The United States has made notable progress in cleaning up the environment over the last 30 years. Our nation's air, land and water are, in almost all cases, significantly cleaner than they were only a few decades ago.' Before declaring victory though, we must acknowledge that some environmental problems are getting worse, and the nature of our environmental problems has changed. Many environmental problems are now global problems, as opposed to problems that could be dealt with at the national or state level. Problems have become diffuse, with no clearly identifiable source and with a lengthy delay between cause and effect, whereas before problems were immediately obvious with distinct sources. Finally, environmental problems have become very complex, changing from the relatively simple problems such as thinning eggshells due to pesticide abuse . Government agencies continue to address this new generation of problems with tools designed for a generation of problems now largely behind us. The time has come to develop complementary tools designed for these new problems. As environmental regulatory agencies investigate new approaches to environmental protection, the way questions are phrased has a profound impact on the answers generated. If the question concerns how an environmental agency can do a better job working with businesses to ensure that they act in an environmentally responsible manner, then the nswer must involve some type of cooperative effort between the environmental agency and the relevant businesses. If, however, the question concerns how an environmental agency can best use its resources to protect the environment, then the answer may require the agency to work with many different groups. It is my belief that environmental regulatory agencies should be asking the second question. Further, one possible answer to the question of how to develop effective, supplemental approaches to protecting and enhancing the environment lies in educating and influencing the public, specifically with respect to consumer purchasing decisions.
Thomas L. Eggert,
Thinking Ahead: Protecting the Environment in the 21st Century,
Rich. J. L. & Pub. Int.
Available at: http://scholarship.richmond.edu/pilr/vol3/iss3/2