Change in land surface is the most visible sign of anthropogenic activity. In a rapidly urbanizing world, satellite observations and coupled land-atmosphere models provide a unique opportunity to study the impact of human-induced land surface change on quality of life and well being. Modeling studies that focus on challenges facing decision makers regarding housing, food, water, energy, transportation, and waste generation systems enable societies to discuss and build a future that they want. The first half of the presentation samples work at Earth Science Office at NASA Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) that incorporates satellite data within meteorological and air quality models for more realistic simulations of key atmospheric variables. In the second half of the presentation, we will discuss efforts at the Center for System Studies, University of Alabama in Huntsville that attempt to increase the relevancy of earth system science research for policy makers. The efforts aim at painstaking building an innovation ecosystem that has at its core questions and concerns of decision makers, which can then be answered through an independent scientific and engineering analysis.