The Institute of the Environment begins fall quarter with a fresh title and extended identity as the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability.
IoES's multidisciplinary approach to addressing environmental issues via academics, research and outreach puts it in the perfect position to spotlight sustainability, said institute Director Glen MacDonald.
Left: IoES Director Glen MacDonald, seen next to the institute's old nameplate. Right: Cully Nordby, the IoES academic director and chair of the UCLA Sustainability Committee.
"Adding this term reflects the rapidly increasing importance of sustainability science," MacDonald said. "It reflects the institute's range of programs and our place as a major center of sustainability among national universities."
The institute points to the United Nations' definition of sustainability: It's not just an environmental concept, but also an economic and social one, explained Cully Nordby, the institute's academic director and chair of the UCLA Sustainability Committee. Sustainability is about meeting present needs while preserving resources to fulfill future needs, she said.
"Everyone needs to operate in a way that allows future generations to thrive in the same way that we do today," Nordby said. "To accomplish that, we need to ensure that all of our actions are sustainable, which means they must be environmentally sound, they must help drive the economy, and they must be done in a way that is socially just and equitable. Environmental problems will only truly be solved when we also address the economic context and social concerns that surround those issues."
IoES faculty and programs draw from engineering, the sciences, policy, law, economics and social sciences in an integrated manner that is the foundation of sustainability, MacDonald said. Leaders in Sustainability, a certificate program open to all graduate students, is operated by the institute, as is the Education for Sustainable Living Program. A hallmark of this program is the Action Research Team that includes a university administrator to tackle issues of campus sustainability. Last year, the institute developed a course, Sustainability and the Environment, which provided students with GE credit in the physical, life or social sciences.
As part of the institute's Education for Sustainable Living Program, an Action Research Team focusing on recycling took a trip to a UCLA recycling vendor's facilities for a project that rewrote UCLA's approach to recycling.
There are plans to develop a professional graduate degree in sustainability. The institute's seven research centers will also work on developing specialized sustainability initiatives, MacDonald said.
Local government and corporations have already adopted the term "sustainability," according to IoES leadership. The government now uses "sustainability units" to describe agencies that were previously called "environmental units." Many businesses now use "sustainability" to cover organizational roles that center on the environment. In the academic community, sustainability is recognized as encompassing more than any one area of the environmental sciences, MacDonald said.
The institute's advisory board commended the name change. In the corporate world there is a perception that sustainability represents a positive and cooperative way to tackle environmental issues — a more collaborative and integrated approach that blends the natural sciences with the social sciences and economics, MacDonald said.