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By Jack Feuer

Published Oct 1, 2014 8:00 AM


Together, can we make the LA region 100 percent sustainable in water and energy by 2050?

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Photo by JB Fitts.

Your children have grown up and have children of their own. They get their power from solar energy collected on the roof. An electric mass transit system and electric car infrastructure have greatly improved air quality. Bicycle and pedestrian options dot the cityscape.

All over L.A., green roofs and buildings, native gardens, neighborhood open spaces and green urban space connect the place to its people, and both to the environment. A decentralized water treatment and supply system provides all the potable water the region needs.

This is not an urban wish list. This is a vision for the future of Los Angeles called "Thriving in a Hotter Los Angeles," and it is part of a groundbreaking plan that unites UCLA's top scientists, civic leaders and community members in an effort to make the region 100 percent sustainable in water and energy by 2050 without harming biodiversity, in the process creating a sustainability model for cities around the world. It's also part of a university-wide commitment to finding innovative approaches to our environmental challenges. For example, the family foundation of Tony Pritzker, co-chairman of The Centennial Campaign for UCLA, has dedicated $15 million of its $20 million leadership gift toward sustainability.

"UCLA's campuswide, interdisciplinary Grand Challenges initiative, with its focus on audacious but achievable goals . . . is a promising response to the president's call to action to pursue 21st-century Grand Challenges, and a model we encourage other universities to consider," says Cristin Dorgelo, assistant director for Grand Challenges in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

The "Thriving" effort involves more than 70 faculty and staff from about 30 centers and nearly two dozen departments, including environmental science, law, economics, urban planning, public policy, engineering, public health, conservation biology, transportation and communication studies. In 2019, UCLA will provide regional decision-makers with a detailed plan for achieving full sustainability by mid-century. The roadmap will be based on cutting-edge research, new technologies and breakthroughs, and recommendations on laws, policies and outreach.

UCLA climate scientist and "Thriving" team member Alex Hall says, "People have a sense that we are having a huge impact on the environment, and I think people are afraid. [The Grand Challenges project] is about making people recognize that the future can be bright."

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