A new National Research Council report provides a decision framework which can be used by policymakers to examine the consequences, tradeoffs, synergies, and operational benefits of sustainability-oriented programs. The committee identifies linkages among areas such as energy, water, land, and nonrenewable resources that are critical to promoting and encouraging long term sustainability within the federal policy framework, recognizing that progress towards sustainability involves many institutions. The report also recommends priority areas for interagency cooperation on specific sustainability challenges; identifies impediments to interdisciplinary, cross-media federal programs; and highlights scientific research gaps as they relate to these interdisciplinary, cross-media approaches to sustainability. A booklet provides a short summary of the report. Watch the report launch, held on July 24, 2013, at the University of California, Davis.
A 2011 report from the National Research Council presents a framework for incorporating sustainability into the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s principles and decision making. The framework, which was requested by EPA, is intended to help the agency better assess the social, environmental, and economic impacts of various options as it makes decisions. The report is available to download from the National Academies Press. A report in brief provides a short summary of the report.
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A National Academies Symposium: Science, Innovation, and Partnerships for Sustainability Solutions The National Research Council’s Science and Technology for Sustainability Program organized a two and a half day public symposium, Science, Innovation, and Partnerships for Sustainability Solutions. During the symposium, experts examined the National Science Foundation’s and other Federal agencies’ investments in research related to sustainability, including the most significant outcomes of these investments. In addition, participants identified opportunities and key priorities to enhance the link between science and decision making and to help encourage practices that would promote sustainability; and to foster partnerships and linkages between disciplines, sectors and agencies.
Pathways to Urban Sustainability: A Focus on the Portland Region 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 used examples from Portland and the Northwest US / SW Canada region to explore critical questions about the future of urban sustainability. The meeting was organized into four sessions over two days. Session 1 provided background about Portland and Cascadia, emphasizing policy innovations and lessons that are potentially transferable elsewhere. Session 2 focused on ways to leverage local success through partnerships with state and federal agencies, companies, and non-government organizations, including the possibility of creating one or more interagency and multi-sector National Laboratories that gather, test, and disseminate best urban practices. Session 3 asked how cutting-edge academic and corporate scientific and engineering research can help cities to become more sustainable. Finally, Session 4 addressed the challenging question of how financially strapped cities, with the assistance of private foundations, can become agents for achieving broader societal goals not directly linked to their operational mandates, such as climate change mitigation, energy independence, poverty alleviation, and the preservation of biodiversity.
Roundtable on Science and Technology for Sustainability Established in 2003, the STS Roundtable provides a forum for sharing views, information, and analysis related to harnessing science and technology for sustainability. Members of the Roundtable include senior decision-makers from government, industry, academia, and non-profit organizations who deal with issues of sustainable development, and who are in a position to mobilize new strategies for sustainability.
Network for Emerging Leaders in Sustainability (NELS) Launched in 2008, NELS is an event series for early career professionals from federal and local agencies, the National Research Council, NGOs, private sector and foundations, in the Washington DC area. The Network includes leaders with diverse backgrounds and expertise, from natural resource management to energy policy to public health. Through NELS, these emerging leaders foster relationships that enable them to more effectively bring about a sustainable future.
Sponsor-Requested Workshops and Studies Sponsored studies that enlist the nation’s foremost scientists, engineers, health professionals, and other experts to address the scientific and technical aspects of sustainable development.
Science and Technology for Sustainability (STS) Program
The long-term goal of the National Academies’ Science and Technology for Sustainability (STS) Program is to contribute to sustainable improvements in human well-being by creating and strengthening the strategic connections between scientific research, technological development, and decision-making. The program examines issues at the intersection of the three sustainability pillars—social, economic, and environmental—and aims to strengthen science for decision-making related to sustainability.The program concentrates on activities that are crosscutting in nature; require expertise from multiple disciplines; are important in both the United States and internationally; and engage multiple sectors, including academia, government, industry, and non-governmental organizations.The program’s focus is on sustainability issues that have science and technology at their core, particularly those that would benefit substantially from more effective applications of science and technology.
To learn more about sustainability activities, both in the STS program and throughout the other boards and committees of the National Academies, please view the list of publications, upcoming meetings and ongoing studies.