Instituting Environmental Wisdom

November 30, 2009
A Bald Eagle

Debris in water

Photodisc by Getty Images






Created at Duke in 2005, the Nicholas Institute for Environ-mental Policy Solutions aims to be a resource for finding solutions to critical environmental problems. Its inaugural director is Tim Profeta, former counsel to Senator Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut; its founding advisory-board chair is William K. Reilly, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency under President George H.W. Bush.

Conceived as a university-wide initiative, the Nicholas Institute operates in conjunction with the Nicholas School of the Environment, whose faculty members have a range of expertise in global change, ecosystem science, coastal ecosystem processes, environmental health, and environmental economics. The institute draws ideas from Duke Medical Center, the Fuqua School of Business, the Pratt School of Engineering, and the Sanford School of Public Policy. In assembling expertise, it also reaches out to partners in industry and government, environmental organizations, and other academic institutions.

The institute's key activity is providing policymakers with unbiased, scientific evaluations of policy risks and rewards. "In the short term," according to its mission statement, "the Nicholas Institute aims to fill a major void in the environmental-policy debate, by serving as an independent source of credible information that will be equally trusted by all parties and fully capable of bridging the divisions that too often today prevent progress on consequential issues."

Ultimately, the institute aims to be "the first call made by businesses seeking to craft workable strategies to address environmental problems; by policymakers seeking to understand environmental science and to draft balanced, cost-effective legislative and regulatory solutions; and by news media seeking the best thinking and most reliable data to inform an environmental article."