Illustration by nik harron.

It’s that time of year again when the hurly-burly of coursework emanates from campuses across the country. It is autumn, a time when universities and colleges get back to the business of education, and when hundreds of thousands of impassioned, eager minds seek insight, inspiration and ideas that can be the catalyst for positive change.

A\J has never really left the campus setting from our founding at Trent University in 1971 through our subsequent move to the University of Waterloo’s Faculty of Environment in 1985. We have watched as apprehensive young first-year students became confident Master’s candidates – and then flew off to careers as varied as you can imagine.

The beginning of a new school year is always filled with nervous excitement. Today, as Canada tries to discern the optimal path forward that balances economic opportunity with environmental protection, we all wait with bated breath for the next generation of problem-solvers and solutions-finders to make their voices heard. All that’s needed is to connect these students with a meaningful opportunity to put their educations to work helping businesses, governments, agencies and organizations to find new sustainable models of operations.

Since A\J’s first Education Directory, published in 1999, we have watched with admiration the exponential growth in interest in environmental issues. This has been paralleled by an explosion in the number of postsecondary institutions offering a wide variety of environmental education options. Today in Canada, more than 110 colleges and universities offer some type of environmental education from field training certificates to Masters’ of Environmental Business. Many of these postsecondary institutions now have full environmental faculties and are training students in a wide gamut of skills and knowledge-transfer that will allow them to make tangible, and immediate, impacts once they’ve begun their careers.

And that, after all, is the whole point of the academic exercise. Take idealistic and impassioned young minds, provide grounding in the principles of environmental theory, sprinkle in real-world training and experience in their preferred practice areas, and then provide them with the tools and opportunities to put their ideas into action in workplaces across the country.

And, as you’ll see from reading Natasha Milijasevic’s feature article on Environmental Education, recent grads are making real-world contributions to building a more sustainable future. By helping businesses and organizations to think about addressing complex challenges through the use of exciting new solutions that have bubbled up on campuses and/or in start-up business incubators, these environmental graduates are pioneering new approaches that hold the potential to bridge the divide between economic prosperity and environmental protection.

Speaking of recent grads, it is with a tinge of sadness that we announce that A\J’s Editor-in-Chief, Eric Rumble, has ‘graduated’ from the School of A\J to become full-time Festival Director of the A\J-empowered NIGHT\SHIFT event.

Eric joined us in January 2012 and played an instrumental role in shaping Alternatives Journal as we undertook a radical redesign project that has seen our impacts (and readership) grow. His calm demeanour, can-do attitude and willingness to get uncomfortable exploring new and different aspects of environmental awareness provided A\J and our readers with invaluable insights and powerfully evocative stories. He challenged our definition of what it meant to be an environmentalist in these times. And while we will miss his energy and enthusiasm, we know that Eric will be helping to challenge Canadians to think creatively about how to build better communities – that’s something we all truly care about.

We’ll have an announcement shortly about our new Editor-in-Chief and, in the interim, we hope you enjoy this issue and share with us our excitement as we envision the potential that is embodied by those full classrooms. Today’s environmental student is tomorrow’s environmental leader – and we’re privileged to watch the process unfold on noisy campuses from coast to coast to coast.

And Eric reminds you to
Conserve after reading