2006 Philadelphia Annual Meeting (22–25 October 2006)

Paper No. 12
Presentation Time: 4:20 PM


MANHEIM, Frank T., School of Public Policy, George Mason University, Fairfax, VA 22030, fmanhei1@gmu.edu

U.S. public health and environmental history can be divided into 5 periods: 1) the Colonial and Revolutionary War era. 2) 19th Century expansion, industrialization, and urbanization. 3) Late 19th Century conservation and preservation movements, and the rise of civil engineers as civic planners and managers. 4) Post World War II demographic and social changes and a new environmental movement. 5)The Santa Barbara Oil Spill and the ensuing environmental revolution of the 1970s.

The current U.S. conditions of polarization and gridlock are unique among advanced nations. Recent research and foreign comparisons suggest that the U.S. impasse began with the conflict between environmentalists and industry. It came to impair U.S. industrial and infrastructural development, It has prevented achievement of consensus energy policies, and blocked energy conservation and participation in international agreements. The adversarial sociopolitical climate is inhibiting accelerated development of renewable energy sources.

Civilized competition of ideas, a traditional strength in American society, earlier stimulated growth of knowledge, cooperation, and creativity. However, hostile or destructive competition between contending ideas and factions since the 1960s has resulted in isolation and loss of communication between leadership groups. These groups are able to block opponents' ideas or goals, but not achieve their own.

Obstacles to national environmental progress include deficiencies in science education and knowledge on the part of the general public. Certain patterns within academic research or professional communities waste scarce talent, money, and energies. All these factors affect not only natural sciences, but fields like law and social sciences. Graduates from the latter fields have significant roles in developing or administering public policies including environmental policy, as well as in creating or resolving disputes. They include journalists and media specialists who interface with the public regarding environmental information and controversies.