Sustainability: A Comprehensive Foundation

(23 reviews)


Pub Date: 2015

ISBN 13:

Publisher: OpenStax CNX

Conditions of Use



  All reviews are licensed under a CC BY-ND license.

Learn more about reviews.


Reviewed by George Loumakis, Lecturer, Glasgow Caledonian University, on 2/2/2018.

This is a very rich book that tackles the many aspects of sustainability. Everything is written in an easy to understand language and the inclusion … read more



Reviewed by Sujata Bhatia, Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, University of Delaware, on 2/2/2018.

The book provides a comprehensive introduction to sustainability that incorporates engineering, economics, history, and ethics, and it will be of … read more



Reviewed by Kang-Won Lee, Professor, University of Rhode Island, on 2/2/2018.

It was relatively complete.… read more



Reviewed by Courtney Green, Lecturer, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, on 2/2/2018.

The textbook provides a comprehensive study of sustainability. The book includes chapters on history, policy, energy, and sustainable infrastructure … read more



Reviewed by Nicole Barclay, Teaching Assistant Professor, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, on 2/2/2018.

The text holds true to its title, "....Comprehensive Foundation." Sustainability is a broad topic that applies to a wide range of fields. However, … read more



Reviewed by Rachel Goodman, Associate Professor, Hampden-Sydney College, on 6/21/2017.

I do not teach a course specifically called Sustainability; rather I teach and Introductory Environmental Science course. With this disclaimer in … read more



Reviewed by Ephraim Massawe, Associate Professor, Southeastern Louisiana University, on 6/21/2017.

This is an outstanding book on Sustainability. It is discussed in a detailed way under the title "Sustainability: A Comprehensive Foundation". … read more



Reviewed by Martin Hubbe, Professor, North Carolina State University, on 6/21/2017.

The word "comprehensive" is in the title of this open textbook, and the editors and authors have made an effort to include numerous aspects of the … read more



Reviewed by Nilmani Pramanik, Associate Professor, University of Northern Iowa, on 12/6/2016.

This book "Sustainability: A Comprehensive Foundation" contains a vast amount of matter on sustainability and it does cover the entire range as it … read more



Reviewed by Alison Olcott Marshall, Associate Professor, University of Kansas, on 8/22/2016.

The book is relatively comprehensive, especially considering the breadth of the topic. However, as some have noted, the book gives short shrift to … read more



Reviewed by Kolson Schlosser, Assistant Professor of Instruction, Temple University, on 8/22/2016.

This text is nothing if not comprehensive. It is so comprehensive, in fact, that one wonders about whether there exists an upper threshold after … read more



Reviewed by Jennifer Cochran-Biederman, Instructor of Biology, Winona State University, on 8/22/2016.

As a foundational resource on the field of sustainability, I find this book to be reasonably comprehensive. I think that certain chapters provide … read more



Reviewed by Sean Bryan, Instructor, Colorado State University, on 1/8/2016.

This book has "comprehensive" in the title, and it delivers on that promise. The book covers a full range of topics relating to the … read more



Reviewed by Kelly Curl, Assistant Professor, Colorado State University, on 1/8/2016.

As the title portrays, this is a very comprehensive collection of subjects and topics related to sustainability. Sustainability is a large topic … read more



Reviewed by Dale Gentry, Associate Professor of Biology, University of Northwestern - Saint Paul, on 6/11/2015.

Sustainability: A Comprehensive Foundation excels in some facets of comprehensiveness but is lacking in others. I am impressed by their inclusion of … read more



Reviewed by Nathaniel Springer, Postdoctoral Associate and Lecturer, University of Minnesota, on 6/11/2015.

The textbook follows an issue-based structure, which accurately reflects way sustainability problems are addressed across disciplines, or … read more



Reviewed by John Duke, Professor of Damage Science and Mechanics, Virginia Tech, on 6/11/2015.

For an evolve subject matter area the book covers most of the important areas which ought to be considered, an area omitted is that related to the … read more



Reviewed by Natalie Hunt, Postdoctoral Research Associate and Lecturer, University of Minnesota, on 6/11/2015.

This text covers a broad range of social and physical science principles that underpin sustainability and illustrates them well using relevant … read more



Reviewed by Lee Fithian, Associate Professor, University of Oklahoma, on 1/13/2015.

