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Environment Magazine September/October 2008

 

July-August 2012

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Editorial: Connections

Among the many other things science is—fact filled, hypothesis driven, providing insight into the natural world—it also has its own aesthetic. Scientists often describe a “beautiful” experiment, meaning more than that it provides results. Equations are often described in the same way.

In this issue, we are making something of a departure from our usual scientific analysis of environment and sustainability articles, and publishing a piece on art–science collaborations. Describing several different collaborations, the article explores them not only from artistic and scientific points of view, looking at the insights that one area can give to another, but also from a “ground-up” approach that is part of this overall point of view. As scientists, we are always searching for ways to appeal to the public in our discussions on issues of sustainability, and perhaps this piece will provide an avenue with which to do this.

We are very eager to have your response to this initiative, as there are obviously many questions that need to be answered. What is the role of an artistic approach to issues of sustainability? What insights does it bring to the table? And should this collaboration be expanded?

Talking about connections, the relationships between the law and science have their own complex dynamics. This is true in many arenas, certainly in the case of forensics, for example, but here we concentrate on the environment. Ever since the formation of environmental law groups such as the Natural Resources Defense Council and Environmental Defense, to name just two of the many fine organizations bringing the law to bear on environmental issues, many have turned their attention to the role of the law in bringing about improvements in our lives. In a particularly insightful article, David Boyd takes us on a tour of the constitutional issues involving the right to a healthy environment. So far, 92 countries have embodied such a right in their constitution, and Boyd demonstrates that in many cases embodying this right in the basic law of a nation has led to dramatic improvements in the lives of citizens. Again, this raises many questions. Should this right be in a universal declaration of human rights? What other “rights”—such as for a well-paid job, freedom from criminal assault, and so forth—should be included in constitutions? As before, we would love to hear your answers.

And, finally, forests. We love them. Most of us want more of them. And we know—or at least we think we know—that they are “good” things. They are complex ecosystems that provide for much diversity and contain many of the plant and animal species that we like. In addition, they sequester carbon, taking it out of the atmosphere where an excess of it causes such climate problems.

That is a very good thing. But how do we know how much carbon is sequestered? A seemingly simple question but, as Roger Sedjo and Molly Macauley point out, quite difficult to determine. It is an interesting take on the role of technology in science and in policymaking. Not only do we have to have the technology, but when and if we have it, we have to ensure that it is applied on a world-wide basis.

We await your comments.

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