After a generation of progress in reducing large sources of industrial and municipal pollution and in improving management of public lands, today's environmental conflicts are complex. They involve controlling pollution caused by farmers, small businesses, drivers of ageing cars, and homeowners, as well as minimizing ecological threats on private land. Remedies often lie in politically treacherous territory - persuading ordinary people to change their daily routines, rather than ordering big business to adopt new technology or government officials to manage land differently. This is an exploration of how policymakers, business executives and citizen groups are fighting novel political battles and sometimes making peace with surprising consequences. Mary Graham seeks to show that practical approaches are resolving immediate disputes and providing clues for future policy. But core dilemmas remain. They include how to reconcile environmental protection with respect for private property, how to balance federal and state authority, and how much to rely on behavioural versus technological change.
Only by reclaiming the debate about these dilemmas from extremists and confronting them head-on will a solid foundation be built for the next generation of environmental policy.
Mary Graham, a visiting fellow in Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution, is codirector of the Transparency Policy Project at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government and president of the Governance Institute in Washington, D.C. She is the author of The Morning After Earth Day (Brookings/Governance Institute, 1999).