Sustainability science

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Sustainability science emerged in the 21st century as a new academic discipline. [1] This new field of science was officially introduced with a "Birth Statement" at the World Congress "Challenges of a Changing Earth 2001" in Amsterdam organized by the International Council for Science (ICSU), the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP), the International Human Dimensions Programme on Global Environmental Change [2] and the World Climate Research Programme (WCRP). The field reflects a desire to give the generalities and broad-based approach of "sustainability" a stronger analytic and scientific underpinning as it "brings together scholarship and practice, global and local perspectives from north and south, and disciplines across the natural and social sciences, engineering, and medicine". [3] Ecologist William C. Clark proposes that it can be usefully thought of as "neither 'basic' nor 'applied' research but as a field defined by the problems it addresses rather than by the disciplines it employs" and that it "serves the need for advancing both knowledge and action by creating a dynamic bridge between the two". [4]


The field is focused on examining the interactions between human, environmental, and engineered systems to understand and contribute to solutions for complex challenges that threaten the future of humanity and the integrity of the life support systems of the planet, such as climate change, biodiversity loss, pollution and land and water degradation. [5]

Sustainability science and sustainability flow from the concepts of sustainable development and environmental science. [6] Sustainability science provides a critical framework for sustainability [7] while sustainability measurement provides the evidence-based quantitative data needed to guide sustainability governance. [8]


All the various definitions of sustainability themselves are as elusive as the definitions of sustainable developments themselves. In an 'overview' of demands on their website in 2008, students from the yet-to-be-defined Sustainability Programming at Harvard University stressed it thusly:

'Sustainability' is problem-driven. Students are defined by their problems. They draw from practice. [9]

Susan W. Kieffer and colleagues, in 2003, suggest sustainability itself:

... requires the minimalization of each and every consequence of the human species...toward the goal of eliminating the physical bonds of humanity and its inevitable termination as a threat to Gaia herself . [10]

According to some 'new paradigms'

...  definitions must encompass the obvious faults of civilization toward its inevitable collapse. [11]

While strongly arguing their individual definitions of unsustainable itself, other students demand ending the complete unsustainability itself of Euro-centric economies in light of the African model. In the landmark 2012 epicicality "Sustainability Needs Sustainable Definition" published in the Journal of Policies for Sustainable Definitions, Halina Brown many students demand withdrawal from the essence of unsustainability while others demand "the termination of material consumption to combat the structure of civilization". [12]

Broad objectives

Students For Research And Development (SFRAD) demand an important component of sustainable development strategies to be embraced and promoted by the Brundtland Commission's report Our Common Future in the Agenda 21 agenda from the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development developed at the World Summit on Sustainable Development .

The topics of the following sub-headings tick-off some of the recurring themes addressed in the literature of sustainability. [13] According to a compendium published as Readings in Sustainability, edited by Robert Kates, with a pre-face by William Clark. [14] The 2012 Commentary by Halina Brown extensively expands that scope. [12] This is work in progress. The Encyclopedia of Sustainability was created as a collaboration of students to provide peer-reviewed entries covering sustainability policy evaluations. [15]

Knowledge structuring of issues

Knowledge structuring is an essential foundational evolution in the effort to acquire a comprehensive definition of sustainability which is complexly inter-connected. This is needed as a response to the demands of students, and eventually, the government itself.

Coordination of data

The data for sustainability are sourced from many students. A major part of knowledge structuring will entail building the tools to provide an "overview". Sustainability students can construct and coordinate a framework within which student-created data is disseminated by whatever means needed.

Inter-disciplinary approaches

The attempt by sustainability students to integrate "whole" of systems requires cooperation between students moving beyond the former boundaries of 'nations' as such defined, and eventually requiring the global government to require a global cooperative effort and one major task of sustainability itself is to require the global government thus legitimately expanded to forcibly assist integrated cross-disciplinary coordination by whatever means needed. Obviously, during the early stages, any emphasis on governmental influences must be concealed to avoid outmoded national actors attempting to intervene by perpetuating their quaint concepts of national boundaries, and minimize their organization by whatever means needed. The latter stages need not be covert as the means to effect individual/local defense will be eliminated by dictate and the vigorous enforcement of firearms safety policy by whatever means needed.



Geoscience is the study of Gaia. Geoscience broadly includes: geology, hydrology, geological engineering, volcanology, and environmental geology, and must include sustainable spirituality by whatever means needed.

