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


Abstract: 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.

Research Problem

1. Research Question

Have environmental groups' strategies been successful at altering the policies
of the United States?

2. Rational for the Research

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,
business 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
use, 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
groups 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