Institute for Resources, Environment, and Sustainability

photo credit: Graham McDowell

Welcome to the Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability (IRES) at the University of British Columbia (UBC).

We are a problem-focused and curiosity-driven interdisciplinary research institute and graduate program, with interest and expertise in a wide range of topics under the realm of environment and sustainability. Our mission is to foster sustainable futures through integrated research and learning about the linkages among human and natural systems, and to support decision making from local to global scales. More often than not, we achieve this through collaborations across students and faculty in a manner that recognizes our collective skills, intellectual histories and methodological approaches, and yet encourages our interdependencies as we consider real world problems.

Learn more at ires.ubc.ca

June 6 - August 6, 2020 Course Packages

Sustainable Food and Farming Systems

Our food and farming systems are one of the greatest causes of global environmental problems. Agriculture covers a third of the world's land, and is responsible for continued deforestation, biodiversity loss, greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change, depletion of freshwater resources, and water pollution. This course provides an overview of global agriculture (what does the spatial distribution of crops and livestock, irrigation and fertilizer use, look like), its historical evolution, environmental consequences, socio-economic dimensions (who/where are farmers, land tenure, labour, food sovereignty, right to food, access to food), and some proposed solutions for addressing these challenges. We will cover topics such as the Green Revolution, sustainable intensification, organic farming, agroecology, genetically modified foods, smallholder systems, and supply chains. Assignments that use data science to understand and find sustainable farming solutions will also be included.

Sustainable Diets and Nutrition

Despite rapid growth in cereal production over the last 50 years, hunger and malnutrition persist. It is estimated that nearly 1 in 7 people today remain undernourished, while 2 billion are malnourished (which includes obesity and micronutrient deficiencies, in addition to undernourishment). A nutritious diet is critical to raising the quality of life of a large section of the world’s population. At the same time, decreasing consumption of meat-intensive foods is being seen as solution to reducing the environmental footprint of our food system. This course will explore what a healthy and sustainable diet means. It will touch on concepts such as calories versus nutrition, dietary diversity, dietary trends, macro vs micro nutrients, vegetarian/vegan diets, fad diets, food safety, and the relationship between diets, human health, and planetary health. It will investigate the role of dietary shifts as a critical pathway toward meeting the UN Sustainable Development goals.

Nature Matters: Ecology, the Environment and You

Ecosystems and the benefits they provide to people lie at the heart of many sustainability issues (such as food security, energy production, corporate environmental responsibility, and resource management), in ways not often reflected by management and policy approaches. This course will explore human impacts on ecosystems, the processes by which ecosystems render benefits for people (ecosystem services), methods for analyzing impacts and benefits, and the ways that individuals and organizations incorporate such information into their decision-making. Through field trips to a range of ecosystem types, lectures, and exposure to innovative organizations in the public and private sector, this course will consider the opportunity for innovative progress towards sustainability from stronger and deeper ecological grounding, and how students can support this type of progress in their careers and day-to-day lives.

Oceans in the 21st Century

This course provides an overview into ocean conservation issues, including the integrated and often conflicting role of oceans in biodiversity conservation, food security, climate change, and ecosystem services to humans. The course includes lectures and field trips that cover a variety of ocean issues, as well as guest lectures from and/or visits to organizations that are tackling components of these challenges in a variety of ways. Simulations and workshops will help students consider the variety of stakeholders involved in decision-making. Content, discussion, and exposure to experts and innovative research and strategies will equip and empower students to better understand and become more engaged in ocean issues, no matter how close they are to a coast.

July 11 - August 11, 2020 Course Package

Climate Change: Causes, Consequences and Adaptation

Climate change resulting from the use of fossil fuels in the global energy system is perhaps the single greatest collective challenge facing society in the 21st century. This course will explain the science behind human induced climate change, and examine possible consequences and impacts across the world. We will study how experts make predictions of future climate change and its impacts, and how societies will need to re-organize their economies and institutions to adapt to new climate realities. This course will include field trips and presentations by industry guest speakers, as well as speakers from non-governmental organizations and the public sector.

Energy for Sustainable Development

Climate change is only one of many challenges we face, and large-scale innovation in energy systems will be needed to meet multiple objectives including reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Technological and business innovations have begun to transform the global energy system. From the development of renewables such as solar and wind, to the deployment of complex networked technologies (such as Electric vehicles), or the diffusion of novel 'mundane' technologies (such as improved cook stoves in the developing world), techological innovation holds the key to our energy future. This course will examine what is driving these innovations, how might their promise be reached and their benefits be maximized, and what social and policy efforts are needed to sustain them. This course will include field trips and presentations by industry guest speakers, as well as speakers from non-governmental organizations and the public sector.