From climate change to shortages of vital resources like water and fuel, our world faces a range of challenges. How we as a university, nation, and society meet these challenges will determine the health, well-being and prosperity of not just our children and grandchildren, but all of us.
Because of their breadth, these challenges require a multidisciplinary approach, both on our campuses and in the work we do to help the world achieve sustainable prosperity.
When it comes to our university, we should strive to be a model for the effective, efficient and sustainable use of resources. After meeting with students, faculty and staff from the Center for Sustainability, I commissioned a sustainability plan for the Lawrence Campus. More than 150 members of the KU community devoted their time to the development of that plan, Building Sustainable Traditions, and we are now working to integrate its recommendations into our overall efforts to strengthen KU.
As we work to make KU a model, we are also striving to apply our knowledge and expertise to solving the challenges faced by the broader world. Universities have always been at the vanguard of solving society’s problems, and issues surrounding environmental and resource stewardship were topics of our first strategic initiative summit, held November 18.
Finding a way to create sustainable prosperity will take expertise from across disciplines, because the challenges we face cannot be solved with technology alone.
We need discoveries in areas like biorefining, sustainable construction and renewable energy to break the connection to the finite resources our economy and way of life currently depend on. But we also need a better understanding of how individuals make decisions about sustainability, and how those individual decisions add up to affect our future.
We need to understand the systems at play in our world—from ecosystems and weather systems, to the values that guide our communities and forces that shape our economy. And we need institutions and individuals that aren’t just resilient in the face of change, but are able to thrive during times of transition.
We face a range of challenges. But fortunately, we have talented people ready to work together with colleagues around the world to solve those challenges. That’s one benefit of being an international research university.
From the sciences to the arts, we will focus our university’s efforts on addressing this and the other grand challenges identified by the KU community during the creation of Bold Aspirations. And we will make the discoveries necessary to chart a new path forward for our state, nation and world—a path to sustainable prosperity.