In conversation with the Wood's Institute's Chris Field, global thought leader Pamela Matson discussed the question, 'What is sustainability?' and talked about the emerging field of sustainability science, the challenges of linking knowledge to action for sustainability, and what it takes to be an effective leader for sustainability today. Read a Q&A excerpt from the event or watch the full video below.
Matson, a champion for both sustainability and interdisciplinary research at Stanford, just stepped down from one of the University's longest standing deanships. Now dean emeritus of the School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences (Stanford Earth), she is the faculty director of Stanford Earth's new interdisciplinary master's program Leadership for Sustainability.
A MacArthur Fellow and elected member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, Matson led Stanford Earth through significant change, targeted at helping improve the University’s ability to engage in use-inspired research and to educate future leaders in the sustainability challenges related to Earth resources, hazards and the environment. During the same time period, Matson co-led the Stanford Challenge Initiative on Environment and Sustainability, and helped build the Woods Institute for the Environment and the Precourt Institute for Energy as well as the Emmett Interdisciplinary Program in Environment and Resources.
Scientifically, Matson research seeks to reconcile the needs of people and the planet in the 21st century. Her work addresses a range of environment and sustainability issues, including sustainability of agricultural systems; vulnerability of particular people and places to climate change; and environmental consequences of tropical land use change and global change in the nitrogen and carbon cycles. With multidisciplinary teams of researchers, managers, and decision makers, she has worked to develop agricultural approaches that reduce environmental impacts while maintaining livelihoods and human wellbeing.
Matson is coauthor of Pursuing Sustainability (Princeton University Press 2016), which helps students and practitioners understand the complex social-environmental system that is essential to moving sustainability goals forward, whether through new technologies, processes or policies.