Facing the Grand Challenges

Texas A&M University called for solutions to the most pressing challenges facing the 21st Century. The Institute for Sustainable Communities (IfSC) is the answer to  the Environmental Grand Challenge. Natural and built environments, and public health are facing increasing threats from disasters, poverty, ecosystem decline, and the decreasing availability of clean water.  These negative trends will likely accelerate due to climate change.  Human activity is straining the planet's resources, and degrading our environment and ability to adaptively respond and reverse the growing threats.

By integrating research, education, and engagement to derive practical solutions, the IfSC is working to help guide a broad range of human activities onto a path toward sustainability. Creating resilient people, communities, and ecosystems is accomplished through an understanding of the intricate tapestry and interrelatedness between human and environmental processes. Our discovery projects illuminate and work within this tapestry.

The Institute for Sustainable Communities includes a series of focus areas led by highly regarded researchers with support from engagement staff with expertise in translating knowledge to action. Working across many disciplines, we study and create solutions for problems in ecological decline, public health, climate change, natural hazards and the location and design in urban land use and infrastructure systems.

Within our focus areas, some of the worlds leading researchers study community adaption to coastal hazards and climate change, disaster recovery, green infrastructure and landscape designs, and environmental governance.  Our researchers map the vulnerability of cities, measure household access to potable water and disaster recovery rates of diverse populations, and assess public health impacts from floods and the resiliency of neighborhood infrastructure systems. They actively involve citizens in the collection and analysis of data about their own communities. The fundamental knowledge created from these research projects is critical in addressing the greatest environmental grand challenges.

Institute for Sustainable Communities experts work in partnership with the public, nonprofits, government agencies, and the private sector. They advise the international and national scientific organizations, the legislature of state governments, and local communities on issues related to urban growth and land use policy, water security, and housing for low-income households after disasters.  Our experts are educating the next generation of leaders in sciences, public health, urban planning and design, resilient infrastructure systems, and environmental governance.

We focus on the protection of natural and built environments, and the expansion of social and economic opportunities for all people. We believe that dealing with environmental grand challenges must involve taking on issues such as ecological degradation, poorly planned human settlements, under representation of disadvantaged populations, and lack of access to healthy living environments and educational opportunities. Our work reflects the fundamental belief that The Institute for Sustainable Communities possesses the knowledge and skills to make progress in reducing the impacts of hazards and climate change, poverty, and other critical issues.