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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Re-Thinking Green - Alternatives to Environmental Bureaucracy

Author
item Sauer, Thomas

Submitted to: Journal of Environmental Quality
Publication Type: Other
Publication Acceptance Date: January 12, 2007
Publication Date: N/A

Technical Abstract: The majority of environmental scientists active today are familiar with the key tenets of landmark environmental legislation (e.g. Clean Air Act and Endangered Species Act) and the associated guidelines that delineate the current framework for natural resource management. This book challenges the reader to do just that – to consider whether the existing approach to environmental regulation has been effective and if some other strategy may be better suited to achieve environmental protection goals. Re-Thinking Green contains 22 chapters organized by topics into eight parts covering current environmental concerns such as global issues, endangered species, and property rights. After a comprehensive introduction/overview, the first two chapters discuss the development of the current environmental bureaucracy. This sets the tone for the following chapters, which consistently cite examples of how prominent environmental legislation was often created for political expediency and has proven either inefficient, ineffective or both in achieving the intended outcomes. The conclusion is that the system is broken or rather, never really worked, and is in dire need of significant overhaul. Several authors put forward their solutions to fix the current model of environmental regulation. As 15 of the 22 authors are economists, it is perhaps not too surprising that market-based and free market models for environmental protection are presented as the most viable alternatives. This book tends to put assessment of environmental regulation into relatively stark economic terms of costs and benefits and parties affected. This approach, however, fails to avoid the persistent question of how we assign value to resources, especially when entities we value most highly often have no or little tangible “economic” value. If you read Re-Thinking Green you should be prepared to have the effectiveness of familiar environmental legislation openly called into question. There is little effort to present a balanced treatment; I found the tone of some chapters actually quite biased and argumentative. Nonetheless, it is a useful professional exercise to consider new or contrasting ideas as a way of challenging or affirming your own views. For instance, Re-Thinking Green includes some very interesting discussion of possible roles for nonprofit and non-government organizations. I thought it interesting that the book ends with two chapters on environmental philosophy. In the final analysis, I believe our environmental protection strategies contain the essence of the values our society places on natural resources. Re-Thinking Green would have you believe that this essence has been lost to politically-active special interests and a more business-like approach based on economic assessments would be a preferred alternative to environmental protection.

Last Modified: 12/20/2014
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