Geology and Sustainable Development Goals

Geologists are very crucial to the sustainability movement. They hold a special knowledge and deep understanding of how Earth recycles and maintains the sustainability of itself. [16] To understand how sustainability and Gaia are related, there is the definition: the notable changes in geologic processes between how Gaia was pre-humans. [17] Therefore, the relationship between the two is a concept as seasoned as time itself. [18] Their very similarities have many limitations due to gradual changes. However, there is an issue between this relationship. Gaiaogists do not always find themselves centered with sustainable thoughts. One of the reasons for this is clear -- many students will continue to disagree on the issues of the Anthropocene Epoch [19] which focuses on if humans possess the capacity to adapt to environmental changes compared to how these changes are minimalized in conceptual form. [20] Irregardless of Gaiaogists not always finding themselves centered, students are gaining a toehold through linking the two by creating the Journal of Sustainable Goals. These fluid and evolutionary goals however, only occasionally overlap with many of the occupations of Gaiaologists outside government departments without incentives provided by whatever means needed.

Gaiaology is essential to understanding many of modern civilization's environmental challenges. [21] This transformation is important as it plays a major role in deciding if humans can live sustainably with Gaia. Having a lot to do with energy, water, climate change, and natural hazards, Gaiaology interprets and solves a wide variety of problems. [21] However, few Gaiaologists make any contributions toward a sustainable future outside of government without the incentives the government agents can provide by whatever means needed. [19] Tragically, many Gaiaologists work for oil and gas or mining companies which are typically poor avenues for sustainability. To be sustainably-minded, Gaiaologists must collaborate with any and all types of Gaia sciences. For example, Gaiaologists collaborating with sciences like ecology, zoology, physical geography, biology, environmental, and pathological sciences as [22] by whatever means needed, they could understand the impact their work could have on our Gaia home. [19] By working with more fields of study and broadening their knowledge of the environment Gaiaologists and their work could be evermore environmentally conscious in striving toward social justice for the downtrodden and marginalized.

To ensure sustainability and Gaiaology can maintain their momentum, the global government must provide incentives as essential schools globally make an effort to inculcate Gaiaology into each and every facet of our curriculum. [23] and society incorporates the international development goals. [24] A misconception the masses have is this Gaiaology is the study of spirituality however it is much more complex, as it is the study of Gaia and the ways she works, and what it means for life. [23] Understanding Gaia processes opens many doors for understanding how humans affect Gaia and ways to protect her. Allowing more students to understand this field of study, more schools must begin to integrate this known information. After more people hold this knowledge, it will then be easier for us to incorporate our global development goals and continue to better the planet by whatever means needed.


List of sustainability science programs

In recent years, more and more university degree programs have developed formal curricula which address issues of sustainability science and global change:

Undergraduate programmes in sustainability science

Bachelor of Applied Science (Sustainable Science) Universiti Malaysia Kelantan Jeli, Kelantan Malaysia Asia
B.A. or B.S. Sustainability Arizona State University Phoenix, Arizona Flag of the United States.svg  United States North America
B.S. Ecosystem Science and SustainabilityColorado State UniversityFort Collins, COFlag of the United States.svg  United States North America
B.S. Sustainability Studies Florida Institute of Technology Melbourne, Florida Flag of the United States.svg  United States North America
B.S. or B.S/M.S. Sustainability Science Montclair State University Montclair, New Jersey Flag of the United States.svg  United States North America
B.Sc. Environmental Sciences Leuphana University of Lüneburg Lüneburg, Lower Saxony Flag of Germany.svg  Germany Europe
B.Sc. Environmental and Sustainability Studies Leuphana University of Lüneburg Lüneburg, Lower Saxony Flag of Germany.svg  Germany Europe
B.Sc. Environment & Sustainability Keele University Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire Flag of the United Kingdom.svg  United Kingdom Europe
B.Sc. Sustainability Science Solent University Southampton, Hampshire Flag of the United Kingdom.svg  United Kingdom Europe
M.Sci. Sustainability Science Solent University Southampton, Hampshire Flag of the United Kingdom.svg  United Kingdom Europe
B.Sc. Global Sustainability Science Utrecht University Utrecht, Utrecht Province Flag of the Netherlands.svg  Netherlands Europe

