John Crittenden and Wayne Clough Co-Authors on New National Academy Report

BBISS Director, John C. Crittenden, and Georgia Tech President Emeritus, G. Wayne Clough, are among a distinguished group of eighteen authors of a new consensus report issued by the National Academy of Engineering. It is titled, “Environmental Engineering for the 21st Century:  Addressing Grand Challenges.” The report lays out five overarching challenges that are hindering the ability for people and ecosystems to thrive. Within each of the challenges the authors discuss how environmental engineers will need to advance knowledge and technology in order to rise to the mounting constraints and challenges. The five grand challenges, which environmental engineers are uniquely positioned to help manage or solve, are:  sustainably supply food, water, and energy; curb climate change and adapt to its impacts; design a future without pollution and waste; create efficient, healthy, resilient cities; and foster informed decisions and actions.

Environmental engineers have historically been tasked with managing pollution either once it has been released into the environment, or, more recently, at its source before release. The recommendations in this report are meant to show the necessity for the profession to evolve in a more holistic direction. Professor Crittenden says of the report, “The field of environmental engineering has made remarkable strides in the last five decades. But, we are rapidly approaching constraints and tipping points that our profession is ill equipped to deal with. The vision of the future for environmental engineering laid out in this report will help guide today’s educators and academics in fostering the next generation of environmental engineers that will build a world where we can create knowledge and technology to improve the human condition and the environment. This is a world where people and ecosystems can symbiotically benefit each other.”

Input was gathered from the Association of Environmental Engineering and Science Professors, the broader scientific community, nongovernmental organizations, and the public at large. The five grand challenges discussed in this report were distilled from over 450 submitted ideas. “I believe this is a seminal report because it is ambitious and game changing. While it respects the history of the environmental engineering profession, it recognizes that going forward new directions are required in education, research, and practice. To my knowledge, it is the first document of its type to embed climate change and sustainability within its goals for the future. It was a pleasure to serve on the committee with so many outstanding colleagues, including our own John Crittenden,” says Dr. Clough.

Founded in 1863 as a result of an Act of Congress that was approved by Abraham Lincoln, the National Academy of Sciences, which includes the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine, is charged with "providing independent, objective advice to the nation on matters related to science and technology. … to provide scientific advice to the government 'whenever called upon' by any government department."

Professor John C. Crittenden is the Director of the Brook Byers Institute for Sustainable Systems, Hightower Chair in Environmental Techniques, Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar in Environmental Technologies, and Professor in the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

G. Wayne Clough is Secretary Emeritus of the Smithsonian Institution and President Emeritus of the Georgia Institute of Technology.  Clough was president of Georgia Tech from 1994 to 2008, and Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution from 2008 to 2014.

Report citation:
Domenico Grasso, John C. Crittenden, G. Wayne Clough, et al., “Environmental Engineering for the 21st Century:  Addressing Grand Challenges,” National Academies Press, ISBN 978-0-309-47652-2, 2018, 120 pgs., DOI:  10.17226/25121.

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  • National Academy of Engineering Grand Challenges Report Cover

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Brent Verrill, Communications Manager, BBISS