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ENVIRONMENTAL SYSTEMS MANAGEMENT: TOWARDS A NEW SCIENCE OF SUSTAINABLE ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT
Cabezas*, H C. ENVIRONMENTAL SYSTEMS MANAGEMENT: TOWARDS A NEW SCIENCE OF SUSTAINABLE ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT. Presented at Lecture at International Conference on the Fiber Industry and Envionmental Biocomplexity, Auburn University, Auburn, AL, January 27 - 29, 2002.
To inform the public.
Environmental Systems Management (ESM) is the management of environmental problems at the systems level fully accounting for the multi-dimensional nature of the environment. This includes socio-economic dimensions as well as the usual physical and life science aspects of environmental problems. This is important because the environment and any problems that arise in relation to the environment are of a complex multi-dimensional nature, and their management must also be at an appropriate level of sophistication. No environmental probem has a single causative source. The mission of the Environmental Systems Management Research Program (ESMRP) at the USEPA is therefore, to construct a strategy for sustainable environmental management using economics approaches, water resource and land use planning, physical and ecological theory, law, and technological methods and knowledge implemented through computer based tools, field data and human experience to reduce risks to human health and the ecology. That is sustainable environmental management strategies that coherently address at least the physical, biological or ecological, legal, economic, and social dimensions of the system. The multidimensionality of the management approach is important because the environment is a complex system - perhaps, the ultimate complex system, and it is well known that complex systems move through time along stable pathways to change. They, therefore, resist perturbations along one dimension - management interventions - by making appropriate compensating changes in the unperturbed dimensions. This can lead to counter intuitive and often-perverse consequences, e.g., cleaner and more efficient automobiles can change attitudes about driving leading to more driving and worse air pollution. The only remedy is to attempt to coherently perturb all the dimensions so as to create a new stable pathway to change. The core of the ESMRP is the Sustainable Environments Branch which is organized into five research teams: environmental economics, sustainable systems theory, legal and social systems, hydrology and land use, and sustainable technology. A summary of the research projects underway in these five teams will be presented along with recent results. These specifically include research work in tradable credit systems, sustainability theory, hydrologic impact, remote sensing, legal structures, transgenic crop management, and recycling.