January 2016

For the Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation’s annual report—our look back at the activities, programs, and issues important to the foundation in 2015—I would like to emphasize the concept of “sustainability science,” a discipline that the foundation integrates into our grantmaking.

Society is in desperate need of fresh, innovative approaches to solving highly complex environmental and social issues—problems that are present here and now in Texas and that we foresee extending far into the future.

Examples include the current drought, impacts of shale development, the profound loss of biodiversity and habitat, mismanagement of surface water supplies, inadequate governance of groundwater, and a lack of robust market tools to drive clean and water-lean electricity demand in Texas.

Sustainability science reflects a desire to give the generalities and broad-based approach of sustainability a stronger analytic and scientific underpinning with a call for more “use-driven science and research” in support of advocacy, decision-making, and social learning. The goal of use-driven research is to link users (the public, advocates, and policymakers) with scientists to create a knowledge base that informs effective decision-making. This is the essence of sustainability science.

Inspired by George Mitchell’s leadership in the sustainability space, and to honor his legacy, concepts of sustainability science inform the design of the foundation’s Sustainability Program, including our Clean Energy, Water, Shale Sustainability, and Sustainability Education Programs.

Our resources are small compared to the challenges we attempt to solve, and we invest carefully in a grantee network that is necessarily cross disciplinary, incorporating elements of engineering, natural sciences, and social sciences.

In 2015, we were honored to work with 40 outstanding grantee organizations in our Sustainability Program portfolio. We were inspired by their scientific integrity, tenacity, and acuity; and we appreciate their work in helping to unlock the power of knowledge and action produced by the foundation’s investment in change.

In 2016 and beyond, the foundation will continue to drive meaningful and enduring conversation, debate, and action toward the adoption of innovative, sustainable solutions that positively impact Texas and our world.

-Katherine Lorenz

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