Bachelor of Environmental Studies celebrates Fifth Anniversary


This year, the Bachelor of Environmental Studies (BES) celebrated its fifth anniversary together with two other degree programmes focusing on the environment - the Master of Science in Environmental Management and NUS Law School’s Asia-Pacific Centre for Environmental Law also celebrated their 15th and 20th anniversaries, respectively.


To mark the celebrations, a conference was organised on 9 to 11 November 2016 featuring a line-up of distinguished speakers who shared their insights on the conference theme - Achieving the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.


The BES conference on 9 November, which was attended by 120 participants, kicked off with a welcome address by Prof Matthias ROTH, the programme’s Deputy Director. This was followed by the keynote address by Dr Sylvia A. EARLE, an oceanographer and a National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence. Dr Earle has been at the forefront of ocean exploration for more than four decades. As the first female chief scientist of the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Dr Earle was named by Time magazine as its first hero for the Planet in 1998. Dr Earle has conducted pioneering research on algae, probed the ecology of coral reefs and set records for deep diving.


A tireless advocate for our oceans as an essential environmental habitat, in her lecture titled “In Pursuit of Sustainable Oceans”, Dr Earle focused on key challenges and environmental issues facing oceans, the interconnectivity of land and sea and methods to attain sustainability to preserve marine biodiversity. Highlighting how oceans have been exploited and taken for granted, Dr Earle reiterated that mankind must be mindful of what we take from oceans and what we put into oceans such as waste, toxic materials, sewage etc. Dr Earle added that advanced technology now allows information gathering on our deep seas, enabling mankind to make informed actions to prosper without adversely impacting the environment.


Dr Earle’s lecture was followed by a question and answer session moderated by Dr Joanna COLEMAN, Lecturer, Environmental Studies Programme. Dr Earle noted that Singapore, a small city-state with limited resources, is uniquely placed to set an example in environmental conservation. Sharing her belief that collectively we can make a difference, she encouraged youths to not only gain classroom knowledge but also to venture out and discover the oceans and learn from nature.


The celebrations culminated with the Fourth Asia Environment Lecture which featured Dr Andrew STEER, President and CEO of the World Resources Institute, a global research organisation which addresses urgent global challenges at the intersection of economic development and the natural environment such as food, forests, water, climate, energy and cities. The Asia Environment Lecture series, which started in 2013, provides a platform for world leaders in the environment field to share their expertise, with particular focus on achieving a sustainable environment in Asia.


In his speech, “Growing, Growing, Gone? How to Prosper while Protecting the Global Commons”, Dr Steer noted that the world economy at the end of this century could be 500 to 1,000 times its size in 1900. Current economic systems could cause irreversible damage to natural eco-systems, in turn making economic growth challenging. To prosper and protect would require radical shifts in the way cities, agriculture, energy and production systems are designed. Dr Steer also shared insights gleaned from successful examples in new environmentalism and new economics.


Participants found the conferences educational and insightful. WEI Ziyi, Year 2 BES (Biology specialisation), said, “It was a great honour to meet and accompany Dr Earle for the first day of the conference. As one of the most famous female scientists in the world, her lecture on marine conservation and climate change inspired participants to take a step to conserve our blue oceans.”


Charmaine KAN Yu Ting, Year 4, School of Design and Environment, said, “The myriad of possibilities for ocean exploration is very inspiring, and with the advancement of technology, possibilities may indeed become reality! If more people explore the ocean and understand our great and beautiful biodiversity, we may rethink the way we live”.


CHIA Jia Min, Sandra, Year 2 BES (Geography specialisation), said, “The interaction with Dr Earle was nothing short of inspirational. The fight to save the environment is a challenging and draining one at times and a strong-willed role model can be highly motivating. Dr Earle has smashed through so many seemingly insurmountable obstacles throughout the illustrious decades of her career. Her passion for the environment is infectious and fills me with determination to continue the path of making an impact in the future.”


BES 5th 01

Dr Sylvia Earle spoke on key challenges and environmental issues facing oceans


BES 5th 02

A question and answer session with Dr Earle, moderated by Dr Joanna Coleman (left)


BES 5th 03

Dr Andrew Steer shared insights on balancing economic growth with environmental conservation


BES 5th 04

BES students consulted Dr Earle after the lecture


BES 5th 05

Dr Earle with the staff and students of BES