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Environment, Economics, EPA

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jackson.jpgCan strong environmental protection and a healthy economy be compatible? Absolutely, Lisa P. Jackson, head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, told a crowd of several hundred several hundred environmental leaders, faculty and students last week at the University of Minnesota's Coffman Memorial Union Theater.

In town to launch a new program aimed at enlisting farmers to improve water quality in lakes and rivers, Jackson took the opportunity to share her thoughts in conversation with Deborah Swackhamer, EPA Science Advisory Board chair and University of Minnesota Water Resources Center co-director,  at a forum hosted by the University of Minnesota's Center for Science, Technology & Public Policy; Water Resources Center; Office of the President; Institute on the Environment; Consortium on Law and Values, on Health, Environment & the Life Sciences; and School of Public Health. Among Jackson's key points:

* Science, policy and technology are all critical to environmental protection. Science is at the core of EPA's  mission. Policy has resulted in huge environmental quality gains, most visibly through the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act. Technology not only offers new approaches to environmental protection, but also stimulates the economy by creating a need for new products. For example, the new national fuel economy standards call for new engineering to meet new goals, and the new mercury and air toxics standards will require job-creating upgrades to many coal-fired power plants.

• Environmental issues are also health issues, jobs issues, faith issues. "We have to remember to expand the conversation," Jackson said, to people who don't see themselves as environmentalists, but whose areas of concern align with those of the traditional environmental arena. "I'm all about broad coalitions."

* Knowledge is important - but even more important is a sense of service. Jackson encouraged students in the audience to develop a service mind-set, and to take their resource-protecting values and low-footprint way of living into the world with them when they graduate.

* The EPA plays an important role in modeling and motivating environmental protection for developing nations, in particular, China, India and Brazil. 

* With limited ability to get things done at the federal level, states and communities are critical to continuing the quest for environmental protection, from toxic substances control to climate change.

Like to learn more? Watch the recorded conversation here.

Photo courtesy of Sophia Ginis

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  of the Institute on the Environment/University of Minnesota.