Reflections on the recent National Council for Science and the Environment conference

As a federal representative from the agency that sponsors INFEWS, the first federal food-energy-water nexus solicitation, I was eager to attend this year’s National Council for Science and the Environment (NCSE) conference in January, which focused on the food-energy-water (FEW) nexus.

The conference did not disappoint.

NCSE brought together concerned citizens from across the globe to discuss problems and potential solutions associated with the FEW nexus. It was truly heartening to see so many interested participants take part in collaborative thinking on this multi-systems problem. Attendees included representatives from federal, state, and local governments, community organizations, academia, NGOs and industry.

In particular, I was struck by the realization that, while federal and private research can provide solutions to FEW nexus problems, successful adaptation and implementation must really happen at the state and local levels. Numerous examples of local communities bringing together resources to creatively combat food, energy, and water security and sustainability issues gave the academic researchers leads on future research topics.

The discussed issues represented a call-to-action for all public and private interests: Communities MUST work together to solve these problems and protect future food, water and energy security.

Collaborative research is the key to defining critical problems and developing appropriate solutions. To accomplish this, researchers must look outside their own research disciplines, as well as the research community itself, to truly understand and solve these problems. I look forward to the ideas proposed by future INFEWS principle investigators, and, in particular, how they plan to engage local communities in their efforts.

By Brandi Schottel, PhD, science analyst for Innovations at the Nexus of Food, Energy, and Water Systems (INFEWS), Division of Chemical, Bioengineering, Environmental, and Transport Systems of the Engineering Directorate, National Science Foundation

The image above is of a 1.5-acre parcel of land owned by the City of Chicago provided to an urban farming initiative; image credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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