Every once in a while, with predictable regularity, I will encounter a call to be more interdisciplinary in order to fully understand the many aspects of a given issue. The world forgot to compartmentalize its problems for ease of solution. Solutions require scientists to think big and basic at the same time – recent estimates that 7 billion people will roam the planet by the end of this year – and that creates a big demand for resources such as food, water, fuel, and fiber. Ecologists clearly have something to say on the matter and designated 2011’s meeting theme “Earth Stewardship”, meant as a way to kick off new thinking on research process and connecting research to problem solving.
The term sustainability is a muddy one, covered in marketing efforts and political baggage. So when someone says they study sustainability or are part of the field of sustainability science, what does that mean? The discipline actually refers to a fairly well-defined subject borne out of the call for interdisciplinary research, especially between ecology and the social sciences. At its heart, the field is based in the need to provide food, fuel, and fiber to current and future residents of planet earth. In other words, it’s the science behind the Brundtland Commission’s oft-cited goals of sustainable development and hopes to understand and create long-term integrity of the biosphere and human well-being.