Meeting the Global Sustainable Development Goals on a Changing Planet with Limited Land and Water Resources

Getting started

Our Vision

  • Sustainability is a local concept with global significance
  • Global forces drive local (un)sustainability
  • Local responses to individual stresses can have global consequences

Through the Discovery Park Big Idea Challenge, we will

  • Establish flagship examples of research highlighting tradeoffs and synergies associated with policies tackling the sustainable development goals
  • Produce policy briefs and other actionable recommendations for achieving the sustainable development goals
  • Create the infrastructure and open-source tools necessary to develop a self-sustaining community of researchers, partner organizations, and funders


There is an urgent need to meet the Global Sustainable Development Goals on a changing planet with limited land and water resources. Many goals relate to land and water resources, suggesting we need a systems approach to see combined impacts. Research on the sustainable development goals typically falls into one of three traps. Commonly, sustainability research is too...

  • Disciplinary, limiting the validity of findings
  • Local, ignoring global context and dynamic feedbacks
  • Complex and/or Proprietary, limiting the replicability and transparency of analysis

The Global-to-Local-to-Global Approach

Global Systems Are Drivers

  • Growing populations and climate change lead to increasing irrigation and hydrologic stress.
  • Tensions between food and water systems reflect global drivers



Local Understanding is Key

  • Local responses to stressors will depend on local resources and local institutions and governance



Tradeoffs are Necessary

  • To achieve local sustainability, irrigation must be reduced in some locations, but this will have global consequences