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Breaking the Logjam

Breaking the Logjam: Environmental Protection That Will Work

David Schoenbrod
Richard B. Stewart
Katrina M. Wyman
Illustrations by Deborah Paulus-Jagrič
Copyright Date: 2010
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 160
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  • Book Info
    Breaking the Logjam
    Book Description:

    After several decades of significant but incomplete successes, environmental protection in the United States is stuck. Administrations under presidents of both parties have fallen well short of the goals of their environmental statutes. Schoenbrod, Stewart, and Wyman, distinguished scholars in the field of environmental law, identify the core problems with existing environmental statutes and programs and explain how Congress can fix them. Based on a project the authors led that incorporated the work of more than fifty leading environmental experts, this book is a call to action through public understanding based on a nonpartisan argument for smarter, more flexible regulatory programs to stimulate the economy and encourage green technology.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-14961-6
    Subjects: Environmental Science, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface: The Logjammed Congress
    (pp. ix-xviii)

    • CHAPTER 1 Coping with Complexity: The Schooling Fish
      (pp. 3-18)

      The federal environmental statutes frustrate protection of the environment by requiring agencies to use methods that are unworkably centralized and complex. The Clean Air Act is one example among many. It commands the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to use exacting regulatory systems with the admirable goal of protecting us from each pollutant at each point in the country. The systems must take account of emissions caused by not only power generation and manufacturing, but also the design of vehicles, the driving habits of motorists, the layout of highways and mass transportation, the operation of every sort of building from hospitals...

    • CHAPTER 2 How We Got Lost in Complexity: The Mistaken Squirrel
      (pp. 19-30)

      A squirrel crossing a country road stops in the middle, notices your oncoming car, and takes a few hops back the way it came. You slow down to give the creature time to get off the road, but it reverses direction again, and then again, remaining in your path. You slam on the brakes, but too late to stop. You hope it eluded the wheels and mutter about its infuriating indecisiveness.

      Actually, the squirrel has decisively implemented a tactic evolved to meet a threat from a predator such as a fox. “When [the eastern gray squirrel] is caught unawares in...


    • CHAPTER 3 Principles of Reform: The Adapting Beaver
      (pp. 33-56)

      By building and maintaining a dam, beavers transform a stream into a pond in which they build their lodge and stockpile their food. Once they consume their favorite food species in the vicinity of the pond, they move on, and the old dam, no longer maintained, is swept away. Eventually, the food species regrow, and the beavers return. After many repetitions of this cycle, so much sediment from the still waters behind the dam settles in the pond that it can turn into a lush meadow, much different ecologically from the woods and stream that had been there. The beaver...

    • CHAPTER 4 Climate Change: The Combustible Rock
      (pp. 57-72)

      To moderate climate change requires cutting emissions of greenhouse gases (chiefly carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide), which keep energy from escaping from the earth’s surface into space.¹ The leading culprit is the carbon dioxide that comes from burning oil, coal, and natural gas. It is easy enough for government to vow to cut carbon dioxide emissions but hard to determine precisely how to do so, at least without losing popular support. The problem is that burning such fossil fuels is basic to our economy. To burn less requires either constricting our economy (e.g., fewer goods and services), making the...

    • CHAPTER 5 Air Pollution: The Old Body
      (pp. 73-98)

      Andre Agassi was born in 1970 and became a tennis star in 1990 by reaching the finals of the French Open and the U.S. Open. He went on to win many important titles and, by virtue of a relentless conditioning program, kept winning them past the age most players retire from the world circuit. Conditioning can help an aging athlete maintain endurance and strength but may be less effective in maintaining joints, tendons, and ligaments. One reason is that tissue gets stiffer and more prone to injury over the years.¹ Agassi was forced to retire in 2006 at the age...

    • CHAPTER 6 Lands, Waters, and Other Natural Resources: The Organized Ant
      (pp. 99-116)

      Army ants go forth to hunt in hordes of hundreds of thousands. “Wherever they move,” a naturalist wrote in 1863, “the whole animal world is set in commotion, and every creature tries to get out of their way.” What gives the ants such power is self-organization, which allows them to act collectively. Through collective action, these tiny ants can take on prey that tower over them, such as crickets and cockroaches, and even sometimes vertebrates.¹

      The power of collective action also figures in fights among humans over who benefits from government-owned natural resources. When Congress gives agencies broad power to...

    • CHAPTER 7 Smarter Government: The Tool-Wielding Monkey
      (pp. 117-142)

      The best addition to brownies or turkey stuffing is the rich, strongly flavored kernel of the black walnut tree. The nuts must be gathered after they ripen (but before other creatures make off with them), husked, dried for several weeks in a cool, secure place, and then cracked open. Some people do the husking by driving over the nuts with their cars, the drying by stowing them in their attic, and the cracking by blows from a hammer.

      Getting to the kernel of the palm nut is also tough, but the capuchin monkeys of Boa Vista, Brazil, can do it,...


    • CHAPTER 8 Breaking the Logjam: “My Antelope”
      (pp. 145-152)

      The Tibetan antelope stands about three feet tall at the shoulder, with reddish-brown flanks and a white underbelly. The male sports slender, caliper-shaped horns up to two feet long. The antelope’s soft, dense underfur has helped it survive the harsh winters of the Tibetan Plateau but, ironically, has made it an endangered species. This underfur can be woven into scarves that feel more luxurious than cashmere, yet are so light they can be pulled through a wedding ring. Because such scarves fetch fabulous prices, this fur sells in India for more than one thousand dollars per kilogram. The only way...

  7. Notes
    (pp. 153-188)
  8. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 189-192)
  9. Index
    (pp. 193-198)