In October 2015, Dr. Joshua Newell, assistant professor in the School of Natural Resources and Environment at the University of Michigan, organized a NSF-sponsored FEW workshop. The workshop, titled “Scaling Up” Urban Agriculture to Mitigate Food-Energy-Water Impacts, focused on cities and their impacts on FEW systems.
As urban populations grow, so does demand for resources from distant geographies. It is vital to look at how these emerging relationships affect the sustainability of FEW systems and the related resiliency of cities.
Newell took time to answer some questions about FEW nexus research.
Ariela Zycherman (AZ): What made you interested in the Food-Energy-Water nexus?
Joshua Newell (JN): I became interested in the FEW nexus through my work on cities, which are complex, emergent ecosystems. Cities are sites of resource consumption, and as such, shape food-energy-water flows across time and space.
AZ: What is your disciplinary background, and how do you see it relating to the nexus?
JN: I am trained as a geographer, which is a discipline that integrates natural and social systems when seeking to understand dynamics such as the food-energy-water nexus.
AZ: What do you enjoy about interdisciplinary collaboration?
JN: Successfully tackling ‘wicked’ challenges such as the sustainability and resilience of FEW systems necessitates an interdisciplinary approach. I really enjoy working in large research teams, as each discipline offers particular strengths that, when combined, can create really powerful approaches, insights, and solutions to our pressing global scientific challenges.
AZ: What is the next step for you in terms of Food-Energy-Water Nexus research?
JN: My colleagues and I are interested in developing an integrated systems approach to understand and transform how food, energy and water systems are connected in the urban context.
AZ: What was the coolest thing you learned at the Food-Energy-Water Nexus workshop?
JN: We were reminded that we need to understand how cities are nested in broader regions and that they are highly interdependent with global economic, social, and ecological dynamics. Thus, food production-consumption systems need to be understood from this perspective.
Learn more about Joshua Newell, and read the white paper from the University of Michigan workshop.
Joshua Newell was interviewed By Ariela Zycherman, PhD, AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellow, Division of Chemical, Bioengineering, Environmental, and Transport Systems, Directorate of Engineering, National Science Foundation.