Interview with Dr. Saikawa, Part Two
A few weeks ago, I spoke with Dr. Eri Saikawa on urban ecology and its relation to public policy. This is the second part of the interview, which relates more to Atlanta and Georgia, as well as her own personal projects.
When asked if she felt lead contamination was the most pressing issue in Atlanta, Dr. Saikawa replied that she felt it was one of the most important, but the presence of so many different issues makes it much more complicated. For example, where the lead was found, a lot of the residents were less wealthy, meaning they could not afford food or electricity, which was compounded by the lead contamination.
Dr. Saikawa’s current projects consist of setting up air quality sensors at school to help with environmental education, reducing food waste and converting it to sustainable energy, testing children for harmful substances in the West Atlanta area, studying and reducing the effects of burning plastic in Guatemalan kitchens, analyzing how the Atlanta climate will change and compare it to current citizens’ perceptions of these issues, measuring and modeling emissions from corn farms in Atlanta, measuring and modeling emissions from vegetable farms in North Carolina, and analyzing how chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) correlates with race based on previous exposure.
Relative to her field of study, public policy and ecology are essentially intertwined. For example, funding for research and projects is dependent on politics. Although environmental issues don’t seem political on their head, the way in which they are protected is sometimes very political. A specific example is vehicle emission regulations, which Dr. Saikawa studied, along with how they are translated into other countries’ societies. Economic incentives are a very important aspect of environmental protection because unfortunately, they’re usually needed in order to spur action.