Forestry Doctor: who he is and what role he plays in the ecological transition

Guardians of woods, forests and biodiversity, graduates in Forestry and Environmental Sciences will become protagonists of the ecological transition

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The profile of a Forestry graduate originated approximately three centuries ago when, in 1713, Hanns Carl von Carlowitz, a forestry accountant, published “Silvicoltura Economica (Economic Silviculture)”, in which he revealed the necessity to recognize the above-mentioned figure, by stating that managing a forest correctly is the key to the preservation of our forests and the conservation of our environment. Although the university curriculum of a Bachelor in Forestry does not change over time, its skills are multiple, constantly evolving and in step with nature, outlining its dynamic complexity.

In Italy, the Tuscany region is the cradle of agricultural and forestry studies and here the “Regio Istituto Forestale di Vallombrosa” was founded in 1869. In 1912, this Institute was transferred to the Grand Ducal Villa at the Cascine in Florence and later it became “Regio Istituto Superiore Forestale Nazionale”.

The new institute’s legislation required all future forestry graduates to receive a degree in Agricultural Sciences or Engineering and a subsequent specialization by attending, for a biennial period, the Istituto Superiore Forestale Nazionale. Education in agro-forestry sciences, the adoption of the most suitable cultivation techniques and the necessary investment in capital were the most important actions undertaken in order to promote the development and progress of society.

Forestry and agriculture became two separate degrees, starting from the academic year 1933-1934, at the University of Florence. Dating from the Vallombrosa period to the present, the objective has been to form students into competent and responsible professionals capable of managing and developing the environment and forests.

Currently, there are 11 Forestry and Environmental Science degree courses in many different cities in Italy: Turin, Padua, Florence, Ancona, Viterbo, Campobasso, Naples, Potenza, Reggio Calabria, Palermo and Sassari. They are all very similar from a structural and organizational perspective in terms of the courses offered, the didactic approach to teaching, and the practical and laboratory activities, characteristic to the forestry profession. Nevertheless, the analysis of the courses (both three-year and post-graduate levels) revealed a remarkable difference between some universities and others, in terms of better formative programmes.

A further important factor is that only two international courses are offered in English: the Master’s Degree at the Universities of Padua and Tuscia, which are a double degree, in accordance with the Partner Universities. A variety of course options available for applicants to choose from and the opportunity to participate in international and innovative programmes which makes it possible for students to be “citizens of the world”, could be factors in the competitiveness of the universities, with a greater or weaker potential for attracting participants, and thus affecting student enrolment. The University objectives are broadly focused on making young people capable of operating in a reasonable and sustainable way, through practical management, programming and sustainable forestry productions in accordance with the evolving environmental and social-economic constraints.

In the current context, in which the ecosystem is strongly affected by irrational anthropogenic events that are the main cause of the imposing problem in climate change, restarting from agriculture and forests could be fundamental in hindering environmental degradation and representing a potential chance for future resolutions.

The ecological and naturalistic topics covered in the Degree Course are more essential now than before in confronting the changes in the environment and facing extreme climate events, such as droughts and floods, which are increasingly frequent and very intense. It is essential to be well prepared to deal with new challenges that nature offers us following its natural course of events, without altering its  evolutionary cycles. Social networks constantly influence our lives with current trends.

Likewise, the communicative effectiveness of social media could be used to sensitize the community towards appropriate habits to reduce air, water and soil pollution and all the damage perpetuated to the detriment of the environment and man himself.  In this regard, the European Union’s approach is the Green New Deal, an ambitious challenge with the aim of achieving zero climate impact by 2050.

The European Green Deal is our new strategy for growing. It will enable us to both reduce emissions and increase job creation“, says the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen. The new “green deal” forecasts a correct and equitable transition to a sustainable economy, which can be reached through a large investment plan to be equally shared by all member states without any exceptions: Italy will receive 364 million euros.

The recently instituted Ecological Transition Ministry, led by the Italian Minister Roberto Cingolani, aims at “a substantial change in the Italian energetic paradigm” to transform the existing socio-environmental emergency into opportunities for growth and restoration of compromised natural resources: “I would like to emphasize the new ministry acronym: MiTE. Meekness is the lost virtue that must be retrieved and it indicates the direction we are going to work in – declares Cingolani – pointing to the strength of the topics and the awareness of the ecological and social challenge, comparing with great openness, keeping future generations at heart“.

These reflections lead to the necessity to revalue the role of the Forestry and Environmental Science graduate as a cultural mediator at the center of an ambitious ecological transition project. The preservation of the natural environment is now an absolute priority and these professional skills are amongst the best suitable tools for the implementation of measures to safeguard the forest and terrestrial ecosystems, in a sustainable way: by satisfying the present demands while preserving the ones of future generations. Man who is able to understand nature consciously operates and protects it while exploiting its benefits rationally. Future jobs lie in the environment: bioremediation – reforestation – conservation and biodiversity valorisation are just some of the current and numerous demands to which the profile can respond, due to knowledge and expertise in the agro-forestry sector.

In the last few years, the trend of employability in these sectors is characterized by an encouraging and increasing development: one out of two university students is employed after graduation. Many job offers are seeking a “green curriculum” and the Forestry and Environmental Science graduates, owing to their multi-faceted nature, respond to the latest socio-environmental tendencies that aim to restore the harmonic equilibrium between man and nature.

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