Interview with Dr Stephen J. Jordan

Posted Tue, Jun, 09,2015

This author interview is by Dr Stephen J. Jordan, of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.  Dr Jordan's full paper, Sustainable Watersheds: Integrating Ecosystem Services and Public Health, is available for download in Environmental Health Insights.

Please summarize for readers the content of your article

In this article, we present the concept of watershed sustainability and describe how it can be assessed and applied at national and finer scales. Sustainability takes us beyond traditional environmental assessments to include the dimensions of economic benefits, social benefits, and human health. As other authors have noted, watersheds are uniquely suited to comprehensive, scalable assessments of sustainability.

How did you come to be involved in your area of study?

Sustainability became a major focus of the Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Research and Development under former Assistant Administrator Paul Anastas. This new direction stimulated our studies of sustainability and how it could be incorporated into our national research programs.

What was previously known about the topic of your article?

Sustainability as a concept dates back at least to the passage of the National Environmental Policy Act in 1969, although the terminology is more recent. Research in this area dates roughly from the 1980s, although much of the research has been focused on single sectors (e.g., manufacturing, agriculture, transportation) or specific localities rather than the expansive view we present in the article.

How has your work in this area advanced understanding of the topic?

This is the fifth article on sustainability I have published as lead author. In these papers, we have developed several novel ways to apply concepts of sustainability over large spatial and temporal scales. Two examples are: (1) a paper in Humanities (2013)1 considering the implications of sustainability and its alternatives for the future of civilization, and (2) an article in Sustainability (2014)2 that examines how various policies in the Gulf of Mexico coastal zone contribute positively or negatively to sustainability. The current article in Environmental Health Insights is, we believe, the first publication to outline how assessments of sustainability can be made operational across watersheds nationally.

What do you regard as being the most important aspect of the results reported in the article?

 We hope that this article will supply guidance to those conducting the research and implementation of national assessments of watershed sustainability. In turn, these assessments will contribute to improving the environment and human health through better data, greater understanding, and more effective management.

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