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Northwestern University
Mark Ratnerleft

Making It Matter: Mark Ratner

Ratner is the co-director of Northwestern's Initiative for Sustain­ability and Energy. A member of the Northwestern University faculty since 1975, he is the Lawrence B. Dumas Distinguished University Professor of Chemistry.

What kind of world are we going to pass off to the next generation? Will it be a world where people starve to death or die from thirst, or where they have enough to eat and access to clean water? If we can make it a little bit better, I think that’s significant.

Applying science to help the world deal with sustainability is rewarding at a deep, emotional level. It goes beyond traditional borders, and for me enlivens every experience with the overwhelming beauty of the nature that we have to preserve.

Through the Initiative for Sustainability and Energy, we’ve done a lot to bring green initiatives to Northwestern and Evanston. Students have planted gardens. We’ve put photovoltaic devices on roofs. We’ve sent kids to Honduras to figure out how to bring clean, safe water to the people there. We’ve even helped create sustainable backdrops and scenery for ­theatre productions. We’ve raised awareness about sustain­ability at Northwestern. I’m pretty pleased by this.

There’s only one world. This is the only place we’re going to live. We can turn it into a communal sewer, or we can treat it as a sacred space — a place to be protected and preserved, where we and those who follow us can thrive.

Making It Matter: Seven Perspectives

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