The Atkinson Center was created in 2008 by the Office of the Provost, following a multiyear, cross-campus dialogue on energy and sustainability (see the report from the 2006 Task Force on Sustainability in the Age of Development). In a time of widespread retrenchment in higher education, sustainability is one of the few areas of real growth. The reason is simple: the world faces serious challenges for which traditional scientific and scholarly excellence is necessary but not sufficient. Problems related to energy, the environment, and economic development are interdependent and interconnected, transcending individual disciplines. The science and engineering needed to develop clean technologies cannot be separated from the ecological study of Earth's integrated human and natural systems or from the social science of human behavior and well-being.
Progress in sustainability research requires not only new ways of thinking and organizing, but also must integrate researchers with practitioners. ACSF therefore supports problem-oriented research and external partnerships to achieve important discoveries with tangible, real-world impact. We catalyze new intellectual collisions that spark discovery and real progress for humanity. See our Annual Reports for summaries of our accomplishments.