From the Unity of Nature to Sustainability Science: Ideas and Practice

CID Working Paper No. 218

Robert W. Kates
March 2011


The ideas of sustainability science are at least two centuries old; the practice is but a decade. This paper reviews some of those key ideas beginning with Humboldt and the unity of nature, and goes on to discuss just what is sustainability science. For its current practice, the author discusses three major tasks of sustainability science: fundamental research on use-directed problems; nurture of the next generations of sustainability scientists; and moving knowledge into action. The author illustrates each of these with some recent initiatives.

Keywords: sustainability science, sustainability science research, sustainable development, sustainability education, environment and development, sustainability solutions

JEL subject codes: Q01, Q56, Q57