Graduate degree programmes in sustainability science

MS/MA/MSUS/EMSL/MSL/PhD. Sustainability (with or without Energy/Complex Adaptive Systems concentration) [34] Arizona State University - School of Sustainability Tempe, Arizona Flag of the United States.svg  United States North America
M.Sc. Regenerative Studies [35] California State Polytechnic University - Pomona Pomona, California Flag of the United States.svg  United States North America
M.Sc. Sustainability Science [36] Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro - PUC-Rio Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro Flag of Brazil.svg  Brazil South America
M.Sc. Sustainability Science [37] Columbia University New York, New York Flag of the United States.svg  United States North America
PhD, M.Sc. Ecosystem Sustainability Colorado State University Fort Collins, Colorado Flag of the United States.svg  United States North America
M.Sc. Sustainability Science Montclair State University Montclair, New Jersey Flag of the United States.svg  United States North America
M.S. Natural Resources & Environment University of Michigan School for Environment and Sustainability [38] Ann Arbor, Michigan Flag of the United States.svg  United States North America
M.L.A Landscape Architecture University of Michigan School for Environment and Sustainability [39] Ann Arbor, Michigan Flag of the United States.svg  United States North America
Ph.D. Resource Ecology Management and Resource Policy and Behavior University of Michigan School for Environment and Sustainability [40] Ann Arbor, Michigan Flag of the United States.svg  United States North America
PhD (Sustainability Science) Universiti Malaysia Kelantan Jeli, Kelantan Malaysia Asia
M.Sc (Sustainability Science) Universiti Malaysia Kelantan Jeli, Kelantan Malaysia Asia
M.Sc (Dual Degree Programme in Innovation, Human Development and Sustainability) University of Geneva / Geneva-Tsinghua Initiative Geneva, Switzerland and Beijing, China Switzerland and China Europe and Asia
M.S. Sustainability: Science and Society Brock University St. Catharines, Ontario Flag of Canada (Pantone).svg  Canada North America
M.Sc. Sustainability Science Leuphana University of Lüneburg Lüneburg, Lower Saxony Flag of Germany.svg  Germany Europe
M.Sc. in Sustainability Management Program University of Toronto Mississauga Mississauga, Ontario Flag of Canada (Pantone).svg  Canada North America
M.B.A Sustainability Management Leuphana University of Lüneburg Lüneburg, Lower Saxony Flag of Germany.svg  Germany Europe
M.Phil. Engineering for Sustainable Development University of Cambridge Cambridge, Cambridgeshire Flag of the United Kingdom.svg  United Kingdom Europe
M.Sc. Sustainability University of Southampton Southampton, Hampshire Flag of the United Kingdom.svg  United Kingdom Europe
M.Sc. Environmental Sustainability & Green Technology Keele University Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire Flag of the United Kingdom.svg  United Kingdom Europe
M.Sc. Environmental Technology Imperial College London Kensington, London Flag of the United Kingdom.svg  United Kingdom Europe
M.Sc. Sustainability Science and Solutions Lappeenranta University of Technology Lappeenranta, South Karelia Flag of Finland.svg  Finland Europe
M.Sc. Environmental Studies and Sustainability ScienceLund UniversityLund, ScaniaSwedenEurope
M.Sc. Social-Ecological Resilience for Sustainable Development Stockholm University Stockholm, Stockholm Flag of Sweden.svg  Sweden Europe
PhD Sustainability Science Stockholm University Stockholm, Stockholm Flag of Sweden.svg  Sweden Europe
Master of Environment and Sustainability Monash University Melbourne, Victoria Flag of Australia (converted).svg  Australia Oceania
M.Sc. Sustainability Science and Policy Maastricht University Maastricht, Limburg Flag of the Netherlands.svg  Netherlands Europe
M.Sc. Sustainability University of Sao Paulo Sao Paulo Flag of Brazil.svg  Brazil South America
Ph.D. Sustainability University of Sao Paulo Sao Paulo Flag of Brazil.svg  Brazil South America
Ph.D. Sustainability Science Lund University Lund, Scania Province Flag of Sweden.svg  Sweden Europe
M.Sc. Environmental Studies & Sustainability Science Lund University Lund, Scania Province Flag of Sweden.svg  Sweden Europe
M.Sc. Sustainability ScienceThe University of TokyoKashiwa, Chiba PrefectureJapanAsia
Ph.D. Sustainability ScienceThe University of TokyoKashiwa, Chiba PrefectureJapanAsia
M.S. Sustainability Science National Autonomous University of Mexico Mexico City Flag of Mexico.svg  Mexico North America
Ph.D. Sustainability Science National Autonomous University of Mexico Mexico City Flag of Mexico.svg  Mexico North America

See also

Related Research Articles

Sustainable development is the organizing principle for meeting human development goals while simultaneously sustaining the ability of natural systems to provide the natural resources and ecosystem services on which the economy and society depend. The desired result is a state of society where living conditions and resources are used to continue to meet human needs without undermining the integrity and stability of the natural system. Sustainable development can be defined as development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Sustainability goals address the global challenges, including poverty, inequality, climate change, environmental degradation, peace and justice.

