The growing problem of the unsustainable footprint of the global human population requires innovative future solutions. This theme covers very broad research aspects of sustainability from the points of view of energy, water and food, reducing waste, air and water pollution, as well as conserving and recovering ecosystem health.
The burden of the 7 billion people, consuming natural resources at increasing rates, on the planet has created a need for innovative, highly specialised research to ensure the survival of the natural environment. Research activities begin with better understanding the interface between human activities and ecosystems. The complex networks that determine a person's or a business' material and energy footprint need to be disentangled and made more accessible and effective via communication systems. Species and ecosystem diversity are being mapped and the effect of the quality of the natural environment on human health is under investigation. Novel materials are being developed, and together with more effective engineering solutions, these are aimed to produce more with less. However, increasing the efficiency of resource use will not alone reduce environmental impacts if it occurs alongside ever increasing rates of consumption. Research around environmental recovery sites and biogeochemial hotspots informs us of survival and recovery strategies. Finally, complex computer models are continually refined to model the future for a variety of climate scenarios, yet only when this scientific understanding is effectively utilised by policy makers will such developments have an impact on environmental quality.
Benefits to Society
Over the last two centuries, human society has expanded in size at an unprecedented rate on the back of inexpensive and easily available energy. In the process, our environmental footprint has grown to the point where the survival of oases of natural environments is in critical danger. Society benefits from sustainability research in many ways. On the personal level by improving the quality of life. On the national level by bringing a competitive edge to our economy. And internationally, by conserving the natural environment within which society is embedded and providing a better life for those who lack access to even the most fundamental needs.
Research at Trinity
The sustainable environment is a core research focus at Trinity and involves investigators across Faculties and Schools, including: Natural Sciences, Engineering, Business, Humanities, and Chemistry. Within these units, research has focused on issues relating to:
- Natural variability of systems, climate change, biogeochemical hotspots;
- Chemical cycles, raw material exploration, and efficient processing;
- Biodiversity, biosensors, health and the environment;
- Environmental monitoring, contaminant pathways, water supply, greenhouse gas emissions;
- Sustainable enterprise, energy efficient manufacturing, clean energy, sustainable production and consumption;
- Anthropocene humanities, environmental governance, science-policy communication and artificial neural networks.
The research champion for this theme is Professor Balz Kamber.