies program. In most cases, students must understand basic physics, biology, chemistry, mathematics, geography or economics.
They must also have good IT knowledge and research skills. Students must be ready to undertake laboratory and field works and present their research in clear formats too. Over and above, students must have the capacity to analyze problems, think critically and propose relevant solutions.
As environmental studies is a multi-disciplinary science, it combines knowledge from different fields. While the physical sciences drive basic environmental processes, we understand human response towards the environment through the social sciences. Broadly speaking, environmental topics that universities and colleges offer differ from place to place.
Basically, students will learn about ecology, natural resource management and biodiversity as core modules. Then, they can choose to specialize in specific fields such as marine science, environmental protection and waste management.
A degree in environmental studies paves the way to various careers to create a better world.
As it is, environmental studies is not only for nature enthusiasts. Even those who enjoy urban development, social justice and agriculture can choose it.
A non-exhaustive list of common jobs in environmental studies include:
Besides these jobs, you can also opt for other non-traditional jobs with your degree in environmental studies. Therefore, you can also choose to become an/a
Technically speaking, some of these carriers may require additional education and skills to meet the job’s requirements. For instance, a GIS specialist must also have a good knowledge of IT and geography. While most universities and colleges provide ample training in the field, sometimes, students may require additional certification.
Additionally, a degree in environmental studies also prepares the ground for further studies in most sciences at higher levels. This can include graduate programs in law, environmental monitoring, coastal engineering and tourism.