Environmental Quality Analysis: Theory and Method in the Social Sciences

Environmental Quality Analysis: Theory and Method in the Social Sciences

Environmental Quality Analysis: Theory and Method in the Social Sciences

Environmental Quality Analysis: Theory and Method in the Social Sciences

Excerpt

By now it is certainly not necessary to point out that environmental quality is a matter of deep interest and concern to the citizenry, government, and the professions. But for the social sciences it is a new area of concern. With the exception of some theoretical inquiries in economics and some early work in social psychology, applied social science work on environmental questions is less than ten years old.

Resources for the Future ventured into the environmental field as a result of natural evolution in its research mission with respect to natural resources. When RFF came into existence about fifteen years ago, the United States was at the crest of a wave of concern about the scarcity of natural resources. This followed a period of rapid depletion of resource stocks and little new exploration or development during World War II. A period of quantitative study at RFF indicated that resources scarcity as such was unlikely to put a brake on economic development in the United States until at least the end of this century.

But it also became clear that consideration of resources problems could not stop with this comforting conclusion. It was already apparent in the late fifties and early sixties that the quality of some of our important, if neglected, resources--particularly air and water--was deteriorating. Moreover, projections of resources inputs implied that vastly larger quantities of fuels, foods, minerals, and forest products would be used in the future. Conservation of mass tells us that these materials do not disappear into the void after they are burned and processed, but that a residual mass about equal to that initially extracted from nature must eventually be ac-

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