Our Research Unit succeeds and replaces the Institute of Sustainability Science (ISS), which has been conducting interdisciplinary research on sustainability since its establishment in 2006. University teaching staff from seven Kyoto University Research Institutes (Graduate School of Global Environmental Studies, Institute for Chemical Research, Institute of Advanced Energy, Research Instutite for Sustainable Humanosphere, Disaster Prevention Research Institute, Center for Southeast Asian Studies, Institute of Economic Research) are participating in a volunteer fashion in the Unit. In the early stages of human history, human consumption of the planet’s resources was insignificant on the global scale, and impact of human activity on the Earth’s resources and environment can be said to have been minimal. However, over the last few centuries, human consumption of the Earth’s resources has increased at an explosive rate. As a result, today we face the depletion of our planet’s resources and progressive environmental degradation, illustrated by the shrinking availability of fossil fuels and rare earths, or by the increasing threat of global warming. Far from being only local threats, these issues have become global. An important key to finding solutions to these problems is the understanding that the natural environment, the biosphere, human society, civilization, human individuals, and all phenomena related to matter have their very own life span. As long as the human species conducts activities, resources are consumed, and the environment changes (deteriorates). It is thus imperative that we plan and implement consistent and comprehensive measures that take into account the respective life span of the natural environment, of life, of human society, and of all matter. Our Unit designs sustainability-building strategies based on the results of interdisciplinary cooperation between scientists who conduct cutting-edge research in fields related to the natural environment, human society, life, and matter in the participating seven Research Institutes. Our scientists clarify, each in their field, which factors determine the life span of the matter they deal with, and present their results on life span from the viewpoint of relative evaluation (assessment of the vulnerability of the natural environment and of matter on the human time scale). Our Unit’s approach clearly differs from earlier approaches that aimed at steady development in restricted areas: our strategies are dynamic and global, and pay attention to the fact that the human species may not exist forever.
As seen in the graph, our unit conducts interdisciplinary research based on a three-pillar approach: production of materials and feedback from human society and the natural environment; highly efficient energy source characterized by a long life span and the non-emission of harmful substances (aiming at zero-emission); and production of highly functional materials with a long life span and with recycling capability. During FY 2015, 13 exploratory research projects were initiated under this approach, among them a project on ecosystem stability. In addition, we added global viewpoints to our unit through the employment of four foreign university teachers involved in four research projects launched in 2015, among them a project on biomass production. We have high expectations that the results of our research projects will bring into focus the life span of life, human society, matter, and the natural environment, and that they will become an important takeoff for the creation of sustainability across regional networks on a global scale.
Gokasho Uji-city, Kyoto