Climate crisis 101: Canadian university courses to prepare you for a greener future

For environmentally conscious students (and which students aren’t, these days?), The selection of environmental science courses at Canadian universities is better than ever

One need only remember Greta Thunberg’s 2018 school strike for climate to understand how committed young people are to the fight against climate change. Students at Canadian Universities interested in the natural world might consider enrolling in one of the country’s many environmental science programs, 34 of which are accredited by ECO Canada, a non-profit organization aimed at creating a stable pipeline of green professionals.

Whether you are considering a formal career in conservation, meteorology, or environmental law, or just want to better understand the intersection between climate and society, here are some innovative undergraduate offerings that will suit you. will make people think more environmentally friendly.


Students identify risks, such as varying water quality, then brainstorm creative solutions (courtesy Carleton University)

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ENST 1020: People, Places and Environments

Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Department of Geography and Environmental Studies

Carleton University

Dr. Sheryl-Ann Simpson loves teaching first year students in her investigative course, ENST 1020. “As a professor, this is a really exciting opportunity to welcome students to the university, to the department. and in our field, ”she says. But Simpson’s class also attracts many non-science students, including those majoring in subjects such as engineering, business, and journalism. Emphasizing social justice and equity, ENST 1020 explores why the economy, environment and development differ depending on your location. You will explore why countries in the North tend to have more resources, why communities are separated by an urban-rural divide, and why different demographics are subject to different risks. Then, Simpson will encourage you to think of creative solutions.

The course also focuses on the climate: you will find out why two people in two different neighborhoods may experience the climate crisis differently, even if it is an urgent problem, all over the world. (For example, as wildfires sweep through the western United States, some of California’s wealthiest neighborhoods have started hiring private firefighters to fight fires in their area.) Jacob Lee, a student in communication and media, which recently followed ENST 1020, says that Simpson’s lectures and reading material are not only informative – they also give students a better understanding of real-life scenarios. “I think it’s important that people take at least one environmental course in college to understand what’s going on in the world around us, and why,” he says.

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ECON 1220: Introduction to the economic issues and policies of the global environment

Faculty of Arts, Department of Economics

University of Manitoba

On the first day of ECON 1220, Dr Robert Chernomas likes to ask his class some probing questions: Who do you think has the most power to decide government policies? Who do you think runs the economy? Are they multinational corporations, individuals or special interest groups? His students may not realize it, but their answers speak volumes about their political leanings and their view of the world in general. “If you want to understand how the world works, you have to save money,” Chernomas says. Given the course material that draws not only from the textbook but also from newspapers and social media, Chernomas students quickly learn that the climate crisis is more complicated than it looks and the economy is in it. for many.

Students leave her class with a new awareness of the world. Newly energized, some are looking for concrete ways to become more politically active. “We have students joining environmental groups and discussing taxes, the environment, inequalities and health care with their family and friends,” he says. “They have a new perspective on politics, economics and culture, and are enthusiastic enough to continue the conversation outside of the classroom.”

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ERSC 2180: Apocalypse now

School of the Environment, Department of Environmental and Resource Sciences

Trent University

Borrowing its title from the 1979 war epic, Trent University’s Apocalypse Now course focuses on the physical factors of natural disasters such as heat waves, tornadoes, and floods. “Think about the major current events of the past year,” says instructor Dr. Jim Buttle. “How many times have you heard of tornadoes in your own area? We are seeing an intensification of these kinds of events. Buttle plans to lecture on hurricanes, droughts and floods, and how they could be affected by global warming. Despite the title, Buttle’s course focuses more on solutions than sadness: you will learn practical approaches to mitigate natural disasters, such as re-mapping floodplains. (Buttle’s expertise is in hydrology: the study of the movement, cycle and distribution of water, above and below ground.)

People tend to have short memories of natural disasters, says Buttle. In an ERSC 2180 mission, students are asked to track how often a particular event is mentioned in the news to gauge how quickly our collective memories of these cataclysms are fading. “Immediately after the event there is a lot of coverage, but it doesn’t take long for the perception of risk to diminish,” says Buttle, who recalls the 1998 ice storm in North America with each episode of Freezing Rain. He attributes this perception to a desire for normality. After a major disruption, he says, “we all want to get back to normal.”

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SCI 3101: Public communication of science

Faculty of Science, Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences

University of Ottawa

For Dr. Adam Brown of the University of Ottawa, life is a spectacle and the world is its stage. The international theater artist, dancer and musician channels his passion for the performing arts by teaching science students how to communicate highly technical concepts to a non-specialist audience. Brown, who has appeared on shows such as The nature of things and TVOKids’ Find stuff, argues that science professionals are often too technical when speaking to the public. “It’s not a conference,” he said. “People don’t want to be spoken to condescendingly; they want to be empowered by information.

In an age of climate skepticism and vaccine reluctance, effective science communication is crucial. Environmental scientists, Brown says, focus too much on the technical details of the climate crisis, such as the parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, instead of more relevant framing, such as the good -being of future generations. To promote experiential learning, Brown’s course, which he describes as a “summer camp for scientists,” features guest speakers from a variety of sectors including government, business, education, and government. journalism. In an assignment, students discuss a scientific topic in a mock interview with a real journalist. “It’s a stimulating activity for the students,” he says. “[They need] be able to think quickly in the harness, under pressure.

This article appears in print in the 2022 University Rankings issue of Maclean’s magazine with the title “Climate Crisis 101”.

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