Last summer, the Corporate Knights, a self-proclaimed “magazine for clean capitalism”, celebrated the achievements of young leaders in sustainable development across Canada by publishing a list of 30 entrepreneurs in the sustainability sector, including social entrepreneurs, inventors, and researchers under the age of 30. One of the recognized 30 under 30 is David Harary, a graduate student pursuing a Masters of Science in Sustainability Management here at UTM.

Harary attended the University of New York for his undergraduate studies.

“When I was there, I was very involved,” says Harary. “I realized pretty quickly that to really make a difference in the world, you first have to know a lot about particular subjects and delve very deep into specialized areas.”

In his sophomore year, Harary began an undergraduate research project in a Food Systems Planning and Healthy Communities lab.

“It was there where I gained basic research skills and learnt how to interact in a professional environment,” says Harary. “Really, from there, I further realized that to really make a difference in the world, you can’t just do research, but also put things into practice.”

Working towards this idea, Harary began to explore policy development. Over the summer, he began interning for both the United States House of Representatives with congressman Joseph Kennedy III, and with state representative Caroline Dykema in the Massachusetts House of Representatives.

“I really learnt hands-on what the policy-making process looked like, and developed an agricultural grant proposal. It was interesting because we were able to talk to state senators about getting such a program passed,” says Harary.

Harary then returned to school to continue his research and his studies, combining courses in economics, geography, environmental sciences, climate change, and behavioral economics. This is when Harary became intrigued with the process of solving environmental issues.

“I think there’s a way to do it by economic means. I don’t see capitalism and the environment being necessarily at odds,” he says. “I think that the way we’ve done business has put them at odds.”

This led him to develop an interest in the concept of sustainability. In the summer of his junior year, Harary decided to explore policy-making at the national level, and began applying for internships in Washington D.C.

“I got turned away from a lot of different jobs and a lot of different internships, because when you apply to D.C., it’s typical to apply to 100 places and to get an interview at one place.”

Harary then explains how he was lucky enough to be offered an unpaid internship at Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch (an initiative which lobbies against specific trade agreements, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership). Referring to his background in international trade and opinions on policy-making, Harary says it was interesting to see how the process is “much more based on relationships than on research.”

While in D.C, Harary describes meeting an individual—a friend of a family friend—who worked for NASA.

“Space was always a central sort of idea in my head, and especially as a kid, I wanted to go to space, like any other kid,” says Harary. “I know a good amount about what NASA has been doing, especially from a policy standpoint.” After inquiring about opportunities for internships at NASA, Harary was interviewed by the director outreach for the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate.

He began his internship at NASA a week later. “I was working on reviewing 13 communications strategic plans that were created by a number of different programs, and then I was also able to make recommendations based on those and create a comprehensive unifying plan,” says Harary.

In his senior year, Harary applied to graduate schools. “I chose U of T because of its reputation for producing academics and research, and [because] Toronto is a great city,” he says.

“The sustainability management program really stuck out to me,” he adds.

Last summer, Harary worked at the National Oceanic at Atmospheric Administration in the United States, specifically at the National Marine Sanctuary System. Interestingly, Harary noted that while being one of the largest conservation systems in the world, the National Marine Sanctuary System only gets $50 million from Congress, has a total of 320 employees, and is not well-known to most Americans.

This led Harary to focus on funding opportunities to allow innovation growth, marketing, and brand enhancement. “In order to really innovate any sector, you really have to work across government, academia, and the not-for-profit sector,” he says. “So [to] truly innovate and be sustainable, you have to [be] multi-disciplinary.”

“Now I am really interested in the interchange between climate change, resource security, and intelligence, specifically how resources and the lack thereof can contribute to instability,” says Harary.

He also mentions his interest in conflict relating to limited access to food and water, which he says is “at the heart of the sustainability issue”. He adds, “It’s going to be necessary for us to understand how and when periods of severe weather occur, and how to prepare for them and how to prepare for conflict.”

Harary was recognized as the Corporate Knights 30 under 30 for starting up a think-tank based in Washington, D.C., called the Centre for Development Strategy.

“It has grown to be about 800 members now. We have about 16 or 17 publications out now, and we have worked with organizations to start them up into non-profits,” says Harary.

CDS focuses on three developmental areas, referred to as Think Incubation, Think Publication, and Think Together. Although Harary is unsure of future directions for CDS, he says it will tie into his thesis and further graduate studies.

Harary further adds, “I see an inherent gap between access to research and understanding research between scientists and policy-makers, and so creating a platform that can relay that information very easily to policy-makers will hopefully be a big step forward.”