"With the pressing challenge of climate change, we are elevating our emphasis on sustainability at Michigan. From teaching and research, to hands-on engagement, we are going to leverage our many strengths so we can make significant contributions to solving a genuinely complicated problem."
-President Mary Sue Coleman
One of the greatest challenges facing our society is to figure out how to balance burgeoning human activity with the processes and resources of the natural world in a way that will sustain the health and well being of our planet in the longer term. With surging populations and rapid economic development across the globe, we are beginning to see limits on the ability of the earth to handle the demands we place upon it.
The University of Michigan, which has long been engaged in many aspects of sustainability, is coordinating and focusing its expertise and resources to spur progress and establish our leadership in this critical arena. In our educational programs, our goal is to inspire our students to acquire the knowledge and insight that will empower them to address the many complexities of sustainability in their chosen careers. In our research programs, we are drawing on our multi-disciplinary strengths to attack major sustainability problems at local-to-global scales. And in our operations, we aim to set the standard for excellence in achieving a green campus.
Realistic solutions to any major sustainability problem—whether it be related to energy, water conservation, air pollution, transportation, or any other area—often require the combined insights and expertise of many fields, including science, engineering, social science, economics, law, business, government, medicine, public health, and the arts. With its 19 schools and colleges—all of them among the best in the world—and an exceptional culture of interdisciplinary cooperation, U-M is uniquely positioned to make a difference.
We have made a commitment at the highest levels. In 2009, President Mary Sue Coleman created the new position of Special Counsel to the President for Sustainability, charged with coordinating existing efforts by students, faculty, and staff across the entire campus in education, research, and operations for maximum impact, and inspiring new initiatives. The position reports directly to the President, and is overseen by an Executive Council of senior University leaders.
There will be no single solution to the sustainability challenge—it will be with us forever. As our natural world evolves, and as societies continue to change and grow, it will be an ongoing challenge to achieve and maintain a sustainable balance across the entire planet. As one of the world’s premier research universities, U-M is committed for the long term to educating the people and generating the ideas that will help our world deal not only with the problems we face today, but also the ones that will face generations to come.