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Essay/Term paper: The influence of green groups on the policy of the united states

Essay, term paper, research paper:  History Essays

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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 the bills (Adams,
1995, 3). One of these riders was to a federal budget cutting bill. This
rider allowed private companies to salvage damaged trees in national lands.
Other similar riders include making it legal to consider the sale of public
assets toward the reduction of the budget deficit. Another bill passed banned
the addition of more species to the Endangered Species list and allows increased
logging at Tongass National Forest (Adams, 1995, 2).

Environmental policy is positively affected by pressure from customers,
shareholders, government regulations, neighborhood groups and community groups.
Although environmental policy is negatively affected by lobby pressure from
other groups. This is from empirical data from firms that have an official
policy for dealing with environmental questions (Henriques, 1996).

Tension between social equity and environmental politics has existed in the
United States over the past thirty years. This tension has existed on a social
classes basis, a gender basis, a racial basis, and an economic basis. Several
of these tensions however are more perceived than real. There is a possible
common grounds for these two goals (Paehlke, 1993).

Research Concepts and Hypotheses

1. Research Concepts and Variables

Change In United States policy is dependent upon the action of interest groups.
These groups are only able to alter policy if there actions are effective at
promoting their cause. This can be done through the support of the people, or
the voters. It can also be done by directly lobbying Congress for the passage
of a law, or lobbying to prevent a passage of law. It is also possible to
directly gain public and political attention through protests and other actions
that draw people's attention. The voting records of congressmen and their
current view will be examined. Environmental lobbying efforts will also be
examined in order to conduct this research.

2. Research Propositions and Hypotheses

The United States government is anthropocentric in its attitude towards the
environment. Although there was a surge of environmental awareness in the 60's
this has declined in the recent decade. Green groups have been trying to shift
this viewpoint towards a biocentric view. They are faced not only with the
problem with relating to government, but also to different cultures. With
effective strategies they will be successful at influencing political decision
making. The effectiveness of their methods must be analyzed in order to ensure
that what they are doing is worthwhile.


In order to research the effectiveness of environmental groups at altering
policy of the United States government, a close-ended questionnaire will be
created. This questionnaire will be sent to congressmen. The questionnaire
will attempt to determine the congressmen's standing on different issues.
These issues will be theoretical policy choices. The policy choices will
either have a biocentric standing or a anthropocentric standing. A Likert scale
will be used to determine how the congressman stands on an issue. A sample of
the survey is included at the end of this proposal.

It will also be important to determine whether the congressman is a Democrat or
Republican. The state that the congressman is from will also be important to
determine. These two indicators are important because of possible alternative
influences on the congressman. Validity of the answers can be determined by
comparing answers with recent voting habits of individual respondents.

The lobbying efforts of green groups will also be studied by examining their
political activities, which include lobbying and other forms of political
pressure. If there is a change in the congressmen's environmental positions
over a period of time this will need to be examined closely. The political
pressure from environmental groups at the time of change will also need to be

If there has been consistent change in congressmen's views and pressure from
environmental groups at that time, then this will be considered as a positive
influence by the green groups. If there is a change in policy and no pressure
from green groups is noticeable then the reasons should be deduced. The
reasoning behind this change could be used to help the environmental groups.
If there has been no change in policy or policy has changed against the
environment, then the methods used by green groups will not be seen as
effective. The importance of determining this is to give the groups an
opportunity to change there methods in order to be more effective.

Work Schedule

It will take about one week to prepare the survey and mailing list. After this
the results should be back within four to six weeks. While waiting for the
results, the voting record of congressmen will be examined. Also during this
period, recent lobbying efforts by environmental groups will be recorded. It
will then take about two more weeks to compare the data.


Adams, John H. 1995. Breaking Faith. Amicus Journal. 17, 3: 2.

Adams, John H. 1995. Special Report: Congress and the Environment.

Amicus Journal. 17, 3: 3.

Dodson, A. 1995. The Politics of Nature: Explorations in Green

Political Theory. New York, NY: Routledge.

Dowie, Mark. 1995. Greens Outgunned. Earth Island Journal. 10, 2: 26.

Finger, Matthias. 1992. The Changing Green Movement - A Clarification. Research
in Social Movements, Conflicts and Change. 2: 229-246.

Foley, Dana Nadel. 1995. A Congressional Sampler: Rollbacks, Rhetoric, and
Greenbacks in the World of Washington's Anti-Greens. Amicus Journal. 17, 3: 13.

Hampicke, U. 1994. Ethics and Economics of Conservation. Biology Conservation
Journal. 67, 3: 219-231.

Henriques, Irene and Perry Sadorsky. 1996. The Determinants of an
Environmentally Responsive Firm: An Empirical Approach. Journal of Environmental
Economics and Management. 30, 3: 381.

Lichterman, Paul. 1995. Piecing Together Multicultural Community: Cultural
Differences in Community Building among Grass-Roots Environmentalists. Social
Problems Journal 42, 4: 513-534.

Paehlke, Robert. 1993. Environment/Equity: Tensions in North American Politics.
Policy Studies Journal. 21, 4: 672.

Thomas, Dietz. 1994. The Value Basis of Environmental Concern. Journal of Social
Issues. 50, 3: 65-84.

Wildes, F. T. 1995. Recent Themes in Conservation Philosophy and Policy in the
United States. Environmental Conservation Journal. 22, 2: 143-150.


1) What is your political affiliation?

2) Which state do you represent?

Please answer the following questions in terms of (1) for strongly agree to (10)
for strongly disagree.

3) Should genetic engineering be allowed to increase the production of a farm
even if there is a slight risk to the environment?

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

4) Should a nuclear power plant be allowed to be built to meet the local energy
needs of an area?

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

5) Should there be mandatory recycling laws even though not all areas have an
existing recycling system?

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

6) Should residents be allowed to set thermostat readings to desired levels even
though it may use more energy?

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

7) Should farmers be allowed to protect their livestock by hunting indigenous
wild animals?

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

8) Should public parks be open to increased mining or logging to spur the
economy of an area?

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

9) Should federal laws outlawing the possession of feathers or other parts of
birds of prey be strictly enforced?

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

10) Should industry be forced to reduce air and water pollution originating from
its factories even if it means loss of employees and reduced job opportunities?

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

11) Should the use of private automobiles be restricted in order to reduce air

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

12) Should the government increase taxes on products that harm the environment?

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10


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