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The Influence of Green Groups on the Policy of the United States

This research examines the relationship between environmental groups and the policies of the United States. The United States political system has been historically anthropocen-tric, or human centered. Environmental groups have been attempting to change this to a biocentric or ecocentric viewpoint, which includes the rights of animals and the environment. These views are nature centered instead of human centered. This study will answer the question of whether these groups have been effective at altering United States policies.

This will be done through the study of views offered by both sides. Also, a survey will be used to determine whether congressmen views are consistent with environmentalist views. It will also present whether policy change has taken place, and if these changes have remained intact through the study of past congressional decisions. This research will help environmental groups to identify the effectiveness of their strategies. This is necessary for these groups to effectively alter the policies of the United States, which is one of the largest polluters in the world.

If their strategies are ineffective then it will be necessary for them to reassess their methods. Without the use productive methods these groups will not be able to protect the environment. Animals, plants and the entire ecosystem must have the same protection as humans have. An ecocentric viewpoint establishes the right of the environment to have legal standing. This gives people the ability to defend the right of an animal to exist with the same rights as humans. Without this protection, people will be just as negatively affected as the environment.

The earth must be thought of as a living organism, if one part is hurt then the whole planet will feel the effects. Unfortunately, usiness and governments take the stance that the earth is more like a machine. That is, at times if a part is hurt it can be repaired, without it effecting the whole system. Literature Review The literature on environmental groups and their influence and activities is vast. Several themes concerning the groups’ influence in changing United States policy exist.

The American Psychological Association has done studies on ecocentric and anthropocentric attitudes (Thomas, 1994). Ecocentric values have arisen recently as environmental problems have come to the public’s attention. Anthropocentric values have existed much longer. They have become institutionalized into our political and economic system. The movement toward environmental awareness arose in the political activism in the 60’s. Although these values have recently been declining according to Finger (1993).

These biocentric and anthropocentric views are also examined by Wildes (1995). Wildes also explains the beginning of the movement in the 60’s, and the number of similar theories developed during the same era. In his study he applies neo-marxism to the relationship towards Man and Nature. By doing this he shows how the government and industry uses the environment for its own se, often neglecting the resulting effects. Dodson (1995) examines if either of these opposing viewpoints offer plausible answers to current problems.

Dodson also explains how the groups interact. Through this interaction they form political policy. Hampicke (1994) address the vulnerability of the species and ecosystems to permanent destruction. Also shown is how conserva-tion costs are not excessive as some in our government believe. Lichterman (1995) shows that green groups not only have problems relating towards our government, but also multicultural obstacles. These roups must bring together several interests in order to form a unified strategy to present to the United States government.

Environmental lobbyists have so far been unsuccessful in their efforts to amend existing environmental laws. Chemical manufactur-ing and other industry’s lobbies have been able to block their efforts. They have used promising of campaign funding to influence Congress to support industries (Dowie, 1995). Senator Ted Stevens opposed the building of a pipeline across Alaska’s coastal plain in 1977. He pointed out the tragic environmental costs of oil development in his home state. Now he is a part of a group of senators who are leading efforts to roll back environmental laws (Foley, 1995).

Congress has been modifying the country’s environmental policy to suit business interests during its first eight months in power. Senator Bob Dole sponsored a risk assessment bill. This bill required that new federal human health and safety standards be weighed against their economic costs. This bill was defeated by the Natural Resources Defense Council lobby. Congress has also attached over fifty riders to various appropriations bills to all anti- environment projects while minimizing public knowledge of the bills (Adams, 995, 3).

One of these riders was to a federal budget cutting bill. This rider allowed private companies to salvage damaged trees in national lands. Other similar riders include making it legal to consider the sale of public assets toward the reduction of the budget deficit. Another bill passed banned the addition of more species to the Endangered Species list and allows increased logging at Tongass National Forest (Adams, 1995, 2). Environmental policy is positively affected by pressure from customers, shareholders, government regulations, neighborhood groups and community groups.

Although environmental policy is negatively affected by lobby pressure from other groups. This is from empirical data from firms that have an official policy for dealing with environmental questions (Henriques, 1996). Tension between social equity and environmental politics has existed in the United States over the past thirty years. This tension has existed on a social classes basis, a gender basis, a racial basis, and an economic basis. Several of these tensions however are more perceived than real. There is a possible common grounds for these two goals (Paehlke, 1993).

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