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Thinking Ecologically

Thinking Ecologically: The Next Generation of Environmental Policy

Marian R. Chertow
Daniel C. Esty
Copyright Date: 1997
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    Thinking Ecologically
    Book Description:

    Twenty-five years ago, the Cuyahoga River in Ohio was so contaminated that it caught fire, air pollution in some cities was thick enough to taste, and environmental laws focused on the obvious enemy: large American factories with belching smokestacks and pipes gushing wastes. Federal legislation has succeeded in providing cleaner air and water, but we now confront a different set of environmental problems-less visible and more subtle. This important book offers thought-provoking ideas on how America can respond to changing public health and ecological risks and create sound environmental policy for the future.The innovative thinkers of the Next Generation Project of the Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy-experts from business, government, nongovernmental organizations, and academia-propose reforms that balance environmental efforts with other public needs and issues. They call for new foundations for environmental law and policy, adoption of a more diverse set of policy tools and strategies (economic incentives, ecolabels), and new connections between critical sectors (agriculture, energy, transportation, service providers) and environmental policy. Future progress must involve not only officials from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and state environmental protection departments, say the authors, but also decision-makers as diverse as mayors, farmers, energy company executives, and delivery route planners. To be effective, next-generation policy-making will view environmental challenges comprehensively, connect academic theory with practical policy, and bridge the gaps that have caused recent policy debates to break down in rancor. This book begins the process of accomplishing these challenging goals.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-14703-2
    Subjects: Environmental Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Thinking Ecologically: An Introduction
    (pp. 1-16)
    Daniel C. Esty and Marian R. Chertow

    Thomas Jefferson observed more than two hundred years ago that every generation must reinvent the institutions of society to serve its own needs. A generation has passed and much has changed since Earth Day 1970, which awakened so many Americans to environmental issues and which might be viewed as the starting point for the modern era in environmental law and policy.Thinking Ecologicallylooks back at what this “first generation” accomplished and forward to where the next generation of policies should go.¹

    Like nature itself, the size and shape of environmental problems are constantly evolving. Twenty-five years ago, we faced...

  5. I Foundations for the Next Generation

    • one Industrial Ecology: Overcoming Policy Fragmentation
      (pp. 19-36)
      Charles W. Powers and Marian R. Chertow

      A generation ago the task of environmental protection seemed simpler. Pollution of air, water, and land was the unwanted by-product of economic activity and had to be stopped, typically by very specific directives embodied in strong central government regulation. In contrast, a generation later, we comprehend the underlying issues of environmental protection quite differently. We find that we have only just begun to recognize the interconnectedness of ecological phenomena and to see that our past policy and law have often missed the mark or been unresponsive to new scientific and technical knowledge.¹

      Through the lens of the emerging field of...

    • two Ecosystem Management and Economic Development
      (pp. 37-48)
      John Gordon and Jane Coppock

      Protecting nature and developing the economy have often been viewed as separate, if not opposing, activities. Frequently it has seemed to come down to an either/or choice: either seal off an area from economic development to protect threatened species or support the economy by putting as few environmental constraints as possible on new projects. Environmental regulation has been seen as the creation of a central government that showed little or no understanding of its effect on people’s livelihoods. Economic development has been perceived as being carried out with little or no regard for the damage it was doing to vital...

    • three Property Rights and Responsibilities
      (pp. 49-59)
      Carol M. Rose

      Environmental protection often seems to be at loggerheads with private property. In the United States, as in other parts of the world, the claim is often heard that environmental regulation deprives private property owners of part (or all) of the value of their land. Much of the concern arises from the burdens placed on particular individuals, who may find, for example, that they are being asked to preserve wetlands or endangered species habitat on land they had planned to develop. Such individuals claim that they are being unfairly singled out to bear the costs of public environmental protection programs.


    • four Land Use: The Forgotten Agenda
      (pp. 60-75)
      John Turner and Jason Rylander

      Take a look across America. From Boston to Baton Rouge, massive changes have taken place on the landscape and in our society. A seasoned traveler, dropped onto a commercial street anywhere in America, could scarcely tell the location from the immediate vista. A jungle of “big box” retailers, discount stores, fast-food joints, and gaudy signs separated by congested roadways offers no clues to location. Every place seems like no place in particular.

      Hop in an airplane and look at the land use patterns below. Cul-de-sac subdivisions accessible only by car—separated from schools, churches, and shopping—spread out from decaying...

    • five Sorting Out a Service-Based Economy
      (pp. 76-90)
      Bruce Guile and Jared Cohon

      Factories spewing smoke into the air, sludge oozing into rivers, dumps strewn with debris—for most of us, these reflections of the dark side of industry symbolize the environmental impact of the modern world. Although such images can powerfully motivate public and private action, environmental policies and programs that focus on factories and extractive industries have become inadequate for addressing our nation’s environmental problems.

      Manufacturing, mining, and agriculture—three production activities often associated with environmental damage—account for less than a fourth of today’s U.S. gross domestic product. Service businesses—from restaurants and stores to hospitals and airlines—account for...

    • six Globalization, Trade, and Interdependence
      (pp. 91-102)
      Elizabeth Dowdeswell and Steve Charnovitz

      Observations about globalization have become clichés. Yet the growing degree of international interdependence—both ecological and economic—has important consequences for the next generation of environmental policymaking, particularly as it affects U.S. domestic policy and as the United States considers its role in a changing world. In recent years, governments have increasingly chosen to join voluntarily in a world of free trade, economic cooperation, and relatively open borders. They have not, however, “chosen” an “open” environment. It is simply a fact of life on this planet. Nations are environmentally interdependent because pollution does not stop at national borders. Ozone layer...

