The 2015 Perry McCarty Distinguished Lecture was a talk by Michael Kavanaugh on the increasingly complex trade-off problem being faced by environmental professionals in development projects. Kavanaugh reflected on the evolution of the sustainability paradigm in the United States as well as two recent National Research Council (NRC) reports that provide guidance on how sustainability concepts could be integrated into Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) decision making. The “Green Book” (NRC, 2011) recommends a sustainability and assessment process for EPA decisions, while the more recent “Sustainability Concepts in Decision-Making” (NRC, 2014) assesses the applicability of a suite of tools and approaches for implementing the recommended process. In the absence of legislative mandates on sustainability goals, Kavanaugh argued the need for a pragmatic, science-based, adaptive management approach to balance the many economic, environmental, and social elements of the sustainability paradigm.

The annual Perry McCarty Distinguished Lecture is hosted by the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and encourages thought, discussion, and action by the Stanford community on complex issues of our time.