A positive vision of sustainability
Growing population, increased urbanization, a growing global economy, and increased use of natural resources have created a demand for sustainability. Sustainability is an interdisciplinary field that requires collaboration from multiple perspectives. The planet’s resources are all being used at a ferocious pace. Energy is at the center of this issue; dependence on fossil fuels is causing extensive damage to ecosystems and public health and is a major cause of global climate change. The goal of a renewable resource-based economy is therefore important for the future, but rather than attacking the fossil fuel industry, it should be achieved through a positive vision of sustainability—one that includes the need to invest in basic and applied science of renewable energy in order to make renewables cheaper than fossil fuels. We will discuss the opportunities in sustainability-focused education and research that are needed for the transition to a renewable economy. We will also discuss the trend toward urbanization and the opportunities that exist in urban areas to close the cycle of production and consumption. Not only does most of the world’s population live in cities, but cities are paving the path toward a sustainable future. All of these factors contribute to a positive and creative vision of sustainability that focuses on building something new and clean rather than defeating something old and dirty.