As entrenched population growth and industrialization continue to raise demand for natural resources and their exploitation, there is increasing concern over the detrimental impacts on the global environment and humanity. Economic growth was expected to save people from poverty, but conventional economic growth models simply prompted intensive resource use and undermined the basis for livelihoods that are sustainable over the long term. Whilst research and policy measures have articulated environmental risks and key factors of sustainability, compartmentalized approaches have failed to forge a scientific foundation for averting risks and promoting sustainability. Countermeasures to address environmental risks often involve trade-offs weighed against other socio-economic factors. A holistic viewpoint and trans-disciplinary science are therefore needed to foster appropriate decision making and implementation that can ensure optimal risk management and promotion of sustainability. The Leadership Programme in Sustainable Living with Environmental Risk (the SLER programme) spearheaded by Yokohama National University from 2009 to 2014, is one of the programs playing an instrumental role in addressing this need. It provides a platform for strengthening the expertise and skills graduate school students need to become environmental leaders. Moreover, the process of implementing the SLER programme has revealed both the potential and the challenges inherent in developing future environmental leaders to effectively manage environmental risk and promote sustainability.
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