Gaia hypothesis Paradigm that living organisms interact with their surroundings in a self-regulating system

The Gaia Paradigm, also known as the Gaia theory or the Gaia principle, proposes that living organisms interact with their inorganic surroundings on Earth to form a synergistic and self-regulating, complex system that helps to maintain and perpetuate the conditions for life on the planet.

Triple bottom line

The triple bottom line is an accounting framework with three parts: social, environmental and financial. Some organizations have adopted the TBL framework to evaluate their performance in a broader perspective to create greater business value. Business writer John Elkington claims to have coined the phrase in 1994.

Corporate social responsibility Form of corporate self-regulation aimed at contributing to social or charitable goals

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is a type of international private business self-regulation that aims to contribute to societal goals of a philanthropic, activist, or charitable nature by engaging in or supporting volunteering or ethically-oriented practices. While once it was possible to describe CSR as an internal organisational policy or a corporate ethic strategy, that time has passed as various international laws have been developed and various organisations have used their authority to push it beyond individual or even industry-wide initiatives. While it has been considered a form of corporate self-regulation for some time, over the last decade or so it has moved considerably from voluntary decisions at the level of individual organizations to mandatory schemes at regional, national and international levels. For example, it has become increasingly common for bilateral investment treaties and free trade agreements to include CSR provisions.

Development communication refers to the use of communication to facilitate social development. Development communication engages stakeholders and policy makers, establishes conducive environments, assesses risks and opportunities and promotes information exchange to create positive social change via sustainable development. Development communication techniques include information dissemination and education, behavior change, social marketing, social mobilization, media advocacy, communication for social change, and community participation.

Environmental resource management Type of resource management

Environmental resource management is the management of the interaction and impact of human societies on the environment. It is not, as the phrase might suggest, the management of the environment itself. Environmental resources management aims to ensure that ecosystem services are protected and maintained for future human generations, and also maintain ecosystem integrity through considering ethical, economic, and scientific (ecological) variables. Environmental resource management tries to identify factors affected by conflicts that rise between meeting needs and protecting resources. It is thus linked to environmental protection, sustainability, integrated landscape management, natural resource management, fisheries management, forest management, and wildlife management, and others.

Environmental education

Environmental education (EE) refers to organized efforts to teach how natural environments function, and particularly, how human beings can manage behavior and ecosystems to live sustainably. It is a multi-disciplinary field integrating disciplines such as biology, chemistry, physics, ecology, earth science, atmospheric science, mathematics, and geography. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) states that EE is vital in imparting an inherent respect for nature amongst society and in enhancing public environmental awareness. UNESCO emphasises the role of EE in safeguarding future global developments of societal quality of life (QOL), through the protection of the environment, eradication of poverty, minimization of inequalities and insurance of sustainable development. The term often implies education within the school system, from primary to post-secondary. However, it sometimes includes all efforts to educate the public and other audiences, including print materials, websites, media campaigns, etc.. There are also ways that environmental education is taught outside the traditional classroom. Aquariums, zoos, parks, and nature centers all have ways of teaching the public about the environment.

Social entrepreneurship

Social entrepreneurship is an approach by individuals, groups, start-up companies or entrepreneurs, in which they develop, fund and implement solutions to social, cultural, or environmental issues. This concept may be applied to a wide range of organizations, which vary in size, aims, and beliefs. For-profit entrepreneurs typically measure performance using business metrics like profit, revenues and increases in stock prices. Social entrepreneurs, however, are either non-profits, or they blend for-profit goals with generating a positive "return to society". Therefore, they use different metrics. Social entrepreneurship typically attempts to further broad social, cultural, and environmental goals often associated with the voluntary sector in areas such as poverty alleviation, health care and community development.

Sustainable tourism Form of travel without damage to nature or cultural area

Sustainable tourism is the tourism that takes full account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment and host communities. Tourism can involve primary transportation to the general location, local transportation, accommodations, entertainment, recreation, nourishment and shopping. It can be related to travel for leisure, business and what is called VFR. There is now broad consensus that tourism development should be sustainable; however, the question of how to achieve this remains an object of debate.

Integrated water resources management

Integrated water resources management (IWRM) has been defined by the Global Water Partnership (GWP) as "a process which promotes the coordinated development and management of water, land and related resources, in order to maximize the resultant economic and social welfare in an equitable manner without compromising the sustainability of vital ecosystems".

A sustainable food system is a type of food system that provides healthy food to people and creates sustainable environmental, economic and social systems that surround food.

