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Influence of green groups on the policy of the united states

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,


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



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 examined.

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:


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:


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


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 pollution?

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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