When we think of environmental policies in the USA, we may think of one or more laws geared to improve our nation's air, water, ecosystems, and biodiversity. However, environmental policies and policy-making comprise more than just specific laws and regulations. Making and implementing environmental policy is a process influenced by multiple political, cultural, and economic factors in addition to scientific factors, all of which impact the ability of policies to be effective, that is, to actually improve the environment. In this course, we develop a framework to analyze the effectiveness of the social actors, process and outcomes of environmental policy-making. We ask questions such as: How do policy makers define environmental problems and solutions? Who are the social actors involved in the process? How are policies created and negotiated? What underlying assumptions and realities about the roles of government and society shape policy instruments and design? Are science and risk accurate or distorted? How are social and environmental justice intertwined?
To answer these complex questions, we contextualize and critically analyze policies to determine how both government and society impact on regulatory approaches. We study the institutions involved and examine social and ecological outcomes of environmental policies. We also discuss contemporary issues and policy situations that arise throughout the course of the semester, and comment on them in a class blog. Finally, students will select an environmental issue and formulate a policy proposal to recommend to decisionmakers.