Solving Sustainable Development Problems
I’m Gail Achterman. I’m the director of the Institute for Natural Resources at Oregon State. The Institute is one of the multi-campus research institutes in the Oregon University system. But it’s housed at Oregon State and investments by Oregon State University really made it possible to create this inter-disciplinary research center. We do research on natural resource policy and management and environmental policy and management issues. And we also work extensively on integrated natural resource information systems. We really work as a research group that helps policy-makers in Oregon answer their questions. And at the same time we try to work with policy-makers and the broader public to identify high-priority problems that need to be solved. So an example of the kind of work we do, when policy-makers come to us, is an evaluation we did of the effectiveness of our statewide land use program, which helped inform the legislative deliberations on what kinds of changes might be needed in that system. One other reason that sustainable development is so important is that our current systems, and this is a big part of what we study, are very fragmented. We have silos that split up how we manage natural resources in the environment even though we know that all of the systems are integrated. So we have a parallel set of federal agencies that do all those things. And so on both the information side and the policy side of what the Institute for Natural Resources does, we’re trying to figure out how we can break down those barriers. How we can put all the information together so that we look at the whole system, not the various silos, so that you don’t have to go to one place to look for water information, another place to look for forestry information. And we’re doing that in conjunction with the OSU libraries, where we have developed a series of web portals called The Oregon Explorer. And that allows people to learn about their space across all those silos by going one place instead of 15 places. We’ve got to understand, like the example with Clean Water Services or other examples with the Oregon Department of Transportation, how can we invest in new roads and highways, how can we invest in our waste water infrastructure systems, in a way that reduces the time and cost delivering those solutions and at the same time improves the environmental outcomes. And we’re very fortunate that local government agencies like Clean Water Services, and state agencies like the Oregon Department of Transportation have been willing to partner with the university system to invent and test these new ways of doing business. Which should get better results in terms of development at the same time that we get better results for the environment .