Integrating Ecosystem Management and Environmental Media for Public Policy on Public Health and Safety

Integrating Ecosystem Management and Environmental Media for Public Policy on Public Health and Safety

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-3194-4.ch017
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Over the past three decades, the relationship between ecology and public policy has changed because of the increasing role of scientific uncertainty in environmental policy making. While earlier policy questions might have been solved simply by looking at the scientific technicalities of the issues, the increased role of scientific uncertainty in environmental policy making requires that we re-examine the methods used in decision-making. Previously, policymakers use scientific data to support their decision-making disciplinary boundaries are less useful because uncertain environmental policy problems span the natural sciences, engineering, economics, politics, and ethics. The chapter serves as a bridge integrating environmental ecosystem, media, and justice into policy for public health and safety. The chapter attempts to demonstrate the linkage between the environmental policy from a holistic perspective with the interaction of air, water, land, and human on public health and safety.
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There has been a relatively recent push in the environmental policy community to encourage ecosystem management approaches in the management of natural resources (Steel & Weber, 2001). However, the local citizens must land their support for the management process to be successful. Across the world, learning from citizens in government policy has continued to grow to include a broad range of policy areas and national context. As participation of citizens in public policy has become more common around the world, and as the range of agencies that seek public input has expanded, the methods for soliciting public input have also grown in number and complexity. Steel & Weber, (2001) observe that the way an ecosystem management effort is institutionalized and implemented can be directly related to the level of citizens’ support it receives.

Apart from citizens’ participation, activities frequently involve a range of actors from non-governmental subsystem as well as from different levels of government. For practitioners, the basic requirement of participation is often obvious – a local, state, or federal law requires a government agency or department to hold a leaving, announce a change in zoning, or form an advisory committee on a given issue.

Following this thread of stakeholders’ engagement, natural resource agencies have adopted ecosystem management principles as a way to increase stakeholder involvement in resource management (Koontz & Bodire, 2008). Eco-system management calls for “management based on stakeholder collaboration, inter-agency cooperation, integration of scientific, social, and economic information; preservation of ecological processes, and adaptive management” (p. 60). Given that eco-system management has such an integrative and collaborative focus, adoption of this approach by governmental agencies often signals that the agency is prioritizing both stakeholders’ involvement and holistic perspective for environmental management.

Another aspect of stakeholder collaboration that can be addressed through an eco-system management approach involves dealing with large-scale, trans-boundary environmental problems. Management of trans-boundary environmental issues (such as air pollution that drifts across city or state lines) can require collaboration among a variety of stakeholders as well as the different owners of private property (Thompson, Anderson, & Johnson, 2004). Though it is not always easy, as Anti-trust laws often hinder the collaborative process because they do not allow industries to participate fully in the collaboration and to share information.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Public Safety: This connotes public health issues within the environment that emerged because of the interaction between air, water, and human activities on the environment and their impacts on human and ecosystem health issues.

Habitat: The place where a population (human, animal, plant, microorganism) lives and its surroundings, both living and nonliving.

Ecosystem: A system refers to a collection of independent parts or events that make up a whole. Each part has a specific function, even though the expression of their roles depends on the proper functioning of all the other parts. The whole system fails to function without input from outside the system which acts to produce some output. Ecosystems combine biological communities and the physical environments associated with them in which nutrients and energy move through in loops or cycles. In other words, ecosystem is the interacting system of a biological community and its environmental surroundings.

Adaptive Management: Adaptive management generally describes an approach to managing ecosystems in a way that recognizes their complexity and dynamism. Consequently, the management of these systems should utilize flexible experiments that allow managers and scientists to react to changes in the ecological system by adapting their management and policy schemes. Adaptive management is a process that involves incremental management steps; these steps are regularly evaluated to determine of the outcomes are desirable at various time intervals.

Environmental Justice: This connotes the extent of environmental injustice in the placement of “disamenities” (or environmental bads). It is widely accepted that disamenity placement –whether in land, air, or water-should not be affected by race or ethnicity. The ultimate goal of environmental policy is to improve society and policy makers should concern itself with justice irrespective of race or ethnicity.

Environmental Media (Air, Water, and Land) Interaction: This connotes three environmental media of air, water, and land. For example, air quality can have an impact on land use and land health; poor air quality can hinder the growth and survival of plants, animals, and humans that live on (and in) the land in urban areas. In fact, some urban regions have employed land-use restrictions as a way to control air quality.

Ecosystem Management: Ecosystem management integrates scientific knowledge of ecological relationships within a complex socio-political and values framework toward the general goal of protecting native ecosystem integrity over the long term.

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