Purpose of This Blog
From Perspective to Approach to Action
My current interpretation of energy-water-food nexus work is that it is creating and building a nexus perspective. That is, there is a growing realization of the interwoven nature of natural resource management. Work has begun to catalog the available resources; to document the interactions and inter dependencies that are known. Building a nexus perspective is a necessary first step, and has resulted in the proliferation of the energy-water-food nexus idea. But a nexus perspective, in isolation, does not lead to action. In fact, I have purposely redacted statistics and numbers from this first post, as I feel they can obfuscate what I believe is the necessary next step. If the research community desires, as I do, to extend our resources, something more is needed. We, as a community have to go from a nexus perspective, to a nexus approach, to nexus action. The relevant facts and details collected to engender a nexus perspective must be organized under some unifying framework or idea (yet another blog post to come). The necessary next step is a synthesis of multiple disciplines. The energy water food nexus is too connected and too complex to be housed in a single ‘silo’. Thus, the purpose of this blog is to help build a community of people who are interested in pursuing a nexus approach; who want to help create tools that lead to nexus action.
Purpose of My Research
Engineering Solutions to Extend our Resources
There are a lot of levers to pull in this space, but I am an engineer. Engineering is what I know. I was indoctrinated to try to solve problems as I see them, and I see a problem. The world is finite. We must live on this planet with the resources available. We must live on this planet with 7+billion others. I don’t want to get into social topics and ethics yet, but the universal declaration of human rights is worth reading. I am also influenced by the book: Limits to Growth in this regard. I am not smart enough to save the planet, but I would like to help stall, to buy some time, to extend what we have a little longer. This is where science can help. Incremental improvements in efficiency and a system understanding will buy time. It may only be a little at first, but the cumulative effect of a robust and vigorous scientific community will be felt. I admit that this is not THE solution to the problem we face, but I do have some thoughts on the matter, and a rationale as to why I have chosen this strategy (more to follow in another blog post)
Who am I?
NEWAg, the name of this blog and of my lab at Oregon State University, stands for the Nexus of Energy Water and Agriculture. I agree that it is an unlikely topic of interest for someone with my educational background (mostly based in engineering and fluid mechanics). It is a topic that found me. It hit me like a ton of bricks just after I was hired at Oregon State in an irrigation position. In the American West, agricultural prosperity is tied to irrigation and water availability, but there is more to it. Water is an integrative substance that links scientific disciplines and physical processes. The first grant I ever received was to investigate energy saving irrigation technologies for the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance (NEEA). This got me thinking about the energy cost of water and the water cost of food. Water is heavy; it takes a lot of energy to move.
That winter, I attended the American Geophysical Union conference and listened to a talk that outlined a hypothesis: wind turbines altered the transport of materials in the atmosphere near the land surface. Neurons fired, and a connection was forged with the irrigation work. I had imprinted on the scenery from my drive to the irrigated fields.
They were surrounded by wind turbines. If the wind turbines changed the transport of everything, then they should change the evaporation. Even sustainable energy can cost water. Energy, water, and food were connected. Not just connected, but interwoven. Energy, water and food may be fungible! I came back from AGU invigorated and immediately drew the following on the white board.
My first ever nexus diagram. An admittedly feeble attempt, but give me some credit, it was an absolute brain dump. Of course, this was not the first time someone had this realization, but it was the moment when I realized the importance of systems level interactions in natural resource management.
How did you ‘discover’ the energy water food nexus?