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A special issue of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050). This special issue belongs to the section "Environmental Sustainability and Applications".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 December 2022) | Viewed by 29938

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Department of Theoretical and Applied Sciences – DiSTA, Insubria University of Varese, Via G.B. Vico, 46, 21100 Varese, Italy
Interests: resources; renewable energy; environmental sustainability; circular economy; waste management; air pollution; microplastics; sewage sludge management; human health
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Dear Colleagues,

This Special Issue is dedicated to theoretical and applied aspects of environmental sustainability. Submissions are restricted to editorial board members of Sustainability who can contribute to an enlargement of the vision in this sector, thanks to the open access publishing strategy that characterizes the journal and promotes dissemination. Any kind of perspective involving environmental sustainability will be welcome. Both specialized topics and interdisciplinary approaches are expected in this exclusive Special Issue. Papers that connect sustainability not only to the environmental sector but also to the economic, legislative, philosophic, safety, energy, and human health sectors are also welcome. Review papers are also welcome.

Prof. Dr. Vincenzo Torretta
Dr. Elena Cristina Rada
Guest Editors

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15 pages, 4529 KiB  
Article
For a Sustainable Future: A Survey about the 2030 Agenda among the Italian Geosciences Community
by Andrea Gerbaudo, Francesca Lozar, Manuela Lasagna, Marco Davide Tonon and Elena Egidio
Sustainability 2023, 15(14), 11397; https://doi.org/10.3390/su151411397 - 22 Jul 2023
Viewed by 803
Abstract
The combined annual Congress of the Italian Geological Society (Società Geologica Italiana, SGI) and the Italian Mineralogical and Petrological Society (Società Italiana di Mineralogia e Petrologia, SIMP), dedicated to Geosciences for a sustainable future, took place in Turin in September 2022. This [...] Read more.
The combined annual Congress of the Italian Geological Society (Società Geologica Italiana, SGI) and the Italian Mineralogical and Petrological Society (Società Italiana di Mineralogia e Petrologia, SIMP), dedicated to Geosciences for a sustainable future, took place in Turin in September 2022. This was an opportunity to critically reflect on the role of geosciences for our society and planet, and the role that geoscientists have to play in the education of citizens, for the prevention of natural hazards and the conservation of cultural and natural heritage. In continuity with our previous work on the awareness of the Sustainable Development Goals among young geoscientists in Italy, the present study attempts to expand the investigated sample to include the entire Italian community of geoscientists. The aim is to highlight: (1) the most widespread opinions on the link between Earth Sciences and the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda; (2) what steps have been taken by Italian Earth Sciences departments for sustainability education and what could be the best strategies to develop sustainability related to geoscience topics. According to 229 answers to a questionnaire sent to congress participants (corresponding to 20% of the total amount), the results highlight that the Italian geocommunity (at least its younger members) has a high awareness of the implications of its work and research with sustainability issues, and, in particular, their responsibility to the environment; notwithstanding this awareness, the level of average familiarity with the 2030 Agenda and its goals is still low. In order to bridge this gap, it is recognized that there is an urgent need for sustainability education efforts in departments and the use of inter- and trans-disciplinary teaching approaches that can educate both students and practitioners to be capable of addressing the challenging issues of today. Full article
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23 pages, 24875 KiB  
Article
Rainfall and Runoff Trend Analysis in the Wadi Mina Basin (Northern Algeria) Using Non-Parametric Tests and the ITA Method
by Mohammed Achite, Tommaso Caloiero and Abderrezak Kamel Toubal
Sustainability 2022, 14(16), 9892; https://doi.org/10.3390/su14169892 - 10 Aug 2022
Cited by 13 | Viewed by 1614
Abstract
The aim of this paper is to analyze the temporal tendencies of monthly, seasonal, and annual rainfall and runoff in the Wadi Mina basin (north-western side of Africa) using data from five stations in the period from 1973–2012. With this aim, first, a [...] Read more.
