In 1987, the UN defined sustainable development as development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations. Two decades later, it is clear the anticipated green transition is not actually taking place.
During the president’s inaugural speech this past January, President Barack Obama declared the path toward sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult, but America cannot resist this transition, “we must lead it.” According to President Skorton, the agent of positive change – perhaps more than ever before in our history- can be Cornell.
Cornell’s Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future (ACSF) is a multidisciplinary and collaborative research initiative to create sustainable solutions for all. The center was created in 2008 in light of real and increasing growth in the area of sustainability. As the world faces serious challenges, scientific and scholarly expertise is necessary, but not sufficient. Problems related to energy, the environment, and economic development transcend individual disciplines. They are interdependent and interconnected. If we want real solutions, the days of separation between the toxicologists and the sociologists or the economist and the environmentalist are over.
The ACSF Faculty Fellows program includes 320 researchers from 66 departments and 11 Cornell colleges/schools. The center brings together scholars and researchers from different departments, facilitating initial brain storming and potential partnerships. Scientists from across the disciplines are collaborating to answer an integrated question in ways that few universities would be equipped to answer.
ACSF Director Frank DiSalvo highlights four current projects to show how we are changing the world:
Project 1: Climate smart jobs for New York State
Researchers are attempting to link the need to create jobs with the need to address climate change. NY state must reduce emissions by 80% by 2050. This study calculates how many and what type of jobs are needed to make that happen. The Jobs GHG mitigation Index can inform policy makers on how to make the necessary changes. After all, NY state has the 12th largest economy in the world. Increasing public transportation and retrofitting buildings for energy efficiency would have a huge impact not just on US emission reductions but on global emissions as well.
Project 2: African Mothers, Infants, and Malnutrition Caused by Corn Mold
Stoltzfus, Nelson, Bischoff, Brown
This highly disciplinary team is accessing mycotoxin exposure to pregnant women in Zimbabwe. A mycotoxin is a toxic compound produced by molds and different types of fungus. Rebecca Nelson’s Lab is working to make corn plants that are more resistant to the fungi that produce mycotoxins. Karyn Bischoff’s lab has the capability to run mycotoxin in a variety of foods and feeds. This highly novel research has expertise from clinical and diagnostics services mammalian physiology, human nutrition and human biology and agriculture and crop sciences
Project 3: Local Hydrogen Power: New Technologies for Transportation
Fisher- York, Mutolo,Center
The goal of this project is to find out whether we can convert biomass to useful hydrogen fuel. Instead of the trash from our households entering a landfill, it could potentially be centralized in the municipality and used to create useful energy including fuel. The idea is to extract our energy from our local resources; extract useful energy from waste.
Project 4: Native Bees: Healthy Pollinators, Healthy Crops
Danforth, Mukai, Nelson, Kessler
Apples are a very important crop in NY state. To successfully produce apples one needs insect pollinators. This study examines the role Native Bees in apple pollination along the threats to those native bees including pesticides, pathogens, climate change and habitat loss. Accurately identify native bees species is essential to the study. Cornell’s excellent taxonomic expertise and resources for carrying out bee identification has made this research possible.
Views expressed in News posts may not be those of Cornell University. No endorsement is implied.