Air and water pollution, waste disposal, loss of biodiversity and deforestation are among pressing challenges that prompted Lebanese universities to introduce environment and sustainability studies in their curricula.
The subject is gaining in popularity among the young generation of students who are more aware than their elders of threats to the environment in the age of climate change.
Following Unesco’s 1999 directives on environmental education, substantial strides have been made in strengthening environmental education in Lebanon.
The United Nations’ 2019 Sustainable Development Report ranked Lebanon sixth among 22 Arab countries, saying Lebanon was on track to meet two of the U.N.’s environmental goals by 2030: clean water and sanitation, and action on climate change. It was lagging on other targets, in particular the goal of making cities and towns sustainable places to live. (See two related articles, “An Arab Researcher Seeks Solutions to Urban Pollution” and “A University Wades Into the Lebanese Garbage Crisis.”)
“Lebanon’s environmental performance is still far from being satisfactory and the economic cost and environment degradation is increasing,” says Safaa Baydoun, director of the Research Center for Environment and Development at Beirut Arab University.
The center was set up in 2010 to provide research facilities for students enrolled in the university’s master’s and Ph.D. programs in environmental sciences and engineering. It has collaborated with Montpellier University in France and the Lebanese-French environmental observatory, O-Life, to “fill the gaps” in the curriculum for its master’s degree.
Practical Programs Needed
“There is a need for interdisciplinary environmental education that connects knowledge and professional skills in order to address present and future challenges and to achieve environmental sustainability,” Baydoun said.
“We seek to upgrade the program at BAU to make it more tailored to the needs of the country,” she added. “The current programs are focused mainly on theoretical knowledge without giving much attention to the skills and competencies required in the job market. We want to remedy these gaps.
“This will create environmental professionals capable of identifying and solving emerging environmental problems within the complex settings of natural, technical, economic, social, ethical and political challenges Lebanon is facing.” (See two related articles, “Population Growth Compounds Climate Change” and “As Lebanon’s Forests Burn, Researchers Seek Solutions.”)