Enter the IonE

Jon Foley

Jonathan Foley is the director of the Institute on the Environment at the University of the Minnesota, where he is a professor and McKnight Presidential Chair in the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior. He also leads the IonE’s Global Landscapes Initiative.

More and more, the public is gaining awareness of the energy and environmental problems facing the planet. Unfortunately, our efforts to find solutions, so far, have been inadequate, fragmented and short-sighted.

We’re still mired in the old argument of “jobs versus the environment.” We’ve failed to connect science and policy to practical problem solving or to engage people with anything more than shallow sound bites.

As you’ll see throughout this issue of Momentum, the energy problem is complicated, to say the least: Food, fresh water and energy are becoming increasingly interconnected as we rely on irrigation and petroleum-based chemicals to boost food production, and as we consider large-scale production of agriculturally-based biofuels. We must solve these problems simultaneously.

Without question, our world desperately needs a transformative approach to the environmental, social and economic challenges of building a secure energy system. But finding sustainable and equitable ways to provide energy, water and food to 9 billion-plus people will be the greatest challenge humanity has ever faced.

So, what is the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment doing to tackle this global challenge?

Since I arrived at the Institute in August 2008, we’ve been very busy developing some ambitious new programs, including a new cohort of resident fellows and a new cadre of research initiatives. We’ll provide more details on our fellows and programs in the coming weeks, so stay tuned for exciting news.

The Institute’s new research initiatives will greatly increase our understanding of human activities, changing natural resources and the global environment. At the same time, they will apply innovative technical, economic and policy solutions to complex sustainability issues.

Of course, science and technology alone are not enough. We also need to engage with businesses, non-governmental organizations, media outlets and policymakers to convert new knowledge into real-world solutions.

That’s why the Institute is designing programs to train the next generation of sustainability leaders. These leaders will learn to extend the latest science and technology developments to emerging opportunities in business, social entrepreneurship, public policy and mass communications. We are also creating international collaborative networks, which will broaden our reach to the entire world.

As we begin to launch these new programs, I would like to invite you to get involved. We can’t develop long-term solutions in a vacuum. We need your input and ideas. Working together, we can make a real difference in the world—both today and for future generations.

Jonathan Foley
Director, Institute on the Environment