Interdisciplinary Approaches in Solving Riverine Environmental Insults
Urban and agrarian communities have for centuries depended upon rivers for sustenance, power, crop health, cooling, and as an outlet for waste. The irony is that the sustaining resource was also the recipient of debris, organic byproducts and toxins. The resulting degradation sometimes reflected short term financial gain with little respect for nature and long term consequences. Industry and government, occasionally influenced by grass-roots action, often intervened too late or too little. The end result often left impasses between economists, lawyers, politicians, sociologists, scientists, environmentalists, and the community. These differences often played out in courts and the political field, with arguments about rights, environmental justice, health, and fiscal responsibility. In most cases results yielded long delays in taking corrective action and deeper divisions between concerned parties.
It seems logical that approaches to remedy environmental issues follow an approach bringing industry, government, community and academia together with a longer term goal of sustainability, and economic and community health. Within this approach must be an equally represented subset of disciplinary expertise. Extant contamination and future remediation of our rivers can only be understood and planned for with input from scientists, sociologists, legislators, industrialists, city planners, health professionals, economists, and broad public participation. Representation of the various constituencies and disciplines should not be relegated to a final hearing with “expert witnesses” but instead during earlier multidisciplinary considerations of approach, well before a legal hearing. All too often lines are drawn and separate impacts (read as individual disciplinary responses) are debated. Environmental degradation and solutions will not be found in silos. Instead, formal interdisciplinary discussions must be the core of proposed solutions. It must also be recognized that solutions for problems that have sometimes taken centuries to emerge and have broad impacts across applied disciplines, will take time to resolve, repair, and reveal benefits.
Keywords: Environment, Rivers, Interdisciplinary Solutions
Dr. Robert Prezant
Dean, College of Science and Mathematics, Montclair State University