SFU to Become a Trailblazer in Canadian Environmental Education

Come Spring, Simon Fraser University (SFU) will be rolling out the green carpet and premiering a brand new credential, the Bachelor of Environment (BEnv), the first of its kind in Canada and the first degree to be introduced to the university in 22 years. Three new majors will also be introduced within this Bachelor program: Environmental Resource Management (ERM), Global Environmental Systems (GES), and Sustainable Business, which is a joint major between the Faculty of Environment and the Beedie School of Business.

I’m proud to say that I’m now approved as the first-ever Bachelor of Environment candidate in the Environmental Resource Management major!

The courses within the major program provide opportunities for students to take charge of their learning and let their creativity flow unabated, through group and individual projects, media presentations and research papers. Naturally, the majority of my research involves karst. My fascination with karst first began in an introductory environmental science course that is now a core requirement for the Environmental Resource Management major. I was immediately taken by this mysterious, limestone world that contributes to the biodiversity of our forests and freshwater streams, shelters our keystone and unique species and is important for scientific research.

Leigh McGregor, the Faculty of Environment’s Manager, Recruitment & Community Liaison and Faculty Advisor notes that these new programs build toward a balanced understanding of human-nature relationships, sustainability, and decision-making, focusing on the why as well as the how. Anthropocentrism, the prominent human-environment relationship within Canada, is critically examined and students are enlightened of alternative perspectives towards our natural world, from stewardship, where the resources we rely upon are sustainably managed, to deep ecology, where all aspects of the environment are protected and valued, whether they are of significance to humans or not.

Courses in the natural sciences, as well as in the social sciences and humanities, are required, and it is that requirement to study natural science courses that marks a difference between the BEnv and other environmental studies programs. Environmental issues are multi-faceted and although scientific expertise plays a key role in protection efforts, the ability to communicate with the general public, First Nation groups, government officials, and stakeholders, to defend critical habitats in courtrooms and through policy, and to protect natural resources through best management practices are just some of the skills that contemporary environmentalists must hone in our ever-changing political landscape. By emphasizing the natural sciences, the BEnv aims to provide students with the tools required to support decision making within complex environmental and sustainability challenges.

Leigh affectionately refers to me as the ”Environmental Stalker”, as I have emailed her consistently over the course of four terms to keep tabs on the progress of the BEnv as it made its way through the approval process. Environmental Resource Management in particular interested me because there is a huge demand in resource-dependent countries, such as Canada, to strike a balance between resource use and protection and I want to contribute to finding innovative solutions for sustainable resource use.

The interdisciplinary approach of this program, which covers themes such as Indigenous and First Nations perspectives, communication and conflict resolution, resource management, legislation, policy and regulation, and methods to inform decision making, will prepare students for the myriad opportunities in the environmental field.

From the initiation of a zero waste campaign in 2013, to the introduction of new environmental programs, SFU is active in the movement to provide environmental awareness and education. Go Clan!

For more information on SFU’s Bachelor of Environment, contact Leigh McGregor.
Learn more about initiatives that one student-led organization at SFU has taken to make the university more sustainable.

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