and devote resources to successfully designing sustainable policies. Fully integrating sustainability as it relates to the environment and human health requires identifying and contending with tradeoffs within complex economic, cultural, and political systems. Addressing the emerging challenges that EPA faces will require not only good science and technologies, but data and information from disciplines such as social, behavioral, and decision sciences and the integration of broader frameworks that will allow a systems approach to assessing and managing issues.

Frameworks for Incorporating Human—Environment Interactions

To respond effectively to complex and rapidly changing problems, it will be important for EPA to strive toward incorporating a broader array of interactions between humans and the environment into its regulatory and decision-making processes, identify optimal ways to advance core human development and sustain-ability goals, understand the tradeoffs that necessarily accompany decisions about specific ways to use environmental resources, and align response options with the level of governance at which options can be most effective. Several frameworks have been developed to identify and incorporate the full array of interactions between humans and the natural environment into planning and evaluation. The framework proposed by the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MEA) (MEA 2003, 2005) is useful because it includes the intrinsic value of biodiversity and ecosystems and recognizes that people use multiple criteria when making decisions about how to use the environment. The MEA framework focuses particular attention on the linkages between ecosystem services and human well-being (Figure 1-1) and also stresses the roles of science and engineering as direct and indirect drivers of environmental change. Similar frameworks have been developed by committees of the National Research Council (NRC) (NRC 2000, 2004) and EPA’s Science Advisory Board (EPA SAB 2002, 2009). The Heinz Center (2002, 2008) also developed a comprehensive framework for assessing the state of the nation’s ecosystems.

The frameworks highlight the importance of a comprehensive conceptual model of the environmental system that includes its structural elements, compositional elements, and dynamic functional properties. They also all direct attention to the supporting services (primary production, nutrient cycling, and soil formation) that are necessary for the generation of all other ecosystem services. EPA can draw upon those frameworks and increase its use of systems thinking as it incorporates new knowledge and technical tools into its science and management activities. Taking advantage of those types of frameworks will require scientific consortia that can provide an improved understanding of the problem, create opportunities for interactions between diverse areas of specialization, and integrate knowledge to identify effective solutions. This is a large job for any single agency or organization, so it will be imperative that networks and partnerships be created or enhanced. It will also be necessary for EPA to communicate

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement