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As sustainability takes center stage in the scientific, technological, and political dialogues about the vision for tomorrow's global environment, the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC) is stepping up its efforts to be part of those crucial discussions. Beginning in the 1990 s, and continuing more recently with a series of meetings beginning last year in New Orleans, SETAC has been focusing on what the concept of a sustainable environment means for the Society as an organization and for the broad field of environmental science. I am confident that this evolving process within the Society will enable SETAC to focus its collective energies and become a valuable resource on sustainability for academicians, business managers, and regulatory policy-makers around the world.

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Towards this goal, SETAC is working diligently to make a substantive scientific contribution to the agenda for the United Nations “Rio + 20” meeting, when world leaders will return to the site of the historic 1992 Earth Summit. Almost 20 years ago, the nations of the world recognized the urgency of the need to change humankind's destructive patterns of consumption and production. The meeting produced several important international agreements such as those on climate change, biodiversity, and desertification, as well as United Nations Agenda 21.

Now, the warning signs first given prominence by the scientific community at the Earth Summit, regarding the potential for an ever-increasing human population to significantly strain the earth's water and natural resources in the future, remain unchanged. Climate change, severe habitat loss, scarcity of clean drinking water, the collapse of several ocean fisheries, and the rate of depletion of the world's natural resources are increasingly described by the scientific community as alarming. Getting sustainability right at all levels of life, society, and human activity is the challenge we all face.

As a consequence, SETAC is making meaningful changes to improve sustainable practices within the organization. The SETAC leadership and member volunteers are working diligently and with imagination to “green” our annual meetings and activities around the world. This undertaking is even more pressing in light of the nearly 2,500 participants who attended the SETAC-Europe meeting in Seville, Spain, and SETAC-North America meeting in Portland, Oregon, last year. Attendance at SETAC annual meetings is anticipated to be comparable or larger in the future, and meetings in other regions are growing commensurately. Whether providing carbon offsets, encouraging recycling, or adopting other green measures, a sustainability consciousness is taking hold within the SETAC community.

I believe SETAC's primary contributions to a sustainable global society will be found in the science generated by its members. Science should inform the sustainability dialogue by underscoring what is technically feasible, identifying conflicting social and resource demands and management objectives, offering alternative technology solutions to such conflicts, and providing scientific information useful to decision-makers. In society, we speak most often about sustainable sources of energy, green chemistry, life cycle management, and our preferences for organic or natural products. Probing deeper, there is growing appreciation that the key to real progress toward environmental sustainability is to ensure that science, government, and business leaders embrace sustainability in both their strategic and their day-to-day decision-making.

A number of key sustainability elements are part and parcel of the Society's program. SETAC members envision a promising interplay between ecotoxicology, environmental chemistry, risk assessment, and life cycle and other disciplines. The addition of new SETAC advisory groups, such as one on ecosystem services and another looking at the linkages between human health and ecological resources, can only increase the potential for SETAC and its members to promote both concept development and scientific information that furthers global understanding about sustainable practices.

It is my hope that SETAC and its members, together with partnering science and environmental organizations around the world, will generate cutting-edge thinking across social and political structures and across technology disciplines in the years ahead. IEAM, in particular, can serve in a leading role to highlight new science, fresh thinking, and over-the-horizon ideas. While it may be too early to speak of a sustainability assessment framework, the elements for a broader approach exist and are being increasingly discussed. SETAC envisions IEAM, together with its sister journal ET&C and our program of four annual meetings around the world this year—in Milan, Italy; Buea, Cameroon; Cumana,Venezuela; and Boston, Massachusetts, USA—as generating renewed energy in the core sciences that inform the global sustainability debate. By so doing, SETAC can offer exciting and credible new ideas to the “Rio + 20” deliberations and highlight Society advancements at our 2012 World Congress in Berlin, Germany. I urge readers to think about sustainability, both in practical terms and in concept, over the year ahead and to help us to promote SETAC as a valued scientific and organizational contributor to world sustainability.