Significant gifts from the Mitchell foundation to the National Academy of Sciences in 1996 and 2001 to study the scientific merit of sustainability helped launch a new field of academic endeavor: Sustainability Science.
An initial step in expanding the use of sustainability science is to educate a new generation of future leaders about the concept and its application. The foundation’s Sustainability Education Program will support these science practices by establishing new academic programs in the university community in Texas.
The sustainability science approach to solving complex environmental and social problems aims to bring together scholarship and practice, global and local perspectives, and disciplines across natural and social sciences. Importantly, sustainability science is not defined as a purely academic exercise or an applied research program. Instead, as explained by William C. Clark in 2007 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the field is “defined by the problems it addresses rather than by the disciplines it employs, advancing both knowledge and action by creating a dynamic bridge between the two."
With the stresses on its uniquely diverse natural systems—from expanding development, industrial and agricultural activities, rural and urban demographic mix, and associated increases in demand for resources, goods, and services—the state provides an ideal “laboratory” for studying sustainability science and using its approach to solve real problems. The link between the Foundation, the National Academy of Sciences, and the university community in Texas is a foundation for supporting the creation of a statewide, state-of-the-art, university-based network of sustainability science programs.