Energy, the Environment, and Public Policy: Issues for the 1990s

By David L. McKee | Go to book overview

9 Acid Rain: Public Policy and Environmental Perception

FRED J. STARHEIM AND DANIEL V. STEEN

The United States and the many western nations of the world today are facing difficult choices and trade-offs concerning the environment. A once thriving industrial/manufacturing economy in this country has been outpaced by an ever-growing service sector. The increasing costs of environmental compliance are, in part, contributing to the loss of this industrial and manufacturing base.

Concern over the environment in contemporary society has proved itself to be not of ephemeral interest but rather of lasting and growing importance. Perception by the public of the negative impact that the industrial and manufacturing sector has had on the environment has given way to much legislation in recent years.

Polemic debate has raged on environmental issues since the 1960s. Jobs or corporate profitability versus environmental improvement is often the central theme of the argument. Industry's side of the argument is one of cost. The need to remain economically competitive in the marketplace decides the future viability and employment potential of the company. Conversely, environmentalists believe they see bigger picture concerns. They argue that pollution is continuing to degrade the environment in ways that may have longterm, irreversible impacts. They point to examples where overexploitation and neglect of the environment has permanently changed the landscape, adversely affected the ecology, or jeopardized human health. Their argument is that the environment must be maintained without significant blemish.

While both philosophies have merit, extremism on both sides has left little room for discussion and consensus-building and has often resulted in antipodes on many environmental issues. As such, this intense polarization has placed the majority of dialogues on these issues in the media, in the courts, and in the political arena. In an

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