Linking academic knowledge of earth systems

Climate & Natural resources29 Nov 2009Sara Hughes

As a PhD student at the University of California, Santa Barbara, I spend most of my time in my office, reading and writing about the way society works and how we might try to change some of the decision-making systems we have in place. I hope that some day my work might influence the way water resources are used, or the way infrastructure is planned, or who has access to the benefits generated by these resources. But I can’t help wondering, what can academics really tell the world about moving toward sustainable development? About improving water resources management? About equitable urban growth? These are the questions I will be pondering (and blogging about) during the upcoming Amsterdam Conference on Global Environmental Change. Over four hundred academics will descend onto the city in the hopes of contributing…what?

The knowledge and insight the conference attendees bring with them is significant, to be sure. And the problems we face as a society – whether increasing water scarcity, rapid urban growth, severe weather events, or declining biodiversity – command attention and require action. Linking and expanding the knowledge generated by academic inquiry can be a critical component of developing solutions to these problems. During the conference, I will be looking for signs of these links with solutions as well as indications of how the community plans to move forward. This is an interesting and critical time, not only for science but for all of us who depend on this earth system.