Resources of the earth have provided sustenance for life from the earliest days of living cells to the burgeoning human population today. However, we are now consuming these resources at a rate that cannot be sustained. Our food production depletes nutrients from the soil faster than nature can replenish them. Our use of water results in production of wastewater at a rate greater than nature can purify it. The delicate balance between carbon uptake from the atmosphere by vegetation and emission to the atmosphere by decay of living organisms has been disturbed by our combustion of fossil fuels. As a result, we are now experiencing global change with the potential to disrupt our food supply, sources of water, and economic well-being.
Solving these problems is the domain of Sustainability Science, a new field focusing on complex, coupled human and natural systems. This emerging field presents widespread opportunities for all disciplines of engineering. At the College of Engineering and Computer Science (ECS), we are conducting front-line research on novel technologies for energy production, energy storage, development of new materials, design of water management systems, and manufacturing products and processes. Many of these projects are interdisciplinary; the Syracuse Center of Excellence in Environmental and Energy Systems, housed in a new LEED Platinum building, has advanced laboratories for studying the built environment from wide ranging perspectives. We are also working closely with city, county, and state officials to conduct research on urban water and energy in Central New York as well as in natural settings such as the Adirondacks. The Center for Sustainable Engineering, a consortium of universities around the country headquartered at SU, conducts workshops for professors who wish to include the latest information on sustainability in their courses.
Preserving life as we know it for the sustained future will require major technological innovations as well as tremendous shifts in the way people live, work, and play. ECS is leading the way in this most critical research area.