Sustainability for the Nation: Resource Connections and Governance Linkages
The National Academies’ Science and Technology for Sustainability Program is undertaking a nationally-focused study entitled Sustainability Linkages in the Federal Government. The Linkages initiative will attempt to identify and describe the linkages among domains such as energy, water, and health that are not routinely considered in decision making. The premise is that sustainability is a systems problem that cannot be achieved by separately optimizing its pieces. The study will build upon existing and emerging expertise throughout the scientific, technological, and policy communities, describing the nexus where domains intersect but existing institutions and disciplines do not. The committee will convene a series of fact finding meetings, commission expert-authored case studies, review the pertinent literature, and author an overall consensus report, which will include a decision framework that can be used by U.S. policymakers and regulators to help them examine the consequences, tradeoffs, synergies, and operational benefits of sustainability-oriented programs.
Partnerships, Science, and Innovation for Sustainability Solutions - A Symposium
An ad hoc committee under the Science and Technology for Sustainability Program (STS) organized a three day public symposium on fostering partnerships and linkages between disciplines, sectors, agencies and nations in sustainability science and innovation. The symposium featured invited presentations and discussions to showcase federal investments and institutional structures regarding sustainability, identify opportunities to help promote practices that would lead communities toward sustainability, and address communication issues needed to recognize science and innovation as central to the understanding and adoption of sustainable practices. The symposium is intended to better define issues and help forge new collaborations. The symposium was held in May 2012 and a brief individually-authored summary of the event has been issued.
Sustainability and the U.S. EPA
An ad hoc committee under the Science and Technology for Sustainability Program (STS)has authored a consensus report for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s Office of Research and Development (ORD) to help define their efforts to incorporate sustainability concepts into agency programs. The report builds on existing sustainability efforts that ORD has conducted by strengthening the analytic and scientific basis for sustainability as it applies to human health and environmental protection within the Agency's decision-making process.
Pathways to Urban Sustainability: A Focus on Portland
For more than 40 years, the City of Portland and the Portland Metropolitan Region have been national leaders in urban policies and investments intended to revitalize the central city and adjacent neighborhoods, preserve the environment, improve equity, and make the city more economically competitive and livable. The “Portland brand” has been both emulated as path breaking and discounted as overly idiosyncratic. Among the elements contributing to Portland’s success have been strong public-private partnerships, a culture of planning, and a willingness to implement diverse ideas generated by academics, consultants, companies, and government agencies. Regionally, Portland has benefited from its location in the middle of the progressive Cascadia Corridor, stretching from Vancouver BC to San Francisco. Against this vibrant backdrop, this National Academies Workshop, held on May 28-29, 2013, used examples from Portland and the Northwest US / SW Canada region to explore critical questions about the future of urban sustainability.
The Network for Emerging Leaders in Sustainability (NELS)
The Network for Emerging Leaders in Sustainability (NELS) is an organization for early-career professionals who are interested in building bridges with peers in DC-area agencies and organizations. The Network includes leaders with diverse backgrounds and expertise, from natural resource management to energy policy to public health. NELS members share a common interest in taking a multidisciplinary approach to sustainability challenges -considering the economic, environmental, social, and cultural dimensions of these problems. Through NELS, these emerging leaders will foster relationships that enable them to more effectively bring about a sustainable future.
Pathways to Urban Sustainability: A Focus on the Houston Metropolitan Region
The National Academies organized a public workshop examining issues relating to sustainability and human-environment interactions in the Houston metropolitan region, held January 18-19, 2012. Topics that were addressed include energy and air quality management, hazard mitigation, and land use considerations. The committee developed an agenda in consultation with regional stakeholders (academia, city/county governments), so that the presentations and panels reflected place-based knowledge and approaches to sustainability.
Japan-U.S. Workshop on Sustainable Energy Futures
An ad hoc committee under the Science and Technology for Sustainability Program (STS) organized a joint Japan-U.S. workshop on sustainable energy futures. The one-day workshop featured invited presentations and discussions on effective strategies and the research and technology needed to achieve sustainable energy solutions in Japan and the U.S. The workshop included participants from governments, academia, the private sector, and nongovernmental organizations involved in sustainability issues in Japan and the U.S. The workshop was held in June 2012 and an individually-authored summary of the workshop has been issued.
Sustainable Acquisition: Fostering Sustainability Considerations into Public and Private Sector Procurement Tools and Capabilities
The National Academies, under a collaboration between the Science and Technology for Sustainability Program and the Computer Science and Telecommunications Board, hosted a workshop on December 7-8, 2011, on fostering better sustainability considerations in procurement tools and capabilities across the public and private sectors. The workshop featured invited presentations and discussions to assess the current landscape of green purchasing tools, identify opportunities and emerging requirements for enhanced and/or new tools, identify potential barriers to progress (such as cross-tool interoperability), and explore potential solutions. It also considered associated training required to realize the full benefits of these tools.
A Sustainability Challenge: Food Security for All
An ad hoc committee organized two public workshops in 2011 to help establish the dimensions of the food security challenge and explore how to sustainably meet growing food demands during the coming decades. The first workshop, Measuring Food Insecurity and Assessing the Sustainability of Global Food Systems, examined the empirical basis for past trends, the current situation and projections for the future. The second workshop, Exploring Sustainable Solutions for Increasing Global Food Supplies, examined a set of issues fundamental to assuring that food supplies could be increased to meet the needs of the world's growing population--now expected to grow to 9 billion by the year 2050.
