Proposal abstract

The sustainability of the rural Alaskan lifestyle is increasingly suspect. This proposed food-energy-water nexus workshops will lead to collaborations and results with the potential to add to this public discussion on the sustainability of this lifestyle. Attendees will be a diverse group representing academia, agencies, communities, organizations, and industry. The agenda emphasizes active participation to facilitate discussion and progress in key fields. The key result of the event will be a report including a summary of discussions, ideas for further study in the food-energy-water field, and recommendations for ways to transform workshop results into visualizations, decision-support tools and other concrete deliverables.

Of the greater than 25 food-energy-water nexus workshops recently funded by the NSF, none have addressed the unique and significant challenges to food, water, and energy production and acquisition posed by high-latitude environments and "islanded communities." These include extreme swings in weather and daylight hours and the isolation of many Arctic communities from the main transport network and electrical grid. As a result, islanded communities are especially vulnerable to fluctuations and disruptions in supplies of food, energy, and water. Short growing seasons make agriculture difficult, water pollutants and hygiene are constant concerns, and imported energy costs are exorbitant. In addition, the local renewable energy sources are sporadic in nature and difficult to maintain. These issues make it incumbent upon the research community and the nation to find ways to improve the stability, efficiency, and affordability in all three areas of the nexus for islanded communities. The growing emphasis on the food-energy-water nexus has yet to be extended to islanded communities, making these areas both a crucial and fertile area for examination and research. Furthermore, the self-contained nature of these communities makes them excellent places to examine the FEW nexus as a relatively closed system. The workshop is organized around three areas: 1. Infrastructure Engineering, including topics such as efficient greenhouses, improved equipment to store and manage intermittent energy loads from renewables, and infrastructure to affordably provide clean drinking water and proper sewage disposal, 2. Environmental Engineering, including topics such as bioaccumulated toxins in subsistence foods, and the high energy levels needed to provide clean water in islanded communities, and 3. Society and Economy, including topics such as the rising energy requirements (and hence prices) of subsistence practices and the need for improved security of water sources.

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