Readings in Sustainability Science and Technology

CID Working Paper No. 213

Robert W. Kates, Editor
December 2010


This Reader is one possible set of materials for advanced undergraduate and beginning graduate students of sustainability science. It consists of links to 93 articles or book chapters from which appropriate readings and internet sources can be chosen. These are organized around three major domains of sustainability science: Part 1: an overview of sustainable development; Part 2: the emerging science and technology of sustainability; and Part 3: the innovative solutions and grand challenges of moving this knowledge into action.
The Readings begins with the history of sustainable development and its many concepts (1.1). Among these are the dual goals of sustainable development—the promotion of human development and well-being while protecting the earth’s life support systems. Thus, the current status, long-term trends, and impacts of nine essentials for human well-being (1.2) and seven of the essential life support systems (1.3) are examined. Part 1 concludes with the interactions of human society and the life support systems as these have been sketched—simply, realistically, and imaginatively (1.4).
Part 2 of the Reader focuses on what, why, and how to do sustainability science and technology. It begins with three essential qualities of the emerging science: its use or needs orientation, focus on human-environment systems, and goal of integrated understanding (2.1). As a science in support of a sustainability transition, it is clearly value-driven and a second section of this Part considers the science of identifying and analyzing values and attitudes (2.2). The third and fourth sections examine the current practice of the science, the analyses undertaken (2.3), and the distinctive methods and models used (2.4).
The distinctive knowledge created by sustainability science is use-inspired and, at its best, provides solutions to real-world, often place-based, problems encountered for the needs of a sustainability transition. Thus, the Reader ends with linking knowledge systems and action (3.1); examples of both global and local solutions to the needs of human well-being and the earth’s life support systems (3.2); and three critical needs that constitute grand challenges: poverty, climate change, and peace and security (3.3).

Keywords: sustainability science, sustainable development, environmental policy, sustainability education, environment and development

JEL subject codes: Q01, Q56, Q57, I32, J11