The UO is facing urgent environmental challenges head on. Our students—and all of us—face a world in dramatic transformation. Climate change and other threats are creating unprecedented ecosystem shifts that already affect communities in tangible ways. And they are forcing even greater challenges for our future.
We must respond to immediate environmental crisis, while we work to build more resilient systems able to address the long term consequences of a changed planet. These widespread changes also must address structural racism, economic insecurity, social injustice, and environmental inequities. Much like the ecosystems we’re working to conserve, our challenge involves diverse elements that interact in a complex, dynamic web.
Addressing the climate crises includes natural sciences, social sciences, economics, law and policy, business, and every other discipline one can imagine. The buildings where we live and work also play a role. So do the ways we travel, create community, and interact with each other. Effective, sustainable solutions must address all of these topics—and many more. Discovering and implementing effective solutions also requires listening to voices that have gone unheard for too long.
Higher education must play a leadership role in creating a just and livable future. The UO’s Environment Initiative leverages innovative teaching, learning, and research happening across our campus. It also combines two of our greatest strengths:
- Innovative work for the environment
- A collaborative, transdisciplinary approach to solving problems
The UO has a long-standing tradition of environmental teaching, research, service, and activism. We have distinctive strengths in the study of environmental protection, clean energy, climate change, environmental hazards, and environmental justice. The university is also known globally for its collaborative culture and interdisciplinary initiatives. On our campus, faculty members from diverse academic areas work together to make new discoveries and solve problems.
The Environment Initiative creates a dynamic hub that unites students and faculty members from diverse disciplines, joining with community partners. Through this hub, we’re teaching, serving, and generating new knowledge and insights.
Efficient, effective, and driven by results, the initiative unites and focuses many different points of excellence at the university that have—until now—been diffuse. As a whole, the results of this effort will be greater than the sum of its parts.
This network of innovation promotes and answers questions about the environment. It fosters new approaches for research and education. And it puts solutions to work. As much a clarion call to action as it is a research initiative, this effort will spur pragmatic steps forward that help us conserve the environment and overcome global challenges.
Our Impact / Our Approach
Putting Academics to Work
The Environment Initiative focuses on policy-relevant, data-driven, applied, and translational work. Our students and faculty are helping initiate meaningful, scalable change. Reaching beyond academia, they will collaborate with many different constituencies. Ultimately, this evidence-based work will be relevant to decision makers in government, industry, and the communities we serve.
Helping Communities Adapt and Thrive
Creative, innovative, relevant, and responsive, our work is leading to meaningful progress that will help society address pressing environmental problems. Through partnerships, the Environment Initiative is exploring how we can best understand the needs of communities and leaders to inspire research and inform teaching. Our work goes beyond our labs and classrooms—and out into communities and bioregions throughout Oregon, the Northwest, and the world.
The Environment Initiative will help students thrive in an emerging world of environmental challenges, while forging a better one. We’re creating opportunities for them to participate in groundbreaking research, experiential learning activities, and proactive problem solving. We’re also helping UO graduates launch careers that reflect—and bring to life—their aspirations to change the world. This involves more than lofty idealism (though we don’t discourage that). The initiative helps our graduates make a living while they work for a living planet.
Amplifying Diverse Voices
Rooted and focused on issues of equity and environmental justice, this initiative welcomes diverse voices to the conversation. And it amplifies these important voices. This includes working directly with—and within—diverse communities, including Indigenous, Black, Latinx, LGBTQI+, those that are economically insecure, and others.
“This initiative is our response to the urgency of now. As we promote solutions to help communities address immediate environmental challenges, we’re also working for a just and livable future. This work is happening through transdisciplinary research, innovative partnerships, and learning opportunities that prepare our graduates to become advocates for change.”
Clayton R. Hess Professor of Law and Executive Director of the Environment Initiative