U.N. recognizes ASU professor's research

June 04, 2012

An Arizona State University professor is one of six international recipients being recognized for his study of the environment. The United Nations Champions of the Earth Awards were announced this morning in Rio de Janeiro.

Sander van der Leeuw Sander van der Leeuw in Greenland in 2007. (Photo courtesy of Arizona State University)

Dr. Sander van der Leeuw studies innovation and invention

He is the Dean of ASU’s School of Sustainability. He is being recognized for his research into why humanity is not facing up to the issues of long term environmental change. That research looks at the relationship between society and innovation. He says up until the 1800s, society drove innovation which led to inventions.

"Now if someone has a bright idea he goes to a company and the company by marketing and things like that, convinces society that they need it. So it’s no longer society that needs it in the first place, but people are made to need it. That has let to an incredible acceleration of innovation," van der Leeuw said.

Van der Leeuw says in the past, the slower pace of innovation allowed society a chance to evaluate the impact of inventions on the environment. He says today’s rate of change and innovation are so rapid that it is difficult to anticipate and analyze the effect on our world.

View van der Leeuw's speeches:

Sander van der Leeuw: The Archaeology of Innovation from The Long Now Foundation and The Long Now Foundation on FORA.tv


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