Sustainability can mean different things to different people. Some think energy, replacing fossil fuels with biodiesel, wind or other renewables. To others it’s about managing natural resources — forests, fisheries, agricultural lands — for long-term health and productivity. To people in business, it’s also about staying afloat financially. Take farms for example. Whether or not an eastern Oregon ranch or a Willamette Valley vegetable farm is sustainable depends on the cost of fuel, water, fertilizers and other factors.
Across the board, three themes define sustainability: economy, environment and community. Becoming more efficient, reducing waste and providing jobs all contribute to sustainability goals. They are also the hallmarks of businesses that have weathered the vagaries of natural, economic and political cycles to continue producing food and fiber year-in and year-out. That’s no small feat in a rapidly changing world. New hurdles appear regularly: higher energy prices, changing regulations, increasing competition for water.
OSU research is helping to create the foundation for new sustainable practices. For example, OSU’s Institute for Water and Watersheds and the OSU Extension Service are working with communities in the Umatilla and Klamath basins to solve water problems. This issue of Terra describes how Bruce Mate’s marine mammal studies are helping to maintain whale populations around the globe. Work on renewable energy sources is expanding alternatives to petroleum and coal, benefiting rural communities as well as the environment. On the social side, a study of adolescent stress aims to ease that often turbulent time of transition for our youth.
More information about sustainability at OSU is available at oregonstate.edu/sustainability/
Nick Houtman, Editor