Pathways to Urban Sustainability: Lessons from the Atlanta Metropolitan Region
The National Academies organized a workshop in Atlanta to foster discussion of the metropolitan region’s approach to urban sustainability, with an emphasis on building the evidence base upon which policies and programs might be developed. Participants explored how the interaction of various systems (natural and human systems; energy, water, transportation systems) affected the region’s social, economic, and environmental conditions. Discussions centered on the challenges the region faces, innovative approaches to addressing these complex challenges, performance measures to gauge success, and opportunities to link knowledge with on-the-ground action. The event was carried out in cooperation with local partners and hosted by the Georgia Institute of Technology, but also engaged local, state, and federal agencies in order to explore how their resources could best support sustainable improvements in the Atlanta metropolitan region.
Transitioning to Sustainability: The Challenge of Developing Sustainable Urban Systems
An ad hoc planning committee organized a one-day public workshop to discuss research gaps, needed analytical tools, and opportunities for collaboration among federal research and development programs and other relevant programs focused on challenges to urban sustainability. Participants included representatives from federal agencies, state/local agencies, academic non-governmental organizations, and key stakeholder groups such as the Conference of Mayors and the League of Cities, as well as international experts.
Certification of Sustainable Products and Services
Shifting consumption toward a more sustainable path is a crucial element of a sustainability transition, given the large role that consumption plays in economic activity. Certification of goods and services is one approach that has emerged over the last 15 years, and although there has been anecdotal evidence of success, particularly in niche markets, the overall impact has been small. Moreover, definitions of 'sustainable' vary across sectors and markets, and scientific information has been at best inconsistently applied. Consumption is an understudied area but one of fundamental significance to sustainability. In order to take the first step in learning from this emerging field of practice, the National Academies' Science and Technology for Sustainability Program (which includes the Sustainability Roundtable ("Roundtable")) organized a workshop aimed at understanding the situation of those making key decisions to purchase and produce certified goods and services, and to clarify the scope and limitations of the scientific knowledge that might contribute to the economic success of certified products.
Expanding Biofuel Production -- Lessons from the Upper Midwest for Sustainability
An ad hoc committee organized a workshop in Summer 2009 that will assess the sustainability impacts of expanding biofuel production at a regional level. Workshop participants assessed lessons learned from dramatic increases in corn based fuels and identify the implications of advanced biofuel production, examining feedstock production, refining, distribution and use. The objective of the workshop was to inform local, state and federal decision-makers and to suggest policies that can be developed to encourage more sustainable practices and to mitigate potentially adverse impacts on specific regions of the country as the U.S. transitions to the next generation of biofuels. This workshop was being supported by the Energy Foundation and the National Academies' George and Cynthia Mitchell Endowment for Sustainability Science.
Partnerships for Sustainability: Examining the Evidence
In June 2008 the Roundtable on Science and Technology for Sustainability convened a symposium to develop a better understanding of key factors of success (and failure) for partnerships established to promote sustainability. A steering group was appointed to develop a common framework for the reviews and organize the symposium.
The National Academies' Federal Sustainability Research and Development Forum
The Roundtable on Science and Technology for Sustainability held a workshop ("forum") on October 17-18, 2007. Forum participants discussed research gaps, needed analytical tools, and opportunities for collaboration among federal research and development programs focused on selected high priority challenges to sustainability in the areas of biofuels and ecosystem services.
Urban Environmental Sustainability in the Developing World
The U.S. National Academies are planning a multi-year, multi-country initiative to address one of the central challenges and opportunities of the 21st century—the use of science and technology to help transform rapidly urbanizing regions of the developing world into "sustainable cities" Virtually all of the world's population growth over the next 30 years will be added to cities in developing countries. This year, for the first time in human history, more people will be living in cities than will be living in rural areas. In the next few decades, China and other developing countries will invest billions of dollars to accommodate their expanding urban populations and support economic growth. The challenges faced by these countries include meeting rising energy demands, providing clean water, and protecting public health without compromising environmental quality. Urbanization already has significantly transformed landscapes, affected natural resources, and altered the way billions of people live, and cities will continue to have critical roles to play as engines for economic growth and as major agents of environmental change, whether negative or positive. With wise investments in science and technology, urban leaders and residents will be much more able to make the transition toward urban sustainability.
Planning Meeting on Scientific and Technical Input for the Revision of the World Bank Group's Pollution Prevention and Abatement Handbook
On November 12, 2004 the National Academies' Science and Technology for Sustainability Program hosted a planning meeting titled "Scientific and Technical Input for the Revision of the World Bank Group's Pollution Prevention and Abatement Handbook." The goal of the one-day workshop was to scope out possible approaches to designing an expert input and/or review process for the new edition of the World Bank Group's Pollution Prevention and Abatement Handbook. The small workshop involved international and US experts on the incorporation of technology into development investments, and included the presentation of background on the current Handbook revision process.
Strengthening Science Based Decison Making in Developing Countries
During the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD), the U.S. National Academies, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the American Chemistry Council announced a new partnership to promote sustainable development through better use of scientific knowledge in policy and program decisions.