News and Research Stories

May 30, 2012

Sustainability: Cutting a path to wise choices

Joe Arvai

photo: alex

What does it mean to make a good decision in the context of sustainability? To answer this question, Joe Arvai (2011) introduces a process called "structured decision-making" to cut through the complexity that often surrounds choices about how to use resources.

May 14, 2012

Hydraulic fracturing: new wastewater policies needed

Jeanne VanBriesen

photo: Shale gas drilling tower (Ruhrfisch)

Jeanne VanBriesen (2009) and her colleagues have found that wastewater generated by hydraulic fracturing for natural gas production contains potentially harmful pollutants, including salts, heavy metals, organic and inorganic compounds, oil, and grease, as well as naturally occurring radioactive material. They note that current treatment and disposal methods are inadequate to protect human health and the environment. Based on these findings, they recommend policy changes, stressing that stronger safeguards at the state and federal levels could better protect against the risks associated with this waste.

May 9, 2012

Nature tourism: who benefits?

Jianguo (Jack) Liu

photo: Chi King


According to a long-term study on the Wolong Nature Reserve in China coauthored by Jianguo Liu (2001), the benefits of nature-based tourism often go mostly to a few local elites and rarely reach the poor. Liu and his colleagues also found that participating in tourism raises environmental awareness and acknowledgement of tradeoffs between conservation and tourism-focused development. For protected areas in developing countries, local people, especially the poor, should be included in the policy design process from the early phases, in order to reduce poverty and promote conservation effectively, the team says.

May 7, 2012

Ranchers and scientists team up to fight greenhouse gases

Whendee Silver

photo: Stephen Gold

Whendee Silver (2009) and her colleagues are partnering with California ranchers to learn how rangelands can be used to remove carbon dioxide from the air and reduce greenhouse gases. The team uses high-quality compost to grow grasses that absorb the carbon and pump it deep into the soil through the plants' roots. They have found that soil in the composted areas stores more carbon than soil in other areas. As a next step, the team is looking to other partners to help create financial incentives for more landowners join the project. "The endgame is to have a real impact on farms and on the climate," they say.

May 2, 2012

Biodiversity ranks with climate change, pollution in affecting planet's health, team says

J. Emmett Duffy, David Hooper, Bruce Hungate

A research team including David Hooper (2006), Emmett Duffy (2006), and Bruce Hungate (2004) has found that future loss of species could impact ecosystem health and productivity as much as global warming and pollution. They are the first group to make a comprehensive comparison of the impacts of biodiversity loss with the effects of other environmental changes. The team emphasizes the need for stronger efforts to protect biodiversity, which supports nature’s ability to provide services such as food, clean water, and a stable climate.