The text is billed as an introduction to the essential elements of sustainability suitable for first or second year college students. Some topics are … read more



Reviewed by Joel Light, Biology Associate, University of Northwestern - St. Paul, on 7/16/2014.

This textbooks seems to cover the same information and depth as other texts on the same subject. Its depth and coverage of topics in … read more



Reviewed by Linda Vanasupa, Professor, California Polytechnic State University, on 7/16/2014.

The text occurs to me as comprehensive in terms of approaching sustainability as a issue of environmental management. It contains a single … read more



Reviewed by Kate Lajtha, Professor, Oregon State University, on 7/16/2014.

This text covers many, although not all, aspects of environmental science and sustainability. To be fair, no single book could ever be … read more



Reviewed by Dan Philippon, Associate Professor, University of Minnesota, on 7/16/2014.

As its subtitle indicates, "Sustainability: A Comprehensive Foundation" aims for comprehensiveness. The book description claims that … read more


Table of Contents

  • Chapter 1 Introduction to Sustainability: Humanity and the Environment
  • Chapter 2 The Evolution of Environmental Policy in the United States
  • Chapter 3 Climate and Global Change
  • Chapter 4 Biosphere
  • Chapter 5 Physical Resources: Water, Pollution, and Minerals
  • Chapter 6 Environmental and Resource Economics
  • Chapter 7 Modern Environmental Management
  • Chapter 8 Sustainable Energy Systems
  • Chapter 9 Problem-Solving, Metrics, and Tools for Sustainability
  • Chapter 10 Sustainability: Ethics, Culture, and History
  • Chapter 11 Sustainable Infrastructure

About the Book

With “Sustainability: A Comprehensive Foundation”, first and second-year college students are introduced to this expanding new field, comprehensively exploring the essential concepts from every branch of knowledge – including engineering and the applied arts, natural and social sciences, and the humanities. As sustainability is a multi-disciplinary area of study, the text is the product of multiple authors drawn from the diverse faculty of the University of Illinois: each chapter is written by a recognized expert in the field. 

This text is designed to introduce the reader to the essential concepts of sustainability. This subject is of vital importance seeking as it does to uncover the principles of the long-term welfare of all the peoples of the planet but is only peripherally served by existing college textbooks.

The content is intended to be useful for both a broad-based introductory class on sustainability and as a useful supplement to specialist courses which wish to review the sustainability dimensions of their areas of study. By covering a wide range of topics with a uniformity of style, and by including glossaries, review questions, case studies, and links to further resources, the text has sufficient range to perform as the core resource for a semester course. Students who cover the material in the book will be conversant in the language and concepts of sustainability, and will be equipped for further study in sustainable planning, policy, economics, climate, ecology, infrastructure, and more. 

Furthermore, the modular design allows individual chapters and sections to be easily appropriated without the purchase of a whole new text. This allows educators to easily bring sustainability concepts, references, and case studies into their area of study. 

This appropriation works particularly well as the text is free downloadable to anyone who wishes to use it. Furthermore, readers are encouraged to work with the text. Provided there is attribution to the source, users can adapt, add to, revise and republish the text to meet their own needs. 

Because sustainability is a cross-disciplinary field of study, producing this text has required the bringing together over twenty experts from a variety of fields. This enables us to cover all of the foundational components of sustainability: understanding our motivations requires the humanities, measuring the challenges of sustainability requires knowledge of the sciences (both natural and social), and building solutions requires technical insight into systems (such as provided by engineering, planning, and management). 

Readers accustomed to textbooks that present material in a unitary voice might be surprised to find in this one statements that do not always agree. Here, for example, cautious claims about climate change stand beside sweeping pronouncements predicting future social upheaval engendered by a warming world. And a chapter that includes market-based solutions to environmental problems coexists with others that call for increased government control. Such diversity of thought characterizes many of the fields of inquiry represented in the book; by including it, we invite users to engage in the sort of critical thinking a serious study of sustainability requires. 

It is our sincerest hope that this work is shared freely and widely, as we all struggle to understand and solve the enormous environmental challenges of our time.

About the Contributors


Tom Theis is Director of the Institute for Environmental Science and Policy, and Professor of Civil and Materials Engineering at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Jonathan Tomkin is the Associate Director, School of Earth, Society & Environment, an Associate Research Professor with the Department of Geology and Director, ESE Online.