Dr. Michael T. Clegg
Donald Bren Professor of Biological Sciences, University of California, Irvine
Foreign Secretary, United States National Academy of Sciences (Washington, DC)
Co-Chair, InterAmerican Network of Academies of Sciences
Director, Pangea World
“The Pangea Concept: A Model For Sustainability”
A fundamental lesson from the 20th century has been the pervasive role of scientific knowledge creation in expanding the world economy and in improving the quality of human life. It has been estimated that more than 50% of economic growth during the past century is a direct consequence of the growth of scientific knowledge, together with the deployment of new technologies that derive from science. The gains go much further than purely economic; the quality of human life and average human life spans has increased substantially, owing to the expansion of scientific knowledge.
The world does not stand still and these advances have also brought new challenges. A major challenge is how to continue to improve the quality of human life in the face of increasing demands on the resources of the earth. So for example, the global human population grew from six to seven billion over just that last 12 years, an increase of over 16%, and population is projected to exceed 9.3 billion by 2050. Claims on resources, both renewable and nonrenewable, are growing even faster, owing to rapidly increasing demand associated with global economic development. A great challenge for the 21st century will be to create new models for the sustainable use of the earth’s resources that insure a stable and prosperous future for the generations that come after us.
A major aim of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences is to develop scientific approaches to the problem of sustainability. There are at least two considerations. The first is to develop technologies that offset the increasing draw down of nonrenewable resources. The second is to identify incentives that favor the sustainable use of natural resources. The goal of sustainability is achievable, but it requires the creation and adoption of new models linking science to enterprise. The notion of sustainability links science to enterprise, because every enterprise must be based on a sustainable source of revenue to survive. The trick is to create synergies between sustainable business models and the broader concept of environmental sustainability.
The Pangea model provides just such a new enterprise by linking the creation and utilization of scientific knowledge to a business model. The two elements—knowledge creation joined with the hospitality enterprise—embody the notion of “strategic synergies,” an idea that Dr. Hana Ayala has identified as a core concept of the Pangea model.
In the case of the Pangea model, new scientific discoveries together with the participation in the process of discovery, feedback on the hospitality enterprise to add value to the total experience. At the same time, the hospitality business invests in continued scientific exploration that adds to the knowledge base with the associated potential for new valuable technologies, while providing a unique experience for its clients. Moreover, a portion of the hospitality earnings will be set aside for philanthropic investments in furthering scientific research. Thus a cycle of knowledge creation, enhanced value for the clients of the hospitality experience and renewed investment in scientific discovery is set in motion.
The venue of today’s meeting provides an excellent illustration of the synergies between science, business, and philanthropy. Dr. Arnold Beckman, for whom the Beckman Center of the National Academies of Sciences and Engineering is named, developed the modern pH meter while a chemist at Cal Tech. He saw in this invention a business model for the production of a valuable scientific instrument. Arnold Beckman went on to create a major enterprise manufacturing a wide array of scientific instruments that served the needs of the scientific community and that also created substantial wealth. Later in his career Arnold Beckman determined to donate much of his wealth to the creation of Beckman Institutes to further scientific research on a number of frontiers. This legacy of scientific invention, enterprise creation and reinvestment in scientific discovery exemplifies just such a sustainable cycle of knowledge creation and societal advancement.
I believe that the Pangea idea captures the essence of this history, that it is entirely achievable, and that Dr. Hana Ayala has both the vision and great energy necessary to bring it to fruition. Thank you.