Study questions for selected assigned readings are listed below, followed by paper topics.

Study Questions

  1. Looking at the evolution of environmental policy from the 1600s to the present try to identify several of the most apparent trends and discontinuities. Forget the details; what was happening to the relationship between the U.S. population, the government, and the environment.

    a. How would you divide that history into episodes? What were the driving issues and concerns?

    b. Who were the most important players in setting the environmental agenda during those episodes?

  2. When did the U.S. really get an "environmental policy"?
3 and 4
  1. Each of the three selections in the "Limits & Survivalism" section of Debating the Earth argue that human activity is threatening environmental destruction. However, each builds its argument around a different causal story. What is the causal story in each of these writings?

  2. Answer the question posed above for the first two selections in the "Promethean" section of Debating the Earth.

  3. Both the "Limits & Survivalism" authors and the "Promethean" authors enlist scientific facts to bolster their arguments. What science do they use and why do they reach opposite conclusions?
  1. What seem to be the two or three most important determinants of environmental policy outcomes in the policy making process?

  2. Think about our definitions of environmental politics and environmental policy-making. Now, what are the advantages of interest groups such as farmers organizing into a formal organization like the American Farm Bureau, or off-road vehicle enthusiasts organizing into the Blue Ribbon Coalition? What are the strengths of an NGO? Does it have weaknesses?
  1. Layzer (2000), Chapter 1. What are the two or three most important influences on the final forms of the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act of the early 1970s? Why did they have the provisions they did?

  2. Layzer (2000), Chapter 1; and Switzer (2001), Chapter 8. How does the regularized schedule for Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act reauthorization affect pollution policy and policy-making?

  3. Layzer (2000), Chapter 1; and Switzer (2001), Chapter 8. Why does implementation of these laws seem not to measure up to the original intent of the legislation?
  1. Compare the language and provisions in the Clean Water Act with that of the Clean Air Act. How are they similar? Are there any glaring differences?
  1. Dryzek and Schlosberg, eds. (1998), Chapters 7, 8 and 9. What are the advantages (benefits) of having professional bureaucrats set rules and regulations defining environmental policy? What are some of the disadvantages (costs) of this approach?

  2. Can government bureaucracies really implement policy in a "value free" way?
Two days after Class #9
  1. Layzer (2000), Chapter 8. How did the problem of acid rain get on (1) the public agenda and (2) the government agenda?

  2. How did science and politics play off one another in policymaking leading up the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments?

  3. How does the use of "market mechanisms" such as pollution credit trading make environmental regulation less costly?

  4. Dryzek and Schlosberg, eds. (1998), pp. 207-254. Does resort to market mechanisms necessarily imply less stringent pollution control?

  5. What are the inequities and perhaps moralities of using market mechanisms for pollution control? Do they matter?
  1. Layzer (2000), Chapter 6. As you read this chapter on the Spotted Owl controversy, think about the many twists and turns that case takes in the effort to define a policy that protects endangered species, protects timber and property rights interests, protects timber communities, protects regional economies, etc. Think about the number of false starts, dead ends, reversals, partial victories, etc. and ask yourself: What is environmental policy and who makes it? Which of the many things--many contradictory things--that government does defines policy?

Essay Assignments

Paper Topic #1
Due in Class #5

Write a three page opinion-editorial that argues: (1) We are overestimating environmental threats or (2) We are underestimating environmental threats. Your goal is to establish a general frame of reference for how the public and policy makers should think about environmental policy in this decade.

Your essay should be structured in terms of (1) A basic thesis or argument, (2) propositions and evidence, and (3) implications for policy.

I suggest you look at the opinion editorial page of the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, and LA Times. GREENWIRE also provides link to environmental opinion-editorials.

Class #6 (Due in Class #8) Re-Write of the opinion-editorial.

Paper Topic #2
Due in Class #13

You've studied four cornerstone environmental laws of the 1970s: the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act, and CERLCA (Superfund). These are considered to be archetypical forms of "command and control" regulation. Write a 2400 word* [2200-2500 words] essay that examines two (2) of the strengths and two (2) of the weaknesses of this general approach to environmental policy.

Use the specifics of these laws to illustrate your arguments. If you can find multiple illustrations across the several laws, then your argument will have more credibility.

A strong essay might use a basic 1-3 structure: each paragraph should focus on one core idea that is stated in the first sentence. The remainder of the paragraph would be composed of three supporting/elaborative statements to flesh out the argument.

Note: *This is equivalent to our 8-page requirement. It assumes 12 point font and 1.5 line spacing, about 300 words per page. However, some students' creative use of large fonts and wide margins have compelled us to respecify the paper length in terms of number of words.

Paper Topic #3

You work as a policy analyst for the Green Party of the United States. The Green Party plans to run a candidate in the next presidential election and wants you to help prepare the Party's environmental platform agenda. Your task is to write a 2400 word [2200-2500 words] essay that addresses the following questions:

  • What do you believe are the two most pressing environmental problems we face today? Describe the causes and consequences of these problems and explain why you chose them over other possible candidates.
  • What are the most serious impediments to devising and implementing more effective environmental policies for coping with the problems you described?
  • Present an action plan for overcoming these impediments.

Your essay should draw heavily on the readings, lectures, and news items used for class. You should use concrete examples to bolster your points - either as illustrations or analogies. Document your key points.

Citation Style for Papers

Many different citation styles exist. One of the easiest and simplest is the "science journal" style, which is what I want you to use in your papers. There are a number of permutations depending on the reference type.

Rule 1: Embed the reference with the form (author last name, year) in the your text. 

President Bush recently stated "...Saddam, you varmint, you 48 hours to get out of town...." (Gertz, 2001).

Rule 2: If the same author has more than one reference in a given year (as many journalists do) append a letter--a, b, c, etc.--to the year. (Gertz, 1999a; Gertz, 1992b).

Rule 3: You need a bibliography at the end of the paper that gives the full citation to each reference. The bibliography should be alphabetical by author last name. It takes the form:

For a journal article:

Author last name, first name (year) "Article Title," Journal Name, Vol #, No. #, pages

[Note: newspapers do not require Vol. or No.]

For a book:

Author last name, first name (year) Book Title (Publishing City: Publisher)

For material in an edited book:

Author last name, first name (year of edited book publication) "Chapter Title," in Author(s) of edited volume, ed. Title of Book (Publishing City: Publisher)


Clinton, William (1997) "Advancing our Interests through Engagement and Enlargement," in Peter Hays, Brenda Vallance, and Alan Van Tassel American Defense Policy (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press), 284-297.

Gertz, William (2001) "Bush Goes to War," Washington Times (September 12), 1.

Kuconis, John (2002) Flying is Way Cool (Colorado Springs: US Air Force Academy), 200-203.