This is the latest in our series of commentaries on the government’s 25 Year Environment Plan.  It’s written by NAEE Fellow, Dr Phillip Murphy, of the University of Leeds.

My first thought on receiving the report was at last a long-term view!  Undertaking paleo-environmental research means I deal in much longer time scales than 25 years but the very fact that the government is acknowledging that there cannot be one-parliamentary cycle fixes to many environmental problems is a step forward. My second thought was that it was great to see soils included.  The importance of soils is something few people understand and the need to conserve and improve this vital resource is often under appreciated or even ignored.

However, having now had a while to digest the report contents, the lack of any mention of universities and their vital role in training this and future generations of environmental professionals is worrying.  Flicking through the ‘Actions we will take’ boxes, the need for environment-facing graduates across all disciplines leaps out at me, but there’s no mention of the need for a sustainable supply of future environmentally-trained graduates.  Research councils get one mention (p. 89) and the need for research is often implied if not directly mentioned but if we don’t have the graduates to undertake the research, gather and analyse the data, design and implement the policies how will this document full of good intentions be put into practice?

Today is a post-application open day in my department and I am on my way to speak to the next generation of environment professionals, young people who are preparing to undertake further study in order to change the world around us, but I am wondering how long the sector will be training such people considering the present government’s less than fully supportive relationship with the UK’s word-leading higher education sector.

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Note: As ever with NAEE blogs this post is a personal view, not that of the Association.