The aim of this paper is to analyze the temporal tendencies of monthly, seasonal, and annual rainfall and runoff in the Wadi Mina basin (north-western side of Africa) using data from five stations in the period from 1973–2012. With this aim, first, a trend analysis was performed using two non-parametric tests: the Theil–Sen estimator and the Mann–Kendall test. Then, to identify trends in the different rainfall and runoff values of the series, the Innovative Trend Analysis technique was further applied. The results of the application of the non-parametric tests on the rainfall data showed a general negative rainfall trend in the Wadi Mina basin for different timescales. Similarly, the results evidenced a general reduction in the runoff values, in particular in the Sidi Abdelkader Djillali and Oued Abtal stations, even though the results obtained for the Oued Abtal station are influenced by a dam. These results were further analyzed through Sen’s method, which enabled the trend identification of the different values (low, medium, and high) of the series. Full article
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10 pages, 1980 KiB  
Article
Sustainable Tourism and Conservation of Underground Ecosystems through Airflow and Particle Distribution Modeling
by Rosangela Addesso, Stefano Pingaro, Bruno Bisceglia and Daniela Baldantoni
Sustainability 2022, 14(13), 7979; https://doi.org/10.3390/su14137979 - 30 Jun 2022
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 1861
Abstract
Underground ecosystems are often of interest for the tourism industry due to their important naturalistic and cultural heritage. Since these underground ecosystems are almost completely isolated, external agents (such as human presence) can easily disrupt their chemico-physical and biological processes, which can affect, [...] Read more.
Underground ecosystems are often of interest for the tourism industry due to their important naturalistic and cultural heritage. Since these underground ecosystems are almost completely isolated, external agents (such as human presence) can easily disrupt their chemico-physical and biological processes, which can affect, sometimes irrevocably, their natural equilibrium, placing the preservation of such sites at risk. The most sensible managers of caves, catacombs, mines, and all the accessible cultural sites are searching for methods to control these dynamics and the modeling appears to be effective in preventing scenarios of the known impacts as well as suggesting strategies for their mitigation. In this study, by employing finite element analysis by the COMSOL Multiphysics software and reproducing, in a simplified way, a section of the tourist trail of the Pertosa-Auletta Cave (Italy), for the first time we provided a fact-finding survey of the airflow and the scattering and subsequent deposition of particles transported by tourists. Taking into account discontinuities in the pathway, the simulations rebuilt the possible natural airflow line, reproducing the particle movements induced by different tourist loads, whose high numbers increase the swirling movement of air masses, promoting a higher dispersion of particles, even in the remote cave areas. Performed simulations clearly indicated both the speed and direction followed by particles, as well as deposition sites, highlighting potential hotspots of damage, and demonstrating that the employed approach can be an excellent tool for planning the management of these extraordinary ecosystems, foretelling anthropogenic impacts, and supporting managers in decision-making processes. Full article
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17 pages, 5632 KiB  
Article
Are We Ready for a Sustainable Development? A Survey among Young Geoscientists in Italy
by Andrea Gerbaudo, Francesca Lozar, Manuela Lasagna, Marco Davide Tonon and Elena Egidio
Sustainability 2022, 14(13), 7621; https://doi.org/10.3390/su14137621 - 22 Jun 2022
Cited by 6 | Viewed by 2177
Abstract
The United Nations 2030 Agenda is a plan designed to encourage prosperity that is respectful of the planet and its inhabitants. The Agenda will help introduce the concept of education for sustainability (EfS) to a wider population in order to promote inter- and [...] Read more.
