I just spent the day at the University of British Columbia. I was meeting with a professor who does research in environmental policy, something I’m particularly interested in. We had a fascinating discussion about how the recent rise in popularity of “going green” provides many opportunities for businesses and governments to capitalize on the trend. This can be done while actually having a positive effect on the environment, rather than simply perpetuating the largely tokenistic “lifestyle changes” already being encouraged: driving a hybrid, turning down the heat a couple degrees, etc.
His job is basically to analyze complex and pertinent problems facing humanity and come up with innovative solutions. And there are 4,000 similar faculty members at a big school like UBC, all with their own fields of specialization but all with essentially the same noble pursuit of knowledge. As my professor insisted: “Ninety percent of what we think we know is wrong.”
That’s where academia comes- trying to figure out where we went wrong and how to put it right.
Later that day I attended a lecture in UBC by a Nobel Chemistry laureate, entitled “Challenges facing human society in the 21st century.” Here was yet another example of the ongoing discussion and debate between academics in all disciplines concerning the state of the world and how best to improve it.
After the lecture, as I was riding my bike home through the good-sized town that is UBC, I began to get excited about my own imminent plunge into academia. In just over two months I will find myself in the midst of the largest academic instituion in the country, and I’ll be joining over 60,000 other individuals who are constantly engaged in and surrounded by this exciting and important research and dialogue.
I can’t wait.
– photo courtesy of the Library of Congress