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Note from PEI's Director

Stephen Pacala
Steve Pacala trekking through a forest in Nova Scotia, 2011. (Photo: Lise Pacala)

The environmental challenges facing the world today are so vast that any solution will have tremendous social and environmental impacts. We thus require not only technological advances, but also an understanding of scientific, social, and political impacts.

At PEI, we approach today’s environmental challenges from multiple dimensions: the scientific, technical, policy, and human. We not only seek technical solutions, such as carbon capture and sequestration, but also to understand all pieces of the puzzle including: loss of alpine and arctic species because of the disappearance of their habitat; the spread of cholera and malaria into habitats that are more amenable due to rising temperatures; and the impact of extreme weather on human health and wellbeing. We also analyze: the economic damages forecast as a result of the inevitable rise of sea levels; the economic merits of a carbon tax; the environmental damages from natural gas exploration; the design and geometry of a smart grid; potential models for reaching an international carbon treaty; and the ethical implications of distributing environmental impacts among more wealthy and disadvantaged populations.

This issue of PEI News provides a sampling of the breadth of research, teaching, and outreach underway at our center. The class snapshot on pages 4-7 provides insights into the inspiration for Bryan Grenfell and Ramanan Laxminarayan’s course on disease ecology, economics and policy and the impact of that experience on our students. Other stories showcase PEI funded internships in Asia; the recently launched interdisciplinary consortium for rainforest research geared toward undergraduates; a fall break excursion to examine the fallout resulting from the Gulf oil spill; and news from PEI-STEP alumni, David Edwards *05. Don’t miss the highlights from PEI research centers and the Grand Challenges Program beginning on page 20.

I am particularly excited to share news that the Grand Challenges integrated research and teaching program will continue for an additional five years, benefitting from the generous support of Mrs. John H. T. Wilson ’56, Mr. Ray E. Newton, III ’86, Mr. Barry A. Gleichenhaus ’78, and Mr. George H. Shenk ’65. It is the support of these individuals and many others that enables PEI’s continued success as a leader in environmental research, education, and outreach.

As I reflect upon the rapid increase in students participating in the Environmental Studies Program at Princeton, and the high caliber of their work (page 23), I have great hope that we are well on our way to finding the remedies we seek.