The 1980s (the period when Ronald Reagan was the U.S. President) witnessed a series of government measures targeting environmental regulations. This resulted in public outrage against the anti-environmental policies of the government leading to a renewed interest in nature clubs and groups and the formation of radical groups who led strong movements to protect the environment. (vii) the post- Reagan resurgence (1990s onwards) - President Bush and President Clinton did not take the radical stance of their predecessor. However, President George W. Bush has taken many measures which have weakened the environmental movement instead of strengthening it. This includes opposing curbs on greenhouse emissions via the Kyoto Protocol, supporting oil drilling in the ANWR or Arctic National Wildlife Range, weakening clean air standards and lifting the ban on logging in forests.
3) How does economics determine the public's opinion regarding environmental issues? Discuss the values of the dominant social paradigm (DSP) that influence the public's opinion about the environment. Does our DSP limit our ability to respond appropriately to future environmental problems?
Protecting the environment involves sacrificing economic growth to a large extent since economic growth depends on environmental inputs. The forward march of the human civilization has resulted in an indiscriminate exploitation leading to depletion and pollution of natural resources. This may have given immediate economic benefits to the previous and current generations but holds a grim prospect for the coming generations. Traditionally, economists have ignored the role of environment when studying market economics. Tangible benefits like how much a certain sector is contributing to the nation's GDP is easy to measure but intangible benefits or losses due to environmental factors is difficult to assess and therefore plays a minor role in the producer or consumer's attitude when producing or buying a product.
World Bank economist has suggested that the GNP and GDP should be substituted by an Index for Sustainable Economic Welfare or ISEW which considers the depreciation of natural capital and account income distribution apart from the usual benchmarks of economic progress. The public opinion regarding the environment has been influenced by the dominant social paradigm (DSP) which refers to the set of ideals, beliefs and values which shape our thinking about individual responsibility, government and acceptable societal norms. Our DSP is governed by factors like faith in science and technology, religion, free market economics, sense of alienation from the natural environment and growth orientation commonly encountered in democracies of the Western world. Our DSP definitely limits our ability to respond suitably to future environmental problems since we are essentially slaves of the current trends. There are very few people with far-sighted vision who can transcend this barrier and think about future problems and the "prophylactic" measures that the contemporary society can take to prevent such occurrences.
Write an essay either supporting or disagreeing with the following proposition: The population crisis justifies the imposition of mandatory birth control measures in developing countries that will result in zero population growth.
The world is facing an acute population problem which has led to serious consequences like food shortage, deforestation (to accommodate more human habitation, industries, agricultural land), energy needs, soil erosion and many other environment related problems. An ecosystem's carrying capacity is limited and a population can only be sustained if there is a balance between the natural renewable resources and the population that it supports. With an uncontrolled increase in population, the store of renewable resources gradually runs out threatening the very survival of a species. Therefore, concrete steps must be taken before such a dire situation occurs. These steps must be well-designed and implemented keeping a host of factors in mind. It would be simplistic to design birth control measures and force them on the population of the developing countries and hoping that things will go according to plan. Radical measures which infringe too deeply into the personal lives of the people will only result in a backlash of an unpredictable type. Countries like China have already imposed a one-child norm on its population. However, there are certain fall-outs of such mandatory impositions. It may result in female feticide by people who prefer a male-child. This would also lead to corrupt practices by medical practitioners.
Moreover, imposition of such a rule on the people of the developing nations by the intellectuals of the developed world would be an injustice. Efforts should be focused on proactive measures which include educating the public, raising their education levels (which would automatically help raise awareness about such issues and act as a "natural contraceptive") and methods of providing incentives to those who give birth to less number of children. The world's population has already witnessed a slowdown in population growth (as per a UN study) and with increasing awareness, it may gradually level out. Moreover, Nature also has ways and means of balancing the ecosystem. Of course, that does not mean we should not do anything and simply wait for Nature to take its own course. Individual governments and the developed world community have a major role to play in this area. The world must come together to address this problem through proactive efforts and not try to impose rules that may result in a backlash.
2) Discuss the advantages and limitations of the use of computer models in the study of environmental problems and explain reasons why it is difficult to predict how long it may be before a global shortage develops for any particular natural resource.
Computer models are an effective way of studying environmental problems because it is possible to simulate experiments related to the environment which cannot be usually done in a laboratory. Other advantages of using computer models is the ability to effectively integrate data from various sources and use it to study the effects of current trends on future environment, predict what the future climate may be like and study unusual weather patterns. It is also possible to study current consumption levels of natural resources and the problems that it may generate in the future. This knowledge can be a useful source of information for policy makers who can create regulations for the safety and protection of the earth's natural resources. Protection and maintenance of natural resources cannot be accomplished without massive participation from the general public and this is where the disadvantage of computer models comes in.
Isolated observations of "unusual" events like the sighting of uncommon species in unexpected areas tend to capture the public's fancy more than the scientific observations and predictions generated through computer models. There is a general lack of trust in these computer models leading to obstacles in its widespread acceptance. Scientists have found that short-term prediction of environmental problems like global shortage of natural resources is less complex than long-term predictions. Long-term predictions involve future scenarios which may include various unknown parameters giving rise to a certain level of expected uncertainty. This proves to be a major hurdle in accurate or near-accurate predictions. Moreover, the information generated by taking data from a number of sources is bound to be complicated leading to different interpretations by different experts.
3) Discuss the three important points to remember when examining risk analysis and environmental policy. Include in your discussion how political pressures affect scientific evaluations. Is the DSP a factor?
There are various significant points when examining risk analysis and environmental policy. The three most important points are: (i) risk analysis is both political as well as scientific; therefore, a clash of interests must be taken into account (ii) risk analysis draws our attention towards "acceptable levels of risk"; however, it would be worthwhile to consider shifting our attention to the alternatives to a particular risk (iii) the complicated nature of scientific modeling to predict future trends in environmental problems may be interpreted differently by different members of the scientific community leading to a confusion regarding the degree of risk posed by the level of a pollutant or chemical in the environment. Political pressures affect the environmental policies in a big way sometimes even stifling the actual scientific views. These policies may not necessarily be a true reflection of the warnings or alerts sounded by the scientific community. In fact, it has been found that the EPA has placed more worth on the public opinion rather than on scientific evidence obviously due to political pressure. Sometimes this has led to decisions which have been to the disadvantage of the environment. DSP is definitely a factor since public opinion is always swayed by the dominant social paradigm.
4) Discuss the different approaches government takes for environmental regulation. How does the role and use of market forces influence the implementation of environmental policy? What are examples of unanticipated consequences of the current U.S. environmental regulatory structure?
Government policy with regard to environmental regulation may be influenced by political factors, public attitude or market forces. Government approach in this field ranges from complete non-interference to total government control. For example, ocean pollution management is entirely unregulated. The earliest U.S. governments did…