News Release

Scientists urge EPA to adopt systems thinking

Business Announcement

Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars/Science and Technology Innovation Program

WASHINGTON - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will celebrate its 40th birthday in 2010, but it may be approaching a mid-life crisis. A group of nationally recognized experts in environmental science, technology, and policy have called for EPA to adopt a more integrated approach to environmental protection that accounts for the complex interrelationships among socioeconomic and environmental systems. In an article to be published in the December issue of Environmental Science and Technology, the authors argue that the 21st century brings a new wave of daunting environmental problems that will require a much greater emphasis on systems thinking. An early release of the article is available online at:

According to the article, global resilience is being tested by pressures of population and economic growth, which cause increasing greenhouse gas emissions, declining biodiversity, and other threats to such vital natural resources as fresh water, soil, forests, and wetlands. Only by understanding these systemic forces can EPA establish sound policies and decision making processes.

"At its inception in 1970, the EPA inherited a long and daunting list of environmental problems and addressed those with a high degree of success, but the agency is not organized to deal with emerging 21st century challenges," said co-author David Rejeski of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.


The authors of the article are: Joseph Fiksel, Executive Director of the Center for Resilience at The Ohio State University; Thomas Graedel, Professor at Yale University and co-chair of the National Academy of Sciences Roundtable on Science and Technology for Sustainability; Alan Hecht, Director for Sustainable Development in EPA's Office of Research and Development; David Rejeski of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars; a member of the EPA Science Advisory Board (SAB) and the Advisory Committee on Environmental Research and Education at the National Science Foundation; Gary Sayler, Professor at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, Director of the Joint Institute for Biological Sciences at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and chairman of the EPA Board of Scientific Counselors (BOSC); Peter M. Senge, founding chairperson of the Society for Organizational Learning and senior lecturer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Deborah Swackhamer Professor and Co-director of the Water Resources Center at the University of Minnesota, and Chair of the SAB; and Thomas Theis, Professor and Director of the Institute for Environmental Science and Policy at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and a member of the SAB.

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