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In the not-too-distant future, the planet’s natural resources will be stretched to their limits by a dramatically increasing population, climate change, skyrocketing energy demands, and other multifaceted land-use issues. It will be up to today’s natural resources students to manage these future concerns – and Colorado State University is preparing them for the complicated task.
“Population growth is accelerating already complex challenges because humans have exponentially growing needs for energy, water, food, and space,” said new Warner College of Natural Resources Dean John P. Hayes. “All of those things link to and depend on our natural environment. A healthy environment is not a luxury item we can live without – it is the underlying foundation that makes life on Earth and all of our industry and agriculture possible.”
A looming tipping point in environmental science and management has become palpable, and it is demanding interdisciplinary research, education, and collaboration that can unravel the dynamics behind complex natural resource issues and create sustainable solutions.
Hayes has been working to bring core natural resource challenges into focus so that meaningful and adaptive advancements can be made to prepare future generations for the next 100 years.
He was part of a national team of scientists who prepared the Science, Education, and Outreach Roadmap for Natural Re- sources, published by the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU). The report features sustainability, water, climate change, agriculture, energy, and education as the six great challenges that societies will face.
More specifically, Hayes has identified issues related to climate change, population growth, and the spread of disease and invasive species as those that will shift the natural resources paradigm.
“Universities are mobilizing to create programs to develop adaptive mitigation strategies for emerging problems facing the next generation. We must be responsive and comprehensive, and it is no easy feat,” said Hayes. “We must also ensure that future generations working on these issues are representative of our diverse society. Environmental science programs need to be inclusive of a broad population when solving these challenges because they affect all of us.”
Hayes’ vision for the future of natural resources includes a commitment to building on the strong interdisciplinary focus that is a hallmark of CSU programs and strengthening collaborative partnerships across campus and around the world that can serve as conduits between science and the most pressing issues facing society.