Research frontiers: Jianguo "Jack" Liu, Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability at Michigan State University, on global sustainability

July 20, 2009

Achieving global sustainability is the biggest and most complex challenge in human history. The world is increasingly aware of enormous socioeconomic consequences of environmental woes, including climate change and resource scarcity. Many actions are being taken on the path toward sustainability. For instance, green energy technologies are being developed not only in developed nations like the United States, but also in developing countries such as China.


However, achieving sustainability depends on not only innovative technologies but also drastic changes in human attitudes, intentions, and more importantly, behaviors of production and consumption. Social sciences can make significant contributions to changes in human behaviors and diffusion of new technologies.


It is encouraging that more research across traditional disciplinary boundaries is being done. The recently established International Network of Research on Coupled Human and Natural Systems ( facilitates interdisciplinary collaborations among scholars including social and natural scientists to understand the complexity of coupled systems and promote ecological and socioeconomic sustainability. During the next four decades, it is very likely that closer collaborations among scholars from various disciplines and other stakeholders (e.g., governments and the general public) will lead to revolution in sustainability ideas, technologies, and behaviors.


Sue Nichols
Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability
(517) 432-0206