Sustainability: Human Factors
An Ecosystem of Innovation
Effective technology already exists to shape a new energy economy, cultivate healthier communities, and protect vulnerable ecosystems. We are limited today not by innovation, but by human choices. The challenge is to figure out how we as a society can implement what is available more quickly, equitably, and at scale.
Through our school-wide initiative, USC Dornsife grapples with complex questions related to the human dimensions of sustainability — the economics, politics, and mindsets that continue to stand in the way of making critical progress during this short window of opportunity.
Human Factors in the News
The annual Climate Forward conference featured former U.S. Reps. Adam Kinzinger and Val Demings, former White House National Climate Advisor Gina McCarthy and New York Times columnist Bret Stephens.
A recent discovery of nearly 800,000 pounds of the banned chemical near Santa Catalina Island sparks new research for an institution that has spent five decades helping Southern California manage its coasts.
To support a boom in climate action, USC Dornsife’s Public Exchange will provide expert research and project management services to government, industry, and nonprofit partners in the fast-growing clean technology and sustainability market.
To help western states facing long-term drought, a USC Dornsife economist and USC Viterbi engineer propose a new way to test higher water prices. It’s a conservation strategy that won’t hurt low-income users.
Among efforts in 2022, researchers looked to create more resilient oysters, produce medicines from plastic, and ensure transplanted coral have the best chance at saving dying reefs.
USC Wrigley Institute for Environment and Sustainability
Providing leadership for the Sustainability: Human Factors initiative, the USC Wrigley Institute has expanded its mission to connect USC Dornsife’s natural science researchers more deeply with our academic strength across the social sciences and humanities. Students engage through a wide range of research and internship opportunities, as well as a residential college hosted at the Marine Science Center on Catalina Island.
The Blue Economy
It doesn’t have to be a zero-sum game. We can use ocean resources to spur economic growth and improve livelihoods without harming marine ecosystems. With longstanding strength in marine biology, Earth sciences, chemistry, and related fields, USC Dornsife is positioned to lead innovation focused on the blue economy.
The Green Economy
USC’s environmental economists help society devise new “rules of the game” to spark green economic growth and adapt to the effects of climate change, while shining light on the vast opportunities to create new wealth, stable governments, and equitable communities.
What will it take to make urban environments greener, more affordable, more equitable, and healthier for everyone? At USC, spatial scientists, sociologists, urban planners, and policy experts help decision makers navigate competing tensions to shape a future where growing urban communities can thrive in an ecologically meaningful way.
Environmental Justice and Climate Equity
Success in building a sustainable society requires that all people can realize their highest potential without interruption by environmental racism or inequity. Experts at USC Dornsife explore new ways to reduce the inequitable distribution of environmental damages on underserved communities, helping to ensure that everyone thrives together.
Sustainability issues do not appear in shades of red or blue. As a national leader in practical politics and public policy, USC Dornsife provides an intellectual environment in which policymakers, business leaders, and academic researchers can work together to break through political roadblocks that stall the adoption of sustainability solutions.
To meet the growing demand for research related to climate resilience and “green” initiatives, Public Exchange recently launched a climate and sustainability practice that helps policymakers and organizations access academic expertise needed to move the needle.
The signature USC Dornsife Climate Forward conference is an annual event that explores politically realistic solutions to address the challenges associated with a changing climate. The 2023 conference brings together academics, policymakers, and journalists for two panel conversations built around the theme of “Finding Common Ground.”
Equity Research Institute
Under the leadership of Distinguished Professor Manuel Pastor, ERI uses data analysis to power social change with an emphasis on the impacts of climate change, air pollution, and urban heat zones on communities of color. Among ERI’s projects, researchers use geographic information systems to visualize and analyze demographic and economic shifts that inform state policy and “Green Zone” initiatives.
The West On Fire
At the Huntington-USC Institute on California and the West, a team led by Professor William Deverell places western wildfire in historical context and broadens public awareness of the region’s relationship with fire. Pulling together ecologists, Indigenous fire practitioners, U.S. Forest Service personnel, Earth scientists, economists, political scientists, journalists, and many others, The West on Fire initiative is a timely opportunity to develop new ways of thinking about fire in the region.
The Dornsife Dialogues online series and podcast brings together leading scholars and distinguished alumni from USC to share research-based findings and fresh insight on timely topics — including several events focused on the human factors of sustainability.
Recent Sustainability Events
A growing number of political leaders and environmentalists support a renewed investment in nuclear power. Should it be a part of the clean energy strategy?
What lessons can we learn from more than 100 years ago, when L.A.’s water was an even more hotly contested commodity than it is today?
Learn how remote work is likely to affect workers’ quality of life, the profitability of firms, and the economic geography of cities and suburbs.
Understand the history of fire in the West, including Indigenous fire practices and fire’s many environmental legacies, which is crucial to determining a more sustainable path forward.