Chapter3 - Chapter 3 Environmental Politics and Policy in...

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1 Chapter 3 Environmental Politics and Policy in Postindustrial Countries Environmental concerns and policies have played a central role in the political processes of postindustrial countries in recent decades. Issues such as acid rain, nuclear waste, pollution of all kinds, loss of biodiversity, climate change, and global warming have all found their way to the front pages of newspapers. The inhabitants of Western postindustrial nations are constantly confronted with the environmental impact of their lifestyle. On the way to and from work, citizens in these nations increasingly often find themselves stuck in traffic jams breathing air that smells of gasoline and diesel exhaust fumes. Smog frequently blankets metropolitan areas during the months of summer, and open spaces are often paved over to build suburban neighborhoods and shopping malls. The environmental link to public health has also received increasingly close attention in these nations: some types of cancer which are known to be related to pollution are on the rise; evermore children raised in metropolitan areas develop the chronic respiratory disease of asthma; and people in these countries are more and more likely to suffer from environmentally induced autoimmune illnesses (see Schell and Ulijaszek, 1999). Citizens in the postindustrial world are the largest consumers of natural resources and energy in the world. At the same time, there is much concern about the environment as well as efforts to protect the environment. As the United nations Environment Programme has observed, “In Western Europe, overall consumption levels have remained high but measures to curb environmental degradation have led to considerable improvements in some, though not all, environmental parameters” (GEO 2000: xxv). Similarly, Canada and the United States
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2 “use more energy and resources per capita than people in any other region,” however, “The region has succeeded….in reducing many environmental impacts through stricter legislation and improved management” (GEO 2000: xxvi). Postindustrial governments have developed diverse policy approaches to address these environmental issues. These approaches can be divided into regulatory approaches (such as setting limits on pollution) and into market-based approaches (raising energy taxes to encourage more efficient energy usage). The policy approaches adopted vary considerably among the several postindustrial nations, depending on their particular constitutional structure and their political culture. As we will discuss in Chapter 4, the United States is characterized as having a highly conflictive, pluralistic policy process as which makes it difficult to achieve environmental policy consensus, while other postindustrial societies such as Japan, Germany, and Great Britain have more centralized processes making policy cooperation more likely. In addition, the emphasis on market versus regulatory efforts is diverse. For example, the United States “is moving faster and further on market-based policies” (GEO 2000: 295) while the
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Chapter3 - Chapter 3 Environmental Politics and Policy in...

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