Sustainability Education

  • What are the dangers of cutting U.S. federal funding for scientific research and education?
  • How are sustainability education programs emerging and growing?
  • Is there reason to be optimistic?

Over the last few years I have witnessed and helped lead the growth of sustainability and environmentally focused programs here at Columbia. These include an undergraduate major in Sustainable Development, multiple masters programs, a Ph.D. in sustainable development and a new master’s level certificate in sustainability analytics. The growth of these programs represents a larger transformation already underway in society. Although I may be biased from my position as an educator in these programs, it is undeniable that a societal shift in thought is taking place. Young people in particular, are increasingly accepting the realities of the crisis in sustainability.

The development of these education programs is a key element of the transition to a sustainable economy. Our students will become the leaders in every field that can make this critical change.  Students must master the science, engineering and architecture of the physical dimensions of sustainability to understand the complex challenges facing our planet and devise, implement, manage and communicate solutions to those problems.

This growing interest in sustainability education indicates a positive trend not just for those individuals in the programs, but also for the nation.   As an educator at Columbia University, I see students everyday who are learning the details and theories of sustainable development. My job is to provide students the tools to drive sustainable changes. These students are energized, passionate, driven, smart, and equipped with the tools to succeed where past efforts have failed – and for these reasons, I choose to see the glass as half full and have hope for the future.

In the essays that follow, I describe the growing number of programs in sustainability education and discuss how these programs are changing the way the generation of professionals will go about their work, especially as the green job market continues to grow. I examine the impact of this growing field on public opinion, the job market, and our nation’s future.


The Evolution of Sustainability Education (May 22, 2017)

Our Economy Depends on Earth Observation and Scientific Research (April 17, 2017)

Millennials Looking for a Place in the Emerging Green Economy (January 23, 2017)

Environmental Science and Speaking Truth to Power (January 4, 2017)

Earth Observation Science, Public Policymaking, and the Trump Administration (November 28, 2016)

Climate Denial and Sea Level Rise (September 6, 2016)

Science and Sustainability Management: 20 Years of Columbia’s Earth Institute (July 5, 2016)

Open Dialogue and Sustainability Education (May 2, 2016)

Education and Sustainability (February 22, 2016)

The Transformative Potential of Sustainability Education (August 31, 2015)

A Reason to be Optimistic: The New Generation of Sustainability Professionals (May 11, 2015)

Earth Day’s Importance and Evolution Since 1970 (April 20, 2015)

Educating Sustainability Professionals: Learning by Doing (February 16, 2015)

Studying Sustainable Finance (February 9, 2015)

Science, Policy and Decision Making (January 26, 2015)

Educating the First Generation of Sustainability Managers (December 15, 2014)

Sustainable Consumption and the World of Endless Images, Voices, and Ideas (October 13, 2014)

Learning from the Era of American Environmental Leadership (September 8, 2014)

Sustainability Science Requires the Freedom to Observe and Understand the Planet (July 10, 2014)

Competent Leaders Need to Understand the Science of Sustainability (July 7, 2014)

Understanding Environmental Policy (May 27, 2014)

Applying Brainpower to Address the Global Sustainability Crisis (May 19, 2014)

The Globalization of Education and Sustainability Management (March 10, 2014)

The Role of Government in the Transition to a Sustainable Economy (February 10, 2014)

Sustainability, Leadership and Management Innovation (January 27, 2014)

We Are Slowly Starting to Manage Sustainably (August 26, 2013)

Building a Research Base for Sustainability Management (July 15, 2013)

A Positive Take on the Web-Enabled, Sustainability Generation (May 13, 2013)

The Sustainability Generation (April 15, 2013)

Distance Learning Can Augment But Not Replace Experiential Learning (February 11, 2013)

Educating Sustainability Professionals (December 24, 2012)

The Transition to a Sustainable Economy May Happen Without the U.S. Federal Government (June 25, 2012)

We Need to Put the Class of 2012 to Work (May 21, 2012)

Green Jobs and Educating the Sustainability Managers of the 21st Century (March 26, 2012)

The Growing Field of Sustainability Studies (February 13, 2012)

The Profession of Sustainability Management: Source for Optimism in a Scary World (March 28, 2011)

Educating the Next Generation of Sustainability Professionals (December 6, 2010)

Sustainability Education Provides a Reason to Hope (May 21, 2010)

Growing Public Support for Sustainability (April 19, 2010)

The Sustainability Generation Comes of Age (March 29, 2010)

Educating the Next Generation of Sustainability Professionals (February 15, 2010)