The United Nations 2030 Agenda is a plan designed to encourage prosperity that is respectful of the planet and its inhabitants. The Agenda will help introduce the concept of education for sustainability (EfS) to a wider population in order to promote inter- and trans-disciplinary knowledge about sustainability. Connecting Earth Sciences (ES) with sustainability allows us to deal with the ethical dimensions and the social implications of this field. The belief is that improving the delivery of knowledge around sustainability issues will make visible the potential of ES education as a key component of EfS. The aim of this paper is to understand whether the young Italian ES community has sufficient knowledge of and a shared interest in, sustainability. The conviction is that awareness of these topics among the younger generations is fundamental to building a new pedagogical paradigm. This study shows the results of a survey taken by participants of BeGeo 2021, the Italian national congress dedicated to young geoscientists, held in Napoli in October 2021. The majority of respondents had limited knowledge about sustainability, and only a few had attended academic activities that included these topics. Nonetheless, the importance of sustainability is well recognized and there is a great need to increase the number of activities connected to EfS. Full article
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23 pages, 9760 KiB  
Article
Development of Novel Membranes Based on Polyvinyl Alcohol Modified by Pluronic F127 for Pervaporation Dehydration of Isopropanol
by Mariia Dmitrenko, Ramadan Atta, Andrey Zolotarev, Anna Kuzminova, Sergey Ermakov and Anastasia Penkova
Sustainability 2022, 14(6), 3561; https://doi.org/10.3390/su14063561 - 17 Mar 2022
Cited by 12 | Viewed by 2771
Abstract
Membrane methods are environmentally friendly and can significantly improve the design and development of new energy consumption processes that are very important nowadays. However, their effective use requires advanced membrane materials. This study aims to improve the performance of pervaporation polyvinyl alcohol (PVA)-based [...] Read more.
Membrane methods are environmentally friendly and can significantly improve the design and development of new energy consumption processes that are very important nowadays. However, their effective use requires advanced membrane materials. This study aims to improve the performance of pervaporation polyvinyl alcohol (PVA)-based membrane for isopropanol dehydration. To achieve this goal, two methods were applied: (1) bulk modification of PVA by Pluronic F127 and (2) development of supported PVA-based membrane using polyphenylene isophthalamide (PA) as a substrate with a various porosity. Developed membranes were characterized by Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy, scanning electron microscopy (SEM), contact angle measurement, and swelling experiments. The concentration influence of PA casting solution (12–20 wt.%) on the performance of porous PA membranes (substrates) was investigated in ultrafiltration of pure water and bovine serum albumin (BSA) solution as well as by microscopic methods (SEM and atomic force microscopy). The developed dense and supported PVA-based membranes were tested in the pervaporation dehydration of isopropanol. Optimal transport characteristics were obtained for a supported membrane with a PVA-based selective layer containing 3 wt.% Pluronic F127 onto an ultrafiltration PA (17 wt.%) substrate: improved permeation flux 0.100–1.164 kg/(m2 h) and 98.8–84.6 wt.% water content in the permeate in pervaporation dehydration of isopropanol (12–80 wt.% water). Full article
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27 pages, 3756 KiB  
Article
Estimating Productivity, Detecting Biotic Disturbances, and Assessing the Health State of Traditional Olive Groves, Using Nondestructive Phenotypic Techniques
by Yiannis G. Zevgolis, Efstratios Kamatsos, Triantaphyllos Akriotis, Panayiotis G. Dimitrakopoulos and Andreas Y. Troumbis
Sustainability 2022, 14(1), 391; https://doi.org/10.3390/su14010391 - 30 Dec 2021
Cited by 9 | Viewed by 3108
Abstract
Conservation of traditional olive groves through effective monitoring of their health state is crucial both at a tree and at a population level. In this study, we introduce a comprehensive methodological framework for estimating the traditional olive grove health state, by considering the [...] Read more.
Conservation of traditional olive groves through effective monitoring of their health state is crucial both at a tree and at a population level. In this study, we introduce a comprehensive methodological framework for estimating the traditional olive grove health state, by considering the fundamental phenotypic, spectral, and thermal traits of the olive trees. We obtained phenotypic information from olive trees on the Greek island of Lesvos by combining this with in situ measurement of spectral reflectance and thermal indices to investigate the effect of the olive tree traits on productivity, the presence of the olive leaf spot disease (OLS), and olive tree classification based on their health state. In this context, we identified a suite of important features, derived from linear and logistic regression models, which can explain productivity and accurately evaluate infected and noninfected trees. The results indicated that either specific traits or combinations of them are statistically significant predictors of productivity, while the occurrence of OLS symptoms can be identified by both the olives’ vitality traits and by the thermal variables. Finally, the classification of olive trees into different health states possibly offers significant information to explain traditional olive grove dynamics for their sustainable management. Full article
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11 pages, 2060 KiB  
Article
Spatial Patterns and Scales of Collembola Taxonomic and Functional Diversity in Urban Parks
by Alessandro Bellino, Daniela Baldantoni, Vittoria Milano, Lucia Santorufo, Jérôme Cortet and Giulia Maisto
Sustainability 2021, 13(23), 13029; https://doi.org/10.3390/su132313029 - 25 Nov 2021
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1570
Abstract
Anthropogenic pressures can affect the distribution of species and elicit the appearance of spatial patterns that provide insights into the species’ responses to environmental filtering, mediated by their functional traits. Due to the functional redundancy in ecological communities, the spatial variations of species [...] Read more.
