At a time of unprecedented environmental change, where humanity’s impact on the natural world is present everywhere, we face important questions about the way forward. Questions of what will happen to the tens of millions of species who have kept us company throughout our history; how can we maintain intact and productive ecosystems amidst rapid development; how will the loss of biological diversity impact pollination, pest control, and disease outbreaks; and, how can ecosystem services be used to reduce poverty and human suffering? These are the imperatives of the 21st century environmental research community.
Sustainable solutions require a new science that moves beyond studying systems in isolation and integrates environmental, social, economic and political dimensions of these issues to ensure that human dependency on the natural world is sustained across many generations. Scientists at the Earth Institute Center for Environmental Sustainability are at the forefront of this new interdisciplinary sustainability science, integrating fields such as conservation biology and global change ecology with social concerns of alleviating poverty and improving and securing local livelihoods. The center and its collaborators recognize that finding sustainable ways to meet the needs of a growing human population without jeopardizing the welfare of our children and our children’s children, now and for centuries to come, is one of the most complex scientific challenges faced by researchers around the world.