  6. II Tools and Strategies for the Next Generation

    • seven Market-Based Environmental Policies
      (pp. 105-117)
      Robert Stavins and Bradley Whitehead

      It is not a new idea. Using market forces instead of bureaucratic fiat as a tool of environmental policy has been proposed by economists, discussed by policymakers, and implemented on a limited scale for two decades. But the concept of putting a price on pollution has yet to live up to its proponents’ promises. Is this simply a breakdown between theory and practice? Has the effort to transform environmental regulations with economic incentives been nothing more than quixotic tilting at windmills? Should we continue to rely on more established—if costly—policy mechanisms? We believe the answer is no.


    • eight Privately Financed Sustainable Development
      (pp. 118-135)
      Stephan Schmidheiny and Bradford Gentry

      A small but growing group of developing countries is wrestling with a welcome but difficult new problem: how to manage major inflows of private capital from the industrial world. Environmental policymakers are likewise struggling to respond to the shift from foreign aid to private capital as the engine of sustainable development. These trends have important implications for U.S. competitiveness and environmental policy.

      The concept of sustainable development—meeting needs today without stealing or wasting assets required by future generations—makes development efforts more complex and often more expensive in both the developing and industrialized worlds. In developing nations, it means...

    • nine Technology Innovation and Environmental Progress
      (pp. 136-149)
      John T. Preston

      Since the industrial revolution, two major trends have placed stress on our environment. First, the world’s population has grown to the point where some of our wastes can no longer be disposed of simply and safely. Second, technology has given us the tools—from cars to mines to harvesters—to exploit the natural world and thereby to improve our lives. But these same technologies have side effects—pollution, habitat destruction, land degradation—that can endanger our quality of life. Despite technology’s mixed past, it represents perhaps the most promising avenue for an improved environment in the future.

      Technological advances make...

    • ten Data, Risk, and Science: Foundations for Analysis
      (pp. 150-169)
      James K. Hammitt

      A generation ago, determining the direction of policy to protect the environment and human health was comparatively straightforward. Many of the problems, such as dirty air and water, were easily detected, and with little existing control of environmental pollution the benefits of incremental regulation were almost certain to exceed their costs. A generation later, the appropriate direction for improving environmental regulation is less clean Many of the easy steps have been taken. Significant point sources of pollution, such as industrial smokestacks and wastewater discharge pipes, have been controlled, leaving nonpoint sources like agricultural and urban run-off and automobile exhaust as...

    • eleven Toward Ecological Law and Policy
      (pp. 170-186)
      E. Donald Elliott

      Most of today’s environmental law violates the basic principles of ecology. Nature teaches the connectedness of all activities, but most current-generation law regulates separate pollutants with little consideration of ecosystems as a whole. The continuums of nature generally adapt gradually, but today’s environmental law makes sharp distinctions between safe and unsafe, attainment versus nonattainment areas, permissible versus impermissible levels of pollution.

      Instead of shaping industrial adaptation with incentives, today’s federal pollution-control laws usually set federal “standards” as absolute legal edicts that brook no local exceptions. Rather than empowering decentralized authorities to adapt standards to local conditions, today’s environmental law is...

  7. III Extending the Reach of Next-Generation Policy

    • twelve Coexisting with the Car
      (pp. 189-199)
      Emil Frankel

      Automobiles have shaped our values, our politics, and the patterns of our lives. They have provided us with highly prized mobility, greatly influenced where we live and work, and, by stimulating the construction of a vast system of roads and highways, encouraged a national pattern of low density land use and intensive suburban development. They have also had a profound impact on the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the land we use. Automobile engine exhaust pollutes the air of our cities and contributes “greenhouse gases” to the atmosphere. The construction and daily use of sixty thousand square...

    • thirteen Environmental Protection from Farm to Market
      (pp. 200-216)
      C. Ford Runge

      Elsewhere in this book, authors advance next-generation environmental policies for many sectors of the economy. But agriculture is different. It never had coherent first-generation environmental protection programs. Heavy federal intervention to control crop production and subsidize prices makes agriculture one of the most regulated sectors in the U.S. economy. At the same time, command-and-control environmental policies have never been applied to crops and livestock. Not one of the expensive schemes that have characterized agricultural policy since the 1930s has adequately controlled water pollution, pesticide overuse, or species losses.

      It is important to examine the history of farm policy to see...

    • fourteen Energy Prices and Environmental Costs
      (pp. 217-230)
      Todd Strauss and John A. Urquhart

      It has been a direct and troublesome connection. Economic growth is driven by industrial development. Industrial development increases the production and consumption of energy. Energy production and consumption almost invariably lead to environmental damage. We mine or pump coal, oil, and gas out of the ground, altering landscapes and ecosystems. We ship fuels by tanker or pipeline, risking damaging leaks and spills. We burn coal and oil, releasing the pollutants that cause urban smog and acid rain. We build nuclear power plants to generate electricity, creating hazardous waste that we don’t know where to store safely. This discouraging picture is...

    • fifteen A Vision for the Future
      (pp. 231-240)
      Daniel C. Esty and Marian R. Chertow

      Thinking Ecologicallyoffers a set of ideas on which a new American environmental policy structure might be built. Wide-ranging and not entirely consistent in the course they set, the thoughts and concepts introduced in the preceding chapters are meant to stimulate discussion rather than lay out a specific action plan. In fact, we fully expect that although some of the ideas may find their way into next year’s environmental debates, others may take decades to percolate through the policymaking process.

      We recognize, moreover, that there are potential contradictions between and among some of the key ideas. For example, can Carol...

  8. appendix one: Next Generation Project Participants
    (pp. 241-247)
  9. appendix two: Contributors
    (pp. 248-250)
  10. Abbreviations
    (pp. 251-252)
  11. For Further Reading
    (pp. 253-262)
  12. Index
    (pp. 263-272)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 273-273)