Science Wednesday: Lisa Jackson, Eco-Warrior!

Each week we write about the science behind environmental protection. Previous Science Wednesdays.

How great it would be to be on the cover of the Rolling Stone! (…or would it be Spin now?) Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show aspired to this position in their famous song of 1972, written by Shel Silverstein. Well, getting an article about you in Rolling Stone is almost as good. So I was thrilled to read the current issue of Rolling Stone (Feb. 4, 2010) which has an article on our “Eco-Warrior” administrator, Lisa Jackson. Reporter Tim Dickinson says, “Taken together, Jackson’s efforts represent a sweeping attempt to revitalize an agency…The goal, as she (Administrator Jackson) sees it, is to once again base environmental regulations on science and the law…”

Sustainability is often described as a three-legged stool, with one leg each for the environment, the economy, and society. I think that the legs are not even, and the major support comes from the environment. Without the natural capital provided by our environment, we’d have no society or economy. Convincing evidence for the importance of the natural environment came from the Biosphere 2 project.

In the early 1990’s, a huge structure was built in the Arizona desert. Over 3 enclosed acres housed a variety of ecosystems with manmade recycling systems designed to imitate earth’s natural systems. The project, however, could not independently sustain humans or the other organisms inside. There were problems with oxygen and food, and outside electricity had to be used. Because of Biosphere 2, we learned that people don’t have the ability to design a self-sustaining ecosystem for human life. If we lose our natural ecosystem by failing in environmental protection, in the words of Dr. Gro Brundlant, chair of the first World Commission on Environment and Development, there will be no sanctuary. EPA’s mission, protecting the environment and human health, is key to our sustainability and survivability.

At EPA we rely on science and our intelligent leaders like Lisa Jackson to carry out this mission. Rolling Stone has duly recognized her, and I am very proud. Maybe next year she will make the cover!

About the Author: EPA Environmental scientist Dr. Barbara Karn focuses on “green” nanotechnologies, including using green chemistry, green engineering and environmentally benign manufacturing to make new nanomaterials and products for preventing pollution.