New Haven, CT -- Twenty-five years ago, highly visible pollution from the largest factories mobilized Americans to lobby for sweeping environmental reforms. Contaminated rivers like Ohio's Cuyahoga River -- so saturated with pollutants that it caught fire -- demanded immediate action, as did belching industrial smokestacks that produced city smog so thick drivers couldn't see three stoplights ahead.
The resulting flurry of grassroots activity in the 1970s brought about the National Environmental Policy Act, the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Toxic Substances Act, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, and more than a dozen lesser-known statutes. "To a large extent, these laws worked," says Daniel C. Esty, director of the Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy. "Significant reductions in pollution from big factory smokestacks and effluent pipes have been achieved. Our water and air are significantly cleaner."
But the prospects for further progress along the same path are limited, according to the authors of "Thinking Ecologically: The Next Generation of Environmental Policy" (Yale University Press, October 1997), co-edited by Marian R. Chertow and Professor Esty. Today's environmental threats -- ozone layer depletion, global warming and endocrine disrupters, for example -- are less visible, more subtle and more difficult to address than the black skies or orange rivers of a generation ago.
"Like nature itself, environmental problems constantly evolve. So, too, must our strategies for dealing with them," says Ms. Chertow, an industrial environmental management expert on the faculty of the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies (F&ES).
While the first generation of environmental reform targeted big
business, the next generation needs to include thousands of smaller companies
and millions of consumers. "We must try to influence the choices of all
Americans, because their decision
Contact: Cynthia Atwood