Students joined academic, business and government leaders in Montclair, New Jersey, last month to celebrate the launch of the PSEG Institute for Sustainability Studies at Montclair State University. Funded by a $400,000 grant from the PSEG Foundation, the Institute will play a transformative role in multidisciplinary sustainability-related research and education, and spur new partnerships between academia, industry and community.
PSEG's funding will allow Montclair State to host a significant examination of the major issues affecting long-term environmental practices and sustainability issues in New Jersey. The grant, which will be given over three years, will help fund a program that will begin with a major international conference on sustainability at Montclair State this fall, followed by two years of research to address critical issues, and include a second conference addressing areas requiring further research.
Led by Michael Weinstein, the Institute will conduct research, education and outreach in an effort to balance conservation and preservation of Earth's life support systems with its production of sustainable goods and services for human welfare. Working with the public, industry decision-makers planners and environmental managers, the University will incorporate these concepts into its approach to researching the management of urban watershed-coastal ecosystems.
"Achieving sustainability is a process that involves science, policy, corporate responsibility and public participation," Weinstein said. "With PSEG's help, Montclair State will become a leader in the application of transdisciplinary research to improve understanding of the complexity of the urban landscape in which we live."
Research will focus on sustainability science and landscape/urban ecology. Sustainability science differs from most science in the way it engages scientists and practitioners, including the corporate community, to work together to produce knowledge and judgment that is scientifically sound.
"Sustainability is about more than the environment. It calls for a balanced approach to people, planet and profits," said Ralph LaRossa, president and chief operating officer of PSE&G. "It's a way of doing business that we've long aspired to, and as a result we've been able to create long-term value for our shareholders, our employees and communities we serve for well over a century. We're excited about partnering with Montclair State to provide a resource for students and academics who are increasingly taking sustainability seriously."
A goal of the Institute and the conferences will be integration across disciplines, broadening knowledge of the interplay of environment, economy, and social systems and managing conflict. It will extend beyond individual stakeholders and themes- to identification of common threads and drivers of systemic change. The conferences will offer a forum for dissemination of cutting-edge research and an opportunity to air new approaches to sustainability.
"We extract resources from the ecosystems that surround us faster than they can be replaced. Consequently, our actions threaten the very life support systems that sustain us," said Robert Prezant, dean of Montclair State University's College of Science and Mathematics. "The PSEG Institute of Sustainability Studies will play an important role in addressing the need to reconcile human dominance of the earth's resources with the planet's ability to provide them in the long term."
A resolution was presented from the State of New Jersey in support of renaming Earth Day to Sustainable Earth in New Jersey. A similar resolution was signed and presented by the president of the Student Government Association of Montclair State, Jonathon Preciado, mirroring the State resolution in recognizing the importance of the PSEGISS and affirming a commitment to support the renaming of Earth Day to Sustainable Earth Day. "Montclair State students are keenly aware of the need to put sustainability principles into practice for the future of our world."
"There is growing concern that the world's need for food, water, land and economic opportunity must be brought into balance with the earth's finite resources," said Eric Svenson, PSEG's vice president of policy and environment, health and safety. "The transition to sustainability involves collaboration among academics, business and government leaders, and requires us to make a fundamental shift in the way we think about the interaction between people, the economy and the environment."