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Linking Science and Technology to Society's Environmental Goals
State governments and communities are experimenting with a wide array of approaches that they hope will improve both their environment and their economies. The advocates for environmental improvement and economic development are rarely one and the same however, and their approaches differ in many important respects. While some of these differences enhance their mutual effectiveness, the overall result appears to leave significant problems unaddressed. It appears that a more explicit connection between society's goals for the environment and for environmental science and technology is in order.
This paper will describe some of the state and local government efforts to make environmental policy and technology more forward-looking, more technically sophisticated, and more in touch with societal goals and expectations. The paper examines the roles of experts, elected officials, and the general public in these efforts. The paper is in four parts: (1) this introduction; (2) a look at efforts to set measurable goals for environmental quality and to define useful benchmarks or indicators of success; (3) a look at state science and technology (S&T) programs as they relate to environmental problems; and (4) a discussion of the relationships between environmental goals and goals for environmental S&T. The appendix includes excerpts from state and local publications on these topics.
A note of caution: this paper is the product of interviews with numerous leaders in the field, but it is not a survey of the 50 states and the numerous institutions within each state that are involved in environmental planning and science and technology development. Thus the paper does not touch on many of the exciting and innovative programs under way around the country.
The Carnegie Commission's report Enabling the Future1 describes one of the nation's social and environmental dilemmas: a kind of massive market failure that inhibits the country from securing the environmental quality Americans want for the future. Individual firms have to focus on the next quarter's bottom line; governors and legislators must respond to today's crisis or political fad and risk the voters' ire if they spend money on problems that do not yield results before the next election. State regulators are slightly insulated from this pressure, but receive their funds from legislatures and many of their marching orders from the U.S. Congress or the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Even academic scientists' work is often driven by the availability of research funds, which in turn may reflect today's crisis. Most of society's incentives reward short-term fixes and leave many difficult and obscure long-term problems unaddressed.
Enabling the Future lists three contexts in which explicit goal-setting activities may help the nation: to respond to a crisis, such as a disease, military threat, or failure to remain economically competitive with other nations; to provide a more coherent and efficient direction for particularly complex issues such as energy policy; and "perhaps the most difficult to respond to…situations in which