Project Details


The growing human population and increasing pressures for development have led to a variety of challenges for life on our planet, in particular whether current patterns of human activity are sustainable. Human activity is closely tied to the natural environment and there is a two-way interconnection between human activity and environmental processes. Increasingly, we are noting how human activities affect the systems that sustain life, including climate, healthy air and water, availability of food. The earth has finite resources that we need to sustain our life style: sources of energy, clean water, arable land. As environmental conditions change, there are possibilities for new diseases, species can move into areas to which they are non-native and crowd out the species to which we are accustomed, and the human condition can be threatened by environmental change. Fundamental societal structures such as national boundaries and the health of our economic systems can be affected by competition for changing natural resources, shortages and in some cases surpluses. These problems are complex, multi-disciplinary, and intertwined. They call for a 'science of sustainability.'Recognizing the challenges to life on our planet as we know it, NSF has initiated a major new initiative on sustainability (SEES) that involves all directorates in the Foundation. However, to date, the mathematical sciences have been involved only in a limited way. Yet, there are many mathematical problems of great complexity, interest, and importance in a wide variety of areas that it would be important to get the mathematical sciences community to work on. This project supports a workshop that will describe these mathematical challenges and that will lead to a report to be circulated widely to the mathematical sciences community as well as NSF and also its counterpart in Canada, NSERC. The problems of sustainability cross many disciplines. The mathematical challenges the project identifies can be expected to lead to research on a wide variety of topics of great societal importance such as climate change, environmental health, management of limited natural resources, and the interconnections of these topics with healthy economic systems and enduring social structures.
Effective start/end date9/15/108/31/11


  • National Science Foundation (National Science Foundation (NSF))


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