Anthropogenic pressures can affect the distribution of species and elicit the appearance of spatial patterns that provide insights into the species’ responses to environmental filtering, mediated by their functional traits. Due to the functional redundancy in ecological communities, the spatial variations of species and functional traits can occur at different scales, but little is known on this topic, especially for soil arthropods with limited dispersion capabilities and highly dependent on environmental characteristics. The present research aims at shedding light on the spatial ecology of both the taxonomic and functional biodiversity of collembolan communities colonizing urban parks, adopted as model taxa for their functional traits, diversity and sensitivity to environmental drivers. To this end, the spatial patterns and scales of collembolan communities from 8 parks in Naples (Italy) and 14 in Montpellier (France) were investigated through an approach based on Moran eigenvector maps, modified to allow for evaluating the community spatial connectivity and the scales underpinning the spatial variation of each species and functional trait. The obtained findings demonstrate a limited spatial connectivity of collembolan communities in terms of both taxonomic and functional diversity, with mostly species-specific micro-scale variations that may be shaped by environmental constraints. Full article
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11 pages, 1308 KiB  
Article
Microaerobic Digestion of Low-Biodegradable Sewage Sludge: Effect of Air Dosing in Batch Reactors
by Raffaele Morello, Francesco Di Capua, Ludovico Pontoni, Stefano Papirio, Danilo Spasiano, Umberto Fratino, Francesco Pirozzi and Giovanni Esposito
Sustainability 2021, 13(17), 9869; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13179869 - 2 Sep 2021
Cited by 11 | Viewed by 2159
Abstract
The adoption of prolonged solid retention times during the biological treatment of urban wastewaters is a well-known strategy to reduce sewage sludge production. However, it also results in the production of a biological sludge with low percentages of biodegradable organic matter, also characterized [...] Read more.
The adoption of prolonged solid retention times during the biological treatment of urban wastewaters is a well-known strategy to reduce sewage sludge production. However, it also results in the production of a biological sludge with low percentages of biodegradable organic matter, also characterized by high humification degrees, which may hamper the anaerobic digestion treatment aimed at sludge stabilization. To accelerate the hydrolytic stage, the application of microaerobic conditions during the anaerobic digestion of low-biodegradable sewage sludge was investigated in this study. In particular, six bio-methanation tests of a real sewage sludge were carried out, introducing air in the bioreactors with doses ranging between 0 and 16.83 L air/kg VSin d, in order to evaluate the air dosage that optimizes the biomethane production and organic matter degradation. Notably, the lower air loading rates investigated in this study, such as 0.68 and 1.37 L air/kg VSin d, led to an increase in methane production of up to 19%, due to a higher degradation of total lipids and proteins. In addition, these microaerobic conditions also resulted in a decrease in the sludge humification degree and in lower volatile fatty acid accumulation. Full article
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16 pages, 3199 KiB  
Article
Removal and Survival of Fecal Indicators in a Constructed Wetland after UASB Pre-Treatment
by Fabio Conti, Elena Cristina Rada, Paolo Viotti and Massimo Raboni
Sustainability 2021, 13(16), 9302; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13169302 - 19 Aug 2021
Viewed by 1837
Abstract
The experimentation plant, based on a sub-surface horizontal flow phytodepuration (SSHFP) unit with a pre-treatment by an upflow anaerobic sludge blanket (UASB) reactor, proved valuable in treating the sewage of a small rural community located in north Brazil. During a six-month trial, the [...] Read more.
