Sunday, April 20, 2014

Week 13 Environmental Protection and wetlands

Hurricane Sandy photo by Jonah Markowitz
Last week we looked at how environmental policy is made using the example of pesticide drift and the example of Royale and OSHA regulation. Many people these days are fed a diet of anti-government propaganda from media sources with a dubious purchase on fact.  What we hear about are tales of creaking, slow bureaucracy and examples of inefficiency with ineptitude.  While certainly we need to question what the state does or does not do and to critique its inadequacies, we also need to be informed about t
he constraints and unintended consequences. 

The intent with this blog assignment and the last is to show you how complicated it is to manage and regulate anything.  To fully understand wetlands or worker protection policy, you also need a sense of history and an understanding of power. Concerning the OSHA case, the editorial board of the New York Times wrote that although there is blame for the company, regulators and the laws, "the main responsibility lies with the employer. We (voters and governments past and present) have whittled down OSHA so that it conducts inspections half as often as it did under Reagan (1980s) and has a budget to protect workers that is less than half that allocated to protect fish and wildlife.  Although the Obama administration has brought in more OSHA inspectors, the ratio of 1 inspector per 60,000 workers has not changed since 1970" (NY Times Editorial Board 2013).

This blog assignment derives from my interview with a former staff member of the Water Pollution Control division of the Department of Environmental Protection in Massachusetts.

Listen to this audio powerpoint on wetlands and water pollution control. Choose Case Study 1 or 2 and listen to either plus the intro and concluding audios.  The Intro slides are 1-4, 6 and 7.  Case Study 1 is on slides 5 and 8. This case concerns wetlands protection and land development. Case Study 2 concerns the dredging of a waterway and the dilemma of where to put the dredge material which was full of heavy metals. It's on slides 9 and 10. The Conclusion is on slides 11 and 12.

1. What did you understand from the audio about the importance of wetlands?
2. What did you understand of the regulator's discussion of the difficulties of regulating in light of the desire to develop/use resources, specifically wetlands?
3. What relationship do you see between the regulator's
position on wetlands protection and the precautionary principle?
4. Do you think it's necessary to sell environmental protection to the public by emphasizing how nature is important to us rather than the right of nature to exist?
5. What understanding did you gain from this regulator about the process of protecting wetlands?
Be sure to indicate what case study you listened to as part of your answer to these questions.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Week 12 Environmental Policy

Dan Cassaro NYTimes
Throughout class I have emphasized that although changes you make in your own life are useful, we need national level policies to address issues of immense public and ecological importance.  This week we look at how environmental policies are made and how regulations are applied to address human-environment issues.

1. What is your understanding of how environmental policy is made at the national level? Who is involved? What do the employees of federal agencies do day to day? Why is it important? After you think about that, look at one federal agency such as the EPA, FDA, GAO, USDA, BLM, DOI , NMFS/NOAA or USFS. What are they up to? What sense of their work did you get from the web page?

2. Nongovernmental organizations and grassroots groups are part of the policy making process. Do some googling to find an environmental group. Some of the big ones include Greenpeace, Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, Union of Concerned Scientists, Audubon, Environmental Working Group. There's also this one mentioned in the article, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility. Choose one and find out what they are working on.

3. Now go to this example from North Carolina that is a good illustration of the need for policy that considers workers and the environment.  Answer the following questions:
a) Explain how this example is a parable about the law of unintended consequences. 
b) How has North Carolina and the workers discussed in this article been affected by globalization?
c) Why is the sort of ailment arising from exposure to nPB so hard to identify and regulate?
d) Discuss what you learned about OSHA.

Your blog post should refer to each section (1, 2, 3 a, b, c, d)