The spring 2016 semester at the SFS Center for Sustainable Development Studies in Costa Rica has begun. We are “alive” again, energized with an enthusiastic group of 24 students from a variety of U.S. universities. In no other time the need for new ideas and strategies of resource use has been more urgent than now. 2015 was record high in terms of global temperatures boosted by a super El Niño. Very likely, 2016 will not be any different.
This is no longer an issue we see in newspapers about far away countries impacted by climatic events. Climate change is here to stay, and is happening fast. Our planet is facing multiple challenges, from emerging diseases heightened by global warming, to the usual problems of habitat destruction, pollution, inefficient agriculture, biodiversity loss, water shortages, and poverty. Developing sustainable alternatives of relating to the land, of being productive and maintaining fulfilling lives with less resources, is the ultimate goal in a planet stressed by human impacts on nature.
Implementing sustainable development could be the only viable solution in the short-term, and this is not a cliché or an unrealistic goal. In the end, the development of new ideas to change old systems can only be achieved by getting immersed in the actual complexity of our world. This requires us to speak different languages, communicate with people from different fields, transcend cultural and geographic boundaries, and understand our global problems from a new perspective. We cannot expect the world to change if we keep repeating the same mistakes. We expect that our program will give students the necessary exposure to global issues and create a dent in the way that we all use resources, think about solutions, and influence political decisions that have global consequences. Welcome back students!