The experimentation plant, based on a sub-surface horizontal flow phytodepuration (SSHFP) unit with a pre-treatment by an upflow anaerobic sludge blanket (UASB) reactor, proved valuable in treating the sewage of a small rural community located in north Brazil. During a six-month trial, the plant achieved an average removal efficiency of 98.2% (1.74 log removal) for fecal coliforms (FC) and 96.0% (1.40 log removal) for Enterococci (EN), as well as 95.6% for BOD5, 91.0% for COD,00 and 95.4% for suspended solids (SS). The contribution of the UASB reactor to this overall performance was very significant as, alone, it achieved a yield of 62.7% for FC and 60% for EN, in addition to 65.2% for BOD5 and 65.0% for SS. EN was chosen, in addition to FC, because of its higher specificity and strong environmental persistence, leading to an increased risk to human health. In fact, the experimental results confirmed its lower removal efficiency compared to FC. The mechanical and biological mechanisms that led to such a removal efficiency of the two fecal indicators (FIs) are outlined in the article. The same mechanisms led to a good level of equivalence between the removal efficiency of the two FIs with the removal efficiency of SS and BOD5, for both the whole plant and the UASB reactor alone. The research demonstrated the close correlation between the concentrations of EN and FC for the plant effluent. This correlation can be explained by the following mathematical expression of the regression line Log EN = 0.2571 Log FC + 3.5301, with a coefficient of determination R2 = 0.912. This implies that the concentration of the more specific indicator EN could be calculated, with acceptable approximation, from the simple analysis of FC and vice versa. The experimental plant brought important health benefits to the local population. In particular, there were no significant odor emissions; moreover, the risk of fecal pathogenic diseases was drastically reduced; finally, there was no proliferation of insects and other disease vectors, due to the absence of stagnant or semi-stagnant water exposed to the atmosphere. Full article
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17 pages, 3324 KiB  
Article
Effect of Intake Air Temperature and Premixed Ratio on Combustion and Exhaust Emissions in a Partial HCCI-DI Diesel Engine
by Yew Heng Teoh, Hishammudin Afifi Huspi, Heoy Geok How, Farooq Sher, Zia Ud Din, Thanh Danh Le and Huu Tho Nguyen
Sustainability 2021, 13(15), 8593; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13158593 - 1 Aug 2021
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 2965
Abstract
Homogeneous charge compression ignition (HCCI) is considered an advanced combustion method for internal combustion engines that offers simultaneous reductions in oxides of nitrogen (NOx) emissions and increased fuel efficiency. The present study examines the influence of intake air temperature (IAT) and [...] Read more.
Homogeneous charge compression ignition (HCCI) is considered an advanced combustion method for internal combustion engines that offers simultaneous reductions in oxides of nitrogen (NOx) emissions and increased fuel efficiency. The present study examines the influence of intake air temperature (IAT) and premixed diesel fuel on fuel self-ignition characteristics in a light-duty compression ignition engine. Partial HCCI was achieved by port injection of the diesel fuel through air-assisted injection while sustaining direct diesel fuel injection into the cylinder for initiating combustion. The self-ignition of diesel fuel under such a set-up was studied with variations in premixed ratios (0–0.60) and inlet temperatures (40–100 °C) under a constant 1600 rpm engine speed with 20 Nm load. Variations in performance, emissions and combustion characteristics with premixed fuel and inlet air heating were analysed in comparison with those recorded without. Heat release rate profiles determined from recorded in-cylinder pressure depicted evident multiple-stage ignitions (up to three-stage ignition in several cases) in this study. Compared with the premixed ratio, the inlet air temperature had a greater effect on low-temperature reaction and HCCI combustion timing. Nonetheless, an increase in the premixed ratio was found to be influential in reducing nitric oxides emissions. Full article
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15 pages, 11531 KiB  
Article
Engaging the Senses: The Association of Urban Green Space with General Health and Well-Being in Urban Residents
by Argyro Anna Kanelli, Panayiotis G. Dimitrakopoulos, Nikolaos M. Fyllas, George P. Chrousos and Olga-Ioanna Kalantzi
Sustainability 2021, 13(13), 7322; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13137322 - 30 Jun 2021
Cited by 11 | Viewed by 3734
Abstract
This study evaluated the short-term responses of physiological and psychological indices and examined the human senses that are mostly engaged during a green space and urban exposure in residents of Athens, Greece. The forest had beneficial effects for human physiology, anxiety and mood [...] Read more.
