It is a pleasure to welcome you to the Carolina Institute for the Environment (IE). The IE has the exciting and challenging responsibility to integrate faculty, students and staff across the university in research, education and engagement on pressing environmental issues. Our focus is broad, from communities in North Carolina through the globe. We define our environment as including the full range of remote wilderness areas through dense urban regions. The health and sustainability of all are equally dependent on environmental processes and what we do as individuals and institutions. Therefore, the stakes are high; as we are part of our environment, our environment depends on how we live our lives. The way we build and manage our homes and communities, use (and reuse) water, travel, and produce and use energy are all key ingredients in environmental sustainability.
While universities have effectively studied the different components of the environment for decades, the whole is more than the sum of the parts. Individual departments and schools provide the depth and detail necessary within their disciplines – we at the Institute focus on integration and interfacing all the vital components. We do this by explicitly including and interfacing the human dimension with the biological, chemical and geophysical underpinnings of the environment. My predecessors as first the Carolina Environmental Program and now the IE Director, Bill Glaze and Doug-Crawford Brown, provided very effective resources and programs designed to facilitate this integration.
A major responsibility of the IE is to directly partner and extend our activities at Carolina in the study of these vital issues with individuals and institutions in public and private spheres from our local communities in North Carolina, through the nation and the world. This necessitates that we develop interdisciplinary, open discussion and approaches, recognize our own role as community members both on and off campus, and clearly communicate our findings as part of committed engagement. The IE is deeply and formally committed to public service and engagement, connecting faculty, students and staff with our communities. Our research centers, field sites, and undergraduate programs provide interdisciplinary forums for faculty, students and community partners. Together, we will identify, understand and work towards equitable solutions to our most pressing environmental issues.
We have great advantages at Carolina in the outstanding environmental and clean tech faculty carrying out research and teaching in basic science, social science, medicine, public health, law and other areas vital to sustaining and improving our environment. Equally impressive are our students who arrive with the commitment, motivation and talent to learn and integrate across these fields, to identify emerging environmental issues, and work creatively towards their solution. It is our responsibility to provide Carolina students with the tools, experience and opportunities to take the study and understanding of the environment to the next level. Our field sites in North Carolina and internationally, undergraduate research and internship programs provide the out-of-classroom experience that students consistently cite as their most enjoyable and productive part of their Carolina experience.
The environment is more than the sum of its parts. It is more than what is studied by any one department, and the identification, understanding and solution of our major environmental issues requires the interfacing of academic disciplines, public and private partners, and an informed and committed community. We invite you to join us in developing and utilizing new environmental knowledge and creative solutions for improving the sustainability of our ecosystems and quality of life for our communities.
Lawrence E. Band
Director, Institute for the Environment