On political sustainability - considering environmental management

Submitted by Norm Roulet on Sun, 01/02/2005 - 15:16.

In a recent REALNEO posting I reflected on the relationship
of optimal ICE - Information Communications Effectiveness - to political
sustainability, thus challenging the survivability of IT-ineffective public office
. It then occurred to me I've never seen used the term "political
sustainability" and so googled that and found a fascinating analysis of the
relationship of effective Environmental Management and political sustainability,
thus challenging the survivability of eco-insensitive public and private office holders.

These two sustainability concepts are interrelated, as the political motivation
for environmental management is public satisfaction with environmental policies
and results, and IT is an increasingly dominant factor in public awareness and
communications. The beauty in a convergence of these concepts is as IT empowers
and better informs the public, that increases the accountability of office
holders to their stakeholders, increasing the visibility of environmental
issues and opportunities for the benefit of all. If you care at all about
environmental issues, read on - you'll find an excerpt from the referenced study
and a link to that, as well as links to a related presentation by Cleveland
Foundation's Brad Whitehead (from his work at McKinsey, where he was an
expert on these matters), and a collection of twenty-five "memos to the
President" from economists and policy analysts at Resources for the
Future prepared before the recent election to offer non-partisan environment
policy recommendations to whoever won! In considering all this, consider what office holders you elect have championed environmental policies that make you want to sustain them:

sus·tain tr.v.

  1. To keep in existence; maintain.
  2. To supply with necessities or
    nourishment; provide for.
  3. To support from below; keep
    from falling or sinking; prop.

New Approaches
on Energy and the Environment:
Policy Advice for the President

Richard D. Morgenstern
and Paul R. Portney, editors

This collection of
twenty-five "memos to the President" from economists and policy
analysts at Resources for the Future, a Washington DC think tank with a
tradition for independent, objective research, offers constructive policy
options on critical challenges related to energy, the environment, and natural

Each contributor was asked to address the
question: "Based on your research and knowledge, what policy
recommendation would you like to make to the next U.S. President?"

Writing in advance of the 2004 election so as
to keep their essay free of partisan interpretations, the authors took pains to
make their ideas accessible to a busy president as well as a wide range of
readers interested in a concise, authoritative overview of the nation's energy
and environmental policy choices.

The results are provocative, sometimes
controversial, but highly readable essays on topics including climate change,
oil dependency, electricity regulation, brownfields revitalization, forest
service administration, air and water quality, and environmental health issues
such as food safety and the growing threat of antibiotic resistance.




EM can be
understood as a political, practical, and ideological response that

this threat to corporate hegemony. Viewed this way, it is primarily

with political rather than environmental sustainability. In contrast to

Marxists who
argue that a fundamental contradiction between the conditions of

production and the environment will strengthen radical social movements

transform society (O'Connor, 1989), the view taken here is that capitalism is

and adaptive; corporations will accommodate the environmental challenge

compromise and co-option, ameliorating their environmental impact suf-

ficiently to
blunt serious challenge to their hegemonic position. Luke (1995) has

that state agencies will facilitate this process: "In a bid to avoid major

transformations, like those foreseen by radical democratic populists, estab-

lished state
bureaucracies can organize their own 'greening'" (p. 246).


political role of EM can also be located theoretically in the context of

notion of a "crisis of legitimacy." Habermas (1976, 1984b) argued

is buttressed and legitimized by a liberal ideology that proffers freedom,

prosperity, and equal opportunity. A crisis of legitimation can ensue if

ideology becomes untenable in light of the inequities of capitalism and the

unwillingness of the private sector to finance state provision of social

Extending this idea to the environment, the growth of public concerns about

degradation combined with a decline in the public sector's ability

and will to
address these problems could trigger such a crisk3 EM could forestall

such a
crisis by curbing the more egregious environmental impacts of industry on

a practical level
and by constructing corporations as responsible and green on the



The more
overtly political corporate responses to such threats include increasing

campaign contributions and lobbying against environmental legislation,

alliances and partnerships with mainstream environmental organizations as

well as with
government agencies, and the formation of new business associations

to address
specific issues, such as the Global Climate Coalition to represent fossil

fuel interests
in international negotiations (Clawson, Neustadtl, & Scott, 1992;

1990; Dowie, 1995; Getz, 1993; Ikwue & Skea, 1994;

Mahon & Kelley,
1990; Rowell, 1996).


lobbying tactics include the mobilization of

letters and
telephone calls to legislators from corporate-funded shell grassroots

groups, a
tactic labeled astroturf organizing by the industry itself (Stauber

& Rampton,
1995). The management of environmentalists is a central component of

EM, as
argued by Elkington (1994): "A key challenge for business in the 1990s

be to
convert some of its most critical stakeholders, such as campaigning environ-

into a new form of 'customer'" (p. 97). Measures to draw mainstream

organizations into the hegemonic coalition include environmental

interlocking board memberships, and joint projects such as the

Defense Fund-McDonalds program to reduce waste. PR companies

such as the
E. Bruce Harrison Company offer integrated services in this field to

corporate clients (Harrison, 1993)


The Next Generation of Market-Based Environmental Policies

Robert N. Stavins & Bradley W. Whitehead

Conclusion: In
spite of a history of false starts and unmet expectations, market-based

still remain
an attractive tool for tackling environmental issues. After re-examining the

cost-savings and positive societal impact market-based instruments offer, it is

clear that they will need to be an integral part of the environmental landscape

forward. Policymakers and legislators must together develop creative
applications for

instruments that will make them work.


Our proposed
roadmap – improving program design, applying market-based

on the state level, and implementing federal market-based programs–will help the

community develop, apply and implement successful market-based programs.

By shifting
organizational mindsets, developing new and needed skills, and overcoming

of sometimes-competing interest groups, we can make market-based instruments

work for our
collective benefit and bring environmental policy into the 21st century

From Ed Morrison's 2005 Economic Development predictions

Growing visibility for sustainability:
high costs of sprawl will start to bite local and state budgets even
harder. In some regions, water shortages will push sustainability
issues to the front. Finally, a backlash against Big Box retailers --
particularly Wal Mart -- will raise questions about what economic
development really means. At the same time, sustained high oil prices
will lead to new markets in alternative fuels -- biodiesel, ethanol,
wind -- and the growing realization that elements of a hydrogen based
economy are likely to emerge in ten years or so.

Environmental Justice is very relevant

Thought this would be a good place to supplement this discussion with an update on relevant EJ activity...