Overview of ESPM 60

ESPM 60 starts with the idea that government institutions and policy-making processes are not a fixed inheritance but are societal choices that are constantly being revised. We will evaluate this idea through a basic introduction to important US institutions and policy-making activities affecting environmental issues. We will look at choices shaping the nature of governance and public policy tools, with particular attention to the historically contingent nature of policy-making processes affecting who gets what, why, and how it could have been different-and might be in the future.

The course examines several major themes in US environmental policy since the beginning of the 20th century, using case studies that are carried across different policy-making eras. These cases emphasize air pollution and toxic chemicals. The course demonstrates how the "standard model" of direct government management of natural resources prevailing during the Progressive Era to New Deal Era now exists alongside multiple environmental management approaches. These approaches include direct regulation, market-based instruments, flexible regulation, and most recently product-based governance. They highlight a growing shift of policy-making power away from government towards citizens, communities, corporations, and non-governmental organizations. Greater public involvement and decentralization has changed the nature of policy-making, to the extent that we now have a complex multi-layered policy system.

In this course, you will learn how to:

  • Understand major trends in environmental policy framings over time;
  • Conduct research into environmental policy issues;
  • Critique US environmental policy and regulation;
  • Evaluate emerging non-regulatory approaches to improving environmental problems; and
  • View US environmental policy-making in an increasingly global perspective.

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