There are no isolated activities in this rapidly changing world. A decision in one place has repercussions in other places, sometimes with dramatic and unanticipated consequences. The influence of countless decisions at all scales is having a marked impact on the environment. In order to respond effectively to issues caused by human interactions with Earth systems, the committee sees a need for a broadened geoengineering discipline. Sustainable development provides a new paradigm for geoengineering practice, in which the tools, techniques, and scientific advances of multiple disciplines are brought to bear on ever more complex problems.
Geoengineering has made significant progress since 1989 in addressing societal needs. However, there has been a change in perspective from national to global and a realization that social, economic, and environmental dimensions must be included to develop robust solutions to fulfill these needs. Increased attention to anthropogenic effects on our environment and to sustainable development are important manifestations of this change in perspective.
NSF should create an interdisciplinary initiative on Earth Systems Engineering (ESE), including GES. The problems of GES occur on all scales from the nano- and microscale behavior of geomaterials, to the place-specific mesoscale investigations and the scale of the globe that responds to climate change.
A GES initiative should include any research problem that (1) involves geotechnology, and (2) has Earth systems implications or exists in an Earth systems context. In this regard, Earth systems have components that depend on each other (i.e., the outcome of one part of the problem affects the process in another part of the problem). There are feedback