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Linking Science and Technology to Society's Environmental Goals Appendix F Summary of Breakout-Group Discussions On the last day of the forum, participants divided into four breakout groups to discuss what they had heard from the authors of the commissioned papers and those who gave keynote speeches and to discuss the process itself. A summary of the discussion by each group is presented below. GROUP I Group I enjoyed the breakout session portion of the meeting and felt that this portion should be expanded in future years to provide more time for discussion. As to issues that were addressed in the forum, Group I felt that the following issues were not sufficiently discussed during the forum: Energy Water Transportation Population Land use Its overall recommendation was that science and technology could help society by developing an infrastructure for a systems approach to monitoring that would provide an early warning system for such emerging areas as biotechnology; a decentralized monitoring system for data collected by local governments; and a centralized adaptive management approach to federal government activities such as that at the Advanced Research Projects Agency and the National Institutes of Health. In addition, Group I felt that the committee should set milestones for the
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Linking Science and Technology to Society's Environmental Goals scientific and engineering community. The committee should indicate that environmental research and development should be part of the normal activities of a business—as opposed to the current separation. Also, science and engineering schools should teach environmental ethics and more information about the social constraints on engineering and scientific activities so as to raise overall awareness of scientists and engineers in these matters. GROUP II Group II indicated that one of the current dilemmas that makes it difficult for the scientific and engineering community to respond to societal needs is that everything has high priority. Other issues that need to be addressed are the level to which the public is engaged in risk assessment and why the environmental effort at the federal level is separated into so many agencies, as opposed to a single institution. Issues that Group II felt should be addressed were these: Monitoring of biological, physical, and chemical changes Development of a source of available, inexpensive, renewable, noncarbon energy, while keeping in mind that conservation is still the least expensive source of energy Understanding of complex ecological, human, and other dynamic systems Development of negentropic technologies for mixing and separating products Such diverse subjects could be linked by a high-quality robust federal research and development system that focuses on the environment and is capable of coupling societal goals to science and technology. GROUP III Group III felt that the key issues were setting priorities and developing a knowledge and information base. Knowledge and information can be developed via a process that involves the broader scientific community, that adapts to new information, that takes action before damage occurs, and that takes into account the social context of environmental goals. Some problems that need to be addressed include the following: Multigenerational effects Groundwater pollution Ocean pollution Ocean pollution Nonpoint-source pollution Fish stocks Industrial ecology
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Linking Science and Technology to Society's Environmental Goals Clean water supply Nuclear power Pollution and the science and engineering infrastructure of developing countries Assimilative capacity of ecosystems Air quality trends Population growth and economic development Space and waste management Incremental pollution increase Triggers for pollution GROUP IV Group IV felt that some of the key issues society will wish that it had addressed 25 years in the future in terms of their impact on the environment are a decline in literacy and the fast pace of technological change (e.g., the life expectancy of computers is only two years). Science and technology can contribute to society's environmental goals by conducting research in energy sciences, particularly in decarbonization and renewable energy; environmental monitoring and dissemination of its results to evaluate progress (or lack thereof) in protecting the environment; economic science—how to balance benefits and costs, the cost of environmental compliance, the willingness of the current generation to sacrifice for the future, and the appropriate role of government in fostering environmental science and technology particularly with respect to incentives to companies to invest in such technologies; materials science in high-strength fibers, composites, chemicals, and electronic chemicals; and institutional impediments in the ecological system, transportation, biotechnology, and industrial progress.
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