This study evaluated the short-term responses of physiological and psychological indices and examined the human senses that are mostly engaged during a green space and urban exposure in residents of Athens, Greece. The forest had beneficial effects for human physiology, anxiety and mood states and was also associated with all five senses and positive reactions, while the opposite was observed in the urban center. The difference of pre- and post-green space exposure salivary cortisol was correlated with the participants’ environmental profile and body mass index. Green spaces can alleviate stress and improve overall mood, while helping individuals experience their surroundings with all five senses. Full article
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10 pages, 279 KiB  
Brief Report
Effects of Weak Magnetic Fields on Plant Chemical Composition and Its Ecological Implications
by Alessandro Bellino, Bruno Bisceglia and Daniela Baldantoni
Sustainability 2023, 15(5), 3918; https://doi.org/10.3390/su15053918 - 21 Feb 2023
Viewed by 2117
Abstract
The exposure of plants to weak magnetic fields (MFs) of various intensities and for different times is increasingly adopted to sustainably enhance plant growth in plant-based applications such as modern agriculture, phytoremediation and biogas production. However, little is known about the effects of [...] Read more.
The exposure of plants to weak magnetic fields (MFs) of various intensities and for different times is increasingly adopted to sustainably enhance plant growth in plant-based applications such as modern agriculture, phytoremediation and biogas production. However, little is known about the effects of MF exposure on plant chemical composition, and in turn on related ecosystem processes, such as the transfer of potentially toxic elements along food chains and the decomposition of organic matter. To fill this gap, the present research, through the study of the chemical composition of four edible crops (leaves of lettuce, parsley and basil, and fruits of tomato) differently exposed to weak MFs (75 Hz; 1.5 mT), aimed at evaluating the overall effects of the exposure on ecosystem processes. In particular, several essential (B, C, Ca, Cu, K, Fe, Mg, Mn, Mo, N, Ni, P, S, Zn), beneficial (Co, Na, Se, Si) and non-useful (Al, As, Ba, Cd, Cr, Li, Pb, Sr, Ti, V) elements, together with chemical compounds and derived parameters (soluble sugars, starch, chlorophylls, flavonoids, anthocyanins, nitrogen balance index), indicators of plant metabolism and health, and litter decomposability traits (C/N, C/P), were analyzed. Notwithstanding the expected variations in the observed effects among species and MF exposure conditions, the obtained results highlight a general decrease in most of the studied parameters (with the exception of those related to litter decomposability), attributable to a lower absorption/accumulation of the studied chemical elements and to a reduced synthesis of metabolites. The largest average reduction was observed for the non-useful elements, which outweighs the reduction in essential and beneficial elements and provides for an important MFinduced effect, considering their toxic, persistent and biomagnificable characteristics. Similarly, the induced increases in C/N and C/P ratios indicate the production of litter more recalcitrant to the decomposition process, suggesting that weak MF treatments may be useful to enhance soil C storage and reduce CO2 emissions. Full article
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2 pages, 188 KiB  
Reply
Reply to Fildani, A.; Hessler, A.M. Comment on “Gerbaudo et al. Are We Ready for a Sustainable Development? A Survey among Young Geoscientists in Italy. Sustainability 2022, 14, 7621”
by Andrea Gerbaudo, Francesca Lozar, Manuela Lasagna, Marco Davide Tonon and Elena Egidio
Sustainability 2022, 14(23), 16101; https://doi.org/10.3390/su142316101 - 2 Dec 2022
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 769
Abstract
We very much appreciate and thank Andrea Fildani and Angela Hessler for their comment [...] Full article
2 pages, 159 KiB  
Comment
Comment on Gerbaudo et al. Are We Ready for a Sustainable Development? A Survey among Young Geoscientists in Italy. Sustainability 2022, 14, 7621
by Andrea Fildani and Angela M. Hessler
Sustainability 2022, 14(23), 16034; https://doi.org/10.3390/su142316034 - 1 Dec 2022
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 804
Abstract
The opening question of the article from Gerbaudo and co-authors (“Are We Ready for a Sustainable Development?”) is a compelling ‘hook’ for their important contribution [...] Full article
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