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Environ Sci Technol. 2003 Dec 1;37(23):5314-24.

Sustainability science and engineering: the emergence of a new metadiscipline.

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  • 1Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering, College of Engineering, Michigan Technological University, 1400 Townsend Drive, Houghton, Michigan 49931, USA.


A case is made for growth of a new metadiscipline of sustainability science and engineering. This new field integrates industrial, social, and environmental processes in a global context. The skills required for this higher level discipline represent a metadisciplinary endeavor, combining information and insights across multiple disciplines and perspectives with the common goal of achieving a desired balance among economic, environmental, and societal objectives. Skills and capabilities that are required to support the new metadiscipline are summarized. Examples of integrative projects are discussed in the areas of sustainability metrics and integration of industrial, societal, and environmental impacts. It is clear that a focus on green engineering that employs pollution prevention and industrial ecology alone are not sufficient to achieve sustainability, because even systems with efficient material and energy use can overwhelm the carrying capacity of a region or lead to other socially unacceptable outcomes. To meet the educational and human resource needs required for this new discipline, the technological and environmental awareness of society must be elevated and a sufficient and diverse pool of human talent must be attracted to this discipline.

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