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POLSC431: Public Policy Process

Unit 7: Environmental Policy   Environmental policy has been politicized in recent decades, with Democrats tending to be labeled as the “greener” of the two major parties in the United States, but it was under Republican president Theodore Roosevelt that the United States developed a national park system and under another Republican, Richard Nixon, that the Environmental Protection Agency was created.  Moreover, concern over the fate of the environment is not new but stems back to the late 19th century, when people first began to notice massive changes in the ecosystem created by the disappearance of the buffalo and its replacement by cattle. These changes, along with the spread of farming settlements into arid regions of the western Great Plains during this period, would help make possible the Dust Bowl of the 1930s.  It was also in the 19th century that the Industrial Revolution first raised concerns over pollution affecting the air, land, and water around factories and urban centers.  Concerns over pollution have also impacted policies surrounding the limited supply of fresh water that is necessary to run commercial farms in otherwise drought-ridden areas and to allow suburban style development in such places as Las Vegas and Phoenix.  The inherent conflict between industrial progress and environmental preservation is also raised by the phenomena of externalities, wherein businesses will often pollute without restraint unless they are forced through government regulations to pay the true costs of production, which is more easily said than done.
 
Many environmental policies impact not just the United States but the entire world, including those designed to protect endangered species from the impact of human settlement and pollution.  At the same time, the United States often finds itself in a difficult position in relationship to the international community with regards to environmental policy because of our reluctance to sign certain international accords, such as the Kyoto Protocol, and because of accusations of hypocrisy, especially by such rapidly developing nations as Brazil, India, and China.  The argument of these countries is that the United States was allowed to develop industry without regards to its impact on the global environment, and America continues to draw far more than its fair share of the world’s limited supply of natural resources; thus, it should not be forced to slow its own development now.  This argument is problematic from the broader perspective of global sustainability because if these and other industrializing nations, which together constitute half the world’s population, continue to develop along much the same lines as the United States and Europe, then it may become impossible to sustain modern lifestyles for all the world’s people. 
 
One specific area of concern for the future of the entire human race is global warming, which refers to the overall increase in Earth’s average temperature and a related rise in sea levels caused by the melting of polar ice.  This issue was most famously raised by former vice president Al Gore in his documentary An Inconvenient Truth, in which he argued that a series of small steps is absolutely necessary in order to prevent the continued rise in temperatures that cause a range of problems from drought to flooding and which he argued was the result of human activity.  Many believe that it is necessary to enact a series of public policy measures in order to slow the process of global warming and to adapt to warmer conditions, but others argue that this climate change is a natural process.  Those policymakers and interest groups who view global warming as a natural recurrent phenomenon point to historical weather data to support their arguments, although they are generally opposed by most meteorologists.  The debate over climate change will no doubt continue and provides an excellent example of the often complex relationships among scientific research, politicians, and public policy that prevail in America.

Unit 7 Time Advisory
This unit will take you approximately 10 hours to complete. 

☐    Subunit 7.1: 3.75 hours

☐    Subunit 7.2: 2.75 hours

☐    Subunit 7.3: 3.5 hours

Unit7 Learning Outcomes
Upon successful completion of this unit, the student will be able to:

  • Identify vital issues and specific areas of concern for contemporary American policymakers within the broad field of American environmental policy.
  • Identify key actors and agencies involved in environmental policy formulation.
  • Describe various decision frameworks used by policymakers in identifying, formulating, implementing, budgeting, and evaluating environmental policy.
  • Identify such key concepts in environmental policy as climate change, pollution, and endangered species protection.
  • Identify key debates in contemporary environmental policy as well as the issues at stake and the arguments advanced by each side of the debate.
  • Explain the context, evolution, and linkages between certain environmental policies and within the broader context of American political history.

7.1 Pollution: Policies Affecting Our Land, Air, and Water   7.1.1 Pollution   - Lecture: MIT: Fundamentals of Public Policy: “Pollution and Environmental Justice” Link: MIT: Fundamentals of Public Policy: “Pollution and Environmental Justice” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Please click on the link above, locate the above PDF on the linked page, and read this entire presentation (8 pages) on public policy programs to prevent pollution.
 
This lecture should take approximately 15 minutes to complete.
  
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.  

  • Lecture: Learner.org: The Habitable Planet: A Systems Approach to Environmental Science: Episode 8: “Water Resources” and Episode 11: “Atmospheric Pollution” Links: Learner.org: The Habitable Planet: A Systems Approach to Environmental Science: Episode 8: “Water Resources” (Adobe Flash) and Episode 11: “Atmospheric Pollution”  (Adobe Flash)
     
    Instructions: Please click on the link above, and select the VoD icon next to each episode to watch it (approximately 29 minutes per video).  These videos discuss limited water resources and air quality concerns.
     
    Viewing these videos should take approximately 1 hour to complete.

    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

7.1.2 Water Usage   - Reading: Public Policy Institute of California: Ellen Hanak, Jay Lund, Ariel Dinar, Brian Gray, Richard Howitt, Jeffrey Mount, Peter Moyle, and Barton “Buzz” Thompson's: “California Water Myths” Link: Public Policy Institute of California: Ellen Hanak, Jay Lund, Ariel Dinar, Brian Gray, Richard Howitt, Jeffrey Mount, Peter Moyle, and Barton “Buzz” Thompson's: “California Water Myths” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Please click on the link above, and select the “Full Report” link to read this entire PDF (32 pages) about water in California.
 
This reading should take approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes to complete.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

7.1.3 Environmental Costs   - Lecture: Learner.org: Inside the Global Economy: Episode 12: “Environment” Link: Learner.org: Inside the Global Economy: Episode 12: “Environment” (Adobe Flash)
 
Instructions: Please click on the link above, and select the VoD icon next to “Environment” to watch this entire video (approximately 56 minutes) on the environmental costs to normal business practices.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

7.2 Endangered Species and Global Sustainability: A World for Everyone and Everything   7.2.1 Protecting Endangered Species   - Lecture: Learner.org: The Habitable Planet: A Systems Approach to Environmental Science: Episode 4: “Ecosystems” and Episode 9: “Biodiversity Decline” Links: Learner.org: The Habitable Planet: A Systems Approach to Environmental Science: Episode 4: “Ecosystems” (Adobe Flash) and Episode 9: “Biodiversity Decline”  (Adobe Flash)
 
Instructions: Please click on the link above, and select the VoD icon next to each episode to watch it (approximately 28 minutes per video).  These videos discuss challenges faced by fragile ecosystems worldwide and the related issue of the disappearance of species.
 
Viewing these videos should take approximately 1 hour to complete.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Lecture: MIT: Fundamentals of Public Policy: “Endangered Species” Link: MIT: Fundamentals of Public Policy: “Environmental Policy: Endangered Species” (PDF)
     
    Instructions: Please click on the link above, locate the above PDF from the linked page, and read this entire presentation (8 pages) on endangered species.
     
    This lecture should take approximately 15 minutes to complete.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.  

7.2.2 Protecting the Global Environment   - Reading: United Nations World Commission on Environment and Development: “Our Common Future, from One Earth to One World” Link: United Nations World Commission on Environment and Development: “Our Common Future, from One Earth to One World” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Please click on the link above, and read this entire webpage on the issue of global environmental preservation.
 
Reading and note-taking should take approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes to complete.
  
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

7.3 Global Warming: Debating the Reality of Climate Change   7.3.1 Introduction to Global Warming   - Lecture: Learner.org: The Habitable Planet: A Systems Approach to Environmental Science: Episode 12: “Earth’s Changing Climate” and Episode 13: “Looking Forward: Our Global Experiment” Links: Learner.org: The Habitable Planet: A Systems Approach to Environmental Science: Episode 12: “Earth’s Changing Climate” (Adobe Flash) and Episode 13: “Looking Forward: Our Global Experiment” (Adobe Flash)
 
Instructions: Please click on the link above, and select the VoD icon next to each episode to watch it (approximately 28 minutes per video).  These videos introduce the concept of climate change.

 Viewing these videos should take approximately 1 hour to
complete.   
    
 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.

7.3.2 Public Policies Concerning Global Warming   - Reading: Public Policy Institute of California: Ellen Hanak and Louise Bedsworth's: “Preparing California for Climate Change” Link: Public Policy Institute of California: Ellen Hanak and Louise Bedsworth's : “Preparing California for Climate Change” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Please click on the link above, and select the “Full Report” link to read this entire PDF (28 pages) about climate change in California.
 
This reading should take approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes to complete.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

7.3.3 The Science of Climate Change   - Lecture: Learner.org: Planet Earth: Episode 3: “The Climate Puzzle” Link: Learner.org: Planet Earth: Episode 3: “The Climate Puzzle” (Adobe Flash)
 
Instructions: Please click on the link above, and select the VoD icon next to “The Climate Puzzle” to watch this entire video (approximately 58 minutes) on various debates about climate change.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.