By William Fajzel

When people ask me what I study, their response to hearing “Economics and Earth System Science” is always in the form of two questions. First, what’s Earth System Science, and second, what are you going to do with that? The ensuing conversations have given me the opportunity to reflect on my choice – and in some cases defend it!

I have always been fascinated by our physical planet. That curiosity turned into an academic passion in CEGEP (CEGEP is a sort of college between high school and university unique to Quebec). My first experience with the subject was when I took a class literally called ‘Earth System Science’. What interested me the most was how it linked the mind-bogglingly complex Earth system to our human activity.  

My CEGEP, John Abbott College, where I was introduced to Earth System Science.

After that class, I participated in a marine science field course in Belize. We studied everything from fish species to ocean currents. A big part of the course was looking at how climate change is affecting the ocean, and how that in turn is affecting us. I was able to see the application of what I learned in the classroom and realised it was definitely something I wanted to continue to study. A few weeks later I applied to McGill!

I am now almost done my degree. I think part of the reason I get asked so much about my choice of program is that Economics is often seen as being purely at odds with our environment. There’s truth to this, but I believe that economics is crucial in helping us address climate change. I’m figuring out along the way where this perspective can take me. I can’t point to a job now and say “I want to do that“. But my goal is to bring together an understanding of our planet and our activity, and how they change each other.