Seven major environmental challenges for the next century are human population growth, providing food and fiber, providing and conservatively using basic materials, transition to renewable energy systems, pollution prevention and cleanup, biodiversity, and climate change. Not only are these challenges faced by all residents of the planet, they are of particular importance to Florida's citizens. Florida's population of 16 million is anticipated to increase to about 24 million in 2030, equivalent to one new Tampa each year in Florida. People create or influence the seven environmental challenges, and it is people that will need to solve the problems they create. With so many people so close to so many fragile resources, Florida must lead the way in showing how to create a sustainable economy, environment, and society.
Providing new viewpoints and perspectives is one of the most important challenges to higher education. In addition to gaining scientific knowledge and research skills, students need to develop interdisciplinary perspectives, use multiple contexts in solving problems, and communicate complex ideas in group settings. It is the goal of the School of Natural Resources and Environment to produce highly trained scientists, social scientists, engineers, and other professionals who increase our ability to achieve economic, environmental, and social sustainability for future generations. Students need good science to know the nature of problems, and they need engineering to devise and test solutions. To take action, they need to know the instruments of economics, policy, law, constitution, and culture. They need to know how to work with stakeholders to identify workable solutions and how to work with businesses as smart, efficient actors. They need art and ethics to inspire and guide convergence of the right with the efficient, and they need to know how to work with, or even become, statesmen who manage public affairs. Today's students are tomorrow's business leaders and environmental managers.
To sustain a growing economy, people through their lifetimes must be stewards of the natural environment on which all life depends. To that end, having a scientifically literate, environmentally responsible population is necessary for our world to provide a sustainable economy while conserving our natural resources. Educating the workforce already in place and all citizens in general will improve natural resource and environmental literacy, and it will achieve science-based management and personal decisions among formal K-12 audiences, formal post-secondary audiences, and informal adult audiences in general. A strong research and outreach program will make both undergraduate and graduate education programs more effective and meaningful by bringing real-world problems directly into college classrooms and research laboratories and centers. The School's strategy is to provide an educational process that develops an environmentally literate citizenry and enables the public to integrate natural resources and the environment into national security, economic development, and the overall quality of life.
During the 21st century, our state, our nation, and the world will look to us to provide the leaders they need for creative, adaptable response to the new environmental challenges of the day. The programs of the School of Natural Resources and Environment at the University of Florida may have a different form then, but they will be traceable back to the changes we are making today in both formal and informal education about natural resources and the environment.