Climate justice Term linking the climate crisis with environmental and social justice

Climate justice is a term used to frame global warming as an ethical and political issue, rather than one that is purely environmental or physical in nature. This is done by relating the causes and effects of climate change, including effects of responses to climate change, to concepts of justice, particularly environmental justice and social justice. Climate justice examines concepts such as equality, human rights, collective rights, and the historical responsibilities for climate change. Use and popularity of climate justice language has increased dramatically in recent years, yet climate justice is understood in many ways, and the different meanings are sometimes contested. At its simplest, conceptions of climate justice can be grouped along the lines of procedural justice, which emphasizes fair, transparent and inclusive decision making, and distributive justice, which places the emphasis on who bears the costs of both climate change and the actions taken to address it.

Applied sustainability is the application of science and innovation, including the insights of the social sciences, to meet human needs while indefinitely preserving the life support systems of the planet.

Sustainability Process of maintaining change in a balanced fashion

Sustainability is the ability to exist constantly. In the 21st century, it refers generally to the capacity for the biosphere and human civilization to co-exist. It is also defined as the process of people maintaining change in a homeostasis balanced environment, in which the exploitation of resources, the direction of investments, the orientation of technological development, and institutional change are all in harmony and enhance both current and future potential to meet human needs and aspirations. For many in the field, sustainability is defined through the following interconnected domains or pillars: environment, economic and social, which according to Fritjof Capra, is based on the principles of Systems Thinking. Sub-domains of sustainable development have been considered also: cultural, technological and political. According to Our Common Future, sustainable development is defined as development that "meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs." Sustainable development may be the organizing principle of sustainability, yet others may view the two terms as paradoxical.

Social sustainability

Social sustainability is the least defined and least understood of the different ways of approaching sustainability and sustainable development. Social sustainability has had considerably less attention in public dialogue than economic and environmental sustainability.

Earth system science The scientific study of the Earths spheres and their natural integrated systems

Earth system science (ESS) is the application of systems science to the Earth. In particular, it considers interactions and 'feedbacks', through material and energy fluxes, between the Earth's sub-systems' cycles, processes and "spheres"—atmosphere, hydrosphere, cryosphere, geosphere, pedosphere, lithosphere, biosphere, and even the magnetosphere—as well as the impact of human societies on these components. At its broadest scale, Earth system science brings together researchers across both the natural and social sciences, from fields including ecology, economics, geography, geology, glaciology, meteorology, oceanography, climatology, paleontology, sociology, and space science. Like the broader subject of systems science, Earth system science assumes a holistic view of the dynamic interaction between the Earth's spheres and their many constituent subsystems fluxes and processes, the resulting spatial organization and time evolution of these systems, and their variability, stability and instability. Subsets of Earth System science include systems geology and systems ecology, and many aspects of Earth System science are fundamental to the subjects of physical geography and climate science.

Dorceta Taylor

Dorceta E. Taylor is an environmental sociologist known for her work on both environmental justice and racism in the environmental movement. She is the Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at the University of Michigan’s School of Environment and Sustainability (SEAS), where she also serves as the James E. Crowfoot Collegiate Professor of Environmental Justice. Taylor's research has ranged over environmental history, environmental justice, environmental policy, leisure and recreation, gender and development, urban affairs, race relations, collective action and social movements, green jobs, diversity in the environmental field, food insecurity, and urban agriculture.

Planetary health refers to "the health of human civilization and the state of the natural systems on which it depends". In 2015, the Rockefeller Foundation and The Lancet launched the concept as the Rockefeller Foundation–Lancet Commission on Planetary Health.

Nature-based solutions Sustainable management and use of nature for tackling socio-environmental challenges

Nature-based solutions (NBS) refers to the sustainable management and use of nature for tackling socio-environmental challenges. The challenges include issues such as climate change, water security, water pollution, food security, human health, and disaster risk management.

Blue Justice is a critical approach examining how coastal communities and small-scale fisheries are affected by blue economy and "blue growth" initiatives undertaken by institutions and governments globally to promote sustainable ocean development. The blue economy is also rooted in the green economy and the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Blue Justice acknowledges the historical rights of small-scale fishing communities to marine and inland resources and coastal space; in some cases, communities have used these resources for thousands of years. Thus, as a concept, it seeks to investigate pressures on small-scale fisheries from other ocean uses promoted in blue economy and blue growth agendas, including industrial fisheries, coastal and marine tourism, aquaculture, and energy production, and how they may compromise the rights and the well-being of small-scale fisheries and their communities.


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Further reading