[Paleopsych] NSF: NSF Releases "Pathways to the Future" Environment Report

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NSF Releases "Pathways to the Future" Environment Report
    Press Release 05-056

    Research on human and natural-system links called integral
    The new report says water should be studied as a system.
    April 13, 2005

    Accelerating environmental changes have presented humanity with
    significant scientific and engineering challenges, according to the
    new National Science Foundation (NSF) report, Pathways to the Future:
    Complex Environmental Systems: Synthesis for Earth, Life and Society
    in the 21st Century.

    The changes the report cites are rapid shifts in climate and
    ecosystems, the degradation of freshwater resources, global spreading
    of diseases, and the increasing threat of biological and chemical
    terrorism. Among the research challenges are the need to understand
    how and why these changes are occurring--especially when multiple
    stresses are acting on environmental systems simultaneously--and how
    best to respond to them.

    "Now more than ever," write the members of the NSF Advisory Committee
    for Environmental Research and Education (ACERE), who authored the
    report, "scientists must address combinations of factors in their
    research, such as the interactions between human activities and
    natural cycles at different spatial and temporal scales."

    The report encourages NSF to maintain its foundation-wide emphasis on
    investigations of coupled human and natural systems, as currently
    embodied in the Biocomplexity in the Environment program, and
    discusses related goals.

    "Environmental research and education should remain on the forefront
    of science funding," said David Skole, a geographer at Michigan State
    University and ACERE chair. "This document is an attempt to address
    the future of the ERE portfolio at NSF in these budget-constrained
    times, while continuing to stimulate this important research. A main
    focal point is research on coupled human and natural systems, which is
    integral to understanding our environment."

    The report also focuses on water as a complex environmental system.
    "All human and natural systems are influenced by the distribution,
    abundance, quality and accessibility of water," it says. With
    continued human population growth and the uncertain impacts of
    environmental change, the report states, ensuring an adequate quantity
    and quality of freshwater for sustaining all forms of life is a
    growing challenge. "Integrated, multidisciplinary, and multi-scale
    water-related research is necessary for meeting the challenge."

    The authors recommend that NSF focus on water as a unifying theme for
    research on complex environmental systems. Because water is a critical
    resource whose availability strongly impacts human health and economic
    development, this research will advance scientific understanding while
    addressing urgent societal issues, the report states. "The results
    could then be applied to other potential focus areas for research on
    complex environmental systems, such as land use, energy and climate."

    Media Contacts
    Cheryl L. Dybas, NSF (703) 292-7734 [37]cdybas at nsf.gov

    Related Websites
    Pathways report in PDF format:

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    that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of
    science and engineering, with an annual budget of nearly $5.47
    billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000
    universities and institutions. Each year, NSF receives about 40,000
    competitive requests for funding, and makes about 11,000 new funding
    awards. The NSF also awards over $200 million in professional and
    service contracts yearly.

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