Scenic photo of UCI campus in foreground and city of Irvine in background
The UCI Ecological Preserve offers students, faculty and the public an opportunity to experience a subset of ecosystems native to Orange County. UCI’s latest commitment to solving environmental challenges is the launching of the multidisciplinary Climate and Urban Sustainability Program through the School of Social Ecology. Steve Zylius/UCI

A new program at the University of California, Irvine to mobilize the extensive skills, knowledge, experience and insights available across campus is designed to help solve the climate and environmental challenges facing urban areas in California and beyond.

The Climate and Urban Sustainability Program, created by the School of Social Ecology, is made up of faculty members from the Department of Urban Planning and Public Policy. Its partners include UCI’s Blum Center for Poverty Alleviation, Water UCI and the Livable Cities Lab. More participation from across campus is expected.

“We want to create conditions for sustainable urban development and human flourishing by furthering understanding, hastening effective communication and helping to solve the complex environmental challenges of the 21st century – climate change, pollution, natural resource degradation and depletion, and natural habitat loss,” said Jon Gould, dean of UCI’s School of Social Ecology.

“We are facing considerable challenges in Southern California – poor air quality as wildfires rage, extensive beach loss, persistent drought, devastating heat waves,” said Richard Matthew, CUSP director and UCI professor of urban planning & public policy and political science. “The infrastructure in place to manage natural hazards, protect habitat and provide us with reliable access to water and energy is rapidly aging. The implications for our economy, for our health and for the legacy we leave the next generation are enormous and alarming. And the burdens of environmental stresses and shocks are disproportionately being borne by the most vulnerable people in our community. We have the capacity and the opportunity to protect our environment and develop sustainably, to deepen resilience and to promote equity, in ways that can serve as a model for many similar regions of the world.”

CUSP researchers study myriad subjects from water safety to flood risk, community policing, gentrification and climate change. A few projects include:

Matthew added that CUSP will partner with “various levels of governance, community organizations, non-governmental friends of the environment, and external funders committed to sustainability, resource protection, environmental justice and education” to bring knowledge and action together.

About the UCI’s Brilliant Future campaign: Publicly launched on Oct. 4, 2019, the Brilliant Future campaign aims to raise awareness and support for UCI. By engaging 75,000 alumni and garnering $2 billion in philanthropic investment, UCI seeks to reach new heights of excellence in student success, health and wellness, research and more. The School of Social Ecology plays a vital role in the success of the campaign. Learn more by visiting: