Environmental Politics in Japan, Germany, and the United States

By Miranda A. Schreurs | Go to book overview

1
Introduction

As regional leaders and the world's largest economies, the US, Japan, and Germany1 are particularly important players influencing the global environment and the direction of international environmental protection efforts. Yet, they are pursuing environmental protection with different levels of enthusiasm and with different policy tools. This book asks why differences in approaches to environmental management emerged in Germany, Japan, and the US and finds at least a partial answer in the development of quite different environmental communities and policy-making rules and procedures (both formal and informal) in the three countries.

At the turn of the twenty-first century, these three countries alone accounted for roughly half (49.63 percent) of the global Gross National Product (GNP).2 As a result, these nations will both directly and indirectly affect the future sustainability of the planet in powerful ways.

Because of their wealth and the relatively large size of their populations, the US, Japan, and Germany are major consumers of natural resources and producers of waste (see Table 1.1). There are 80 cars in the US, 54 in Germany, and 56 in Japan for every 100 inhabitants. The yearly municipal waste produced per person is huge: 720 kg (15,840 pounds) in the US, 460 kg (10,120 pounds) in Germany, and 400 kg (880 pounds) in Japan. Decades of development have taken their toll on wildlife species, especially in Germany where close to 68 percent of all known species of fish and 37 percent of all known species of mammals are threatened with extinction. In the US over 10 percent of mammal species are threatened with extinction and in Japan close to 8 percent. These countries also have an enormous impact on the larger global environment. Combined they take in close to 12 percent of global fish catches (primarily Japan and the US)

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1
This book deals primarily with the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) and Germany post-reunification. The former German Democratic Republic (GDR) is only dealt with in passing. For purposes of simplification, the term Germany is used throughout except when specific reference to the GDR is made.
2
Total world GNP for 1999 was US $29.2 trillion. The US share of this was 28.57 percent, Japan 13.95 percent, and Germany 7.11 percent. World Development Indicators Database, World Bank 8/2/2000.

-1-

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