UT Institute Newsletter Features Essay by U.S. Sen. Alexander

With the spring/summer edition of its newsletter, the ISSE Indicator, UT’s Institute for a Secure and Sustainable Environment presents a series of essays that explore strategies for pursuing sustainability in the realms of transportation, energy, agriculture, water resources and environmental stewardship.

"Sustainability science is continually evolving on many fronts in response to the issues affecting all sectors of society," says ISSE Director Randall Gentry. "As the science evolves, it becomes increasingly important to evaluate a diversity of perspectives on how we should define and implement sustainability. We can help advance the discussion by presenting expert perspectives on the pages of Indicator, along with news on the institute’s projects and programs."

The current edition of Indicator presents "Improving Sustainability, One Step at a Time," by U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander. In the essay, Alexander discusses the government’s role in reducing our reliance on fossil fuels, the potential of alternative fuels for meeting future transportation needs and the importance of preserving—and adequately funding—our national parks.

"The government can, and should, set technology-neutral targets and limits on pollution for the good of society and help create momentum for the private-sector," Alexander writes.

In "Fields of Change," Forbes Walker, associate professor in UT’s Biosystems Engineering and Soil Science Department, discusses the history of farming in Tennessee and the benefits of no-till agriculture, which curbs erosion, improves water quality and limits the escape of carbon into the atmosphere.

"Today, as you drive through Tennessee, you rarely see farmers using plows to till their land," Walker writes. "Since the 1960s, when Tennessee experienced some of the worst erosion in the nation, the state has been at the forefront in the development of systems for growing crops that minimize soil disturbance."

ISSE Director Gentry addresses the increase in conflicts over water resources in the Southeast, a region once regarded as water rich. In his essay, "Water Resources Sustainability in the Southeastern United States," Gentry points to numerous interstate conflicts and gleans important lessons that might help guide future decisions regarding this increasingly contentious resource.

"Under pressure from political constituents, it seems, state governments will always err on the side of protecting their own economic growth needs, infrastructure and habitat over another state’s interests," Gentry writes.

ISSE Senior Fellow Milton Russell, a former assistant administrator with the US EPA, suggests that our strategy for securing a sustainable future should be rooted in lessons from our past.

"Looking back three or four decades, neither Pollyanna nor the merchants of despair got it right," Russell writes in "Our Tenure of Stewardship."

"Perhaps both contributed needed perspective, however, to the reasonable hopeful state in which we find ourselves now," Russell writes.

For more info call 974-1178 or read the online edition of Indicator.