About Us

Sustainable development is one of the most pressing challenges facing humanity. As the world’s population grows, we must develop new ways to meet our requirements for food, energy, water and other basic needs without undermining the planet’s natural systems. This challenge touches on a variety of issues, such as poverty alleviation, climate change, and food security, which are so intertwined that none can be viewed apart from the others.

The term “sustainable” refers to managing the world’s economy in a manner consistent with the continued healthy functioning of Earth’s ecosystems, oceans, atmosphere, and climate. In this context, “development” refers to continued social, political and economic progress aimed at improving the well-being of the global community, especially for the poorest people.

Columbia University has long worked at the forefront of sustainable development issues through its research centers and graduate programs. In recent years, the University began incorporating this work into its undergraduate degree programs. The Earth Institute, in collaboration with affiliated departments, offers a major and a special concentration in sustainable development for students interested in studying the complex issues of development as they relate to the interactions between natural and social systems.

The program provides a unique experience, comprising classes specifically designed for sustainable development students and developed by experienced faculty and practitioners. The program provides students with a well-rounded, interdisciplinary education that is geared to the real and complex challenges of sustainable development and our emerging understanding of how to address them. Students will explore how to move toward a trajectory of sustainability that will allow future generations to pursue further progress in human well-being without causing irreparable harm to the planet. Study abroad and internships are strongly encouraged, particularly as a basis for thesis research and to provide students with practical experience early in their professional development.

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