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Environmental consciousness in USA

Term Paper 2007 15 Pages

Politics - International Politics - Region: USA

Excerpt

OUTLINE

1. INTRODUCTION

2. THE POLITICAL STRUCTURE IN THE USA AND ITS 2 SPACE FOR ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES

3. ENVIRONMENTAL MOVEMENTS, PARTICIPATION, BASIC ATMOSPHERE AND MENTALITY

4. CLIMATIC CHANGE IN THE USA AND ITS SUSPECTED ECOLOGIC, ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL IMPACT

5. PREVIOUS AND CURRENT COURSE OF POLITICAL ACTION

6. SUMMARY

7. LIST OF REFERENCES

1. INTRODUCTION

The United States of America and its people are very multi-layed. From an international perspective the political behaviour and the American way of life are mostly considered very sceptical. Especially the War against Terror and also environmental issues, rejections and restraints are intensively discussed worldwide.

Driven by global developments in the last years, international actors demand for extensive collective environmental and particulary climatic goals. So the international Union was almost indignant about the rejection of the Kyoto Protocol by the American government. The United States as the main emittent of CO2, the most responsible substance for global warming, signaled with this reaction ignorant acting and an unacceptable attitude about common property. But often unheard are the discussions inside the United States and also the predominated political base and its possibilities for environmental goals.

2. THE POLITICAL STRUCTURE IN THE USA AND ITS SPACE FOR ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES

The strongly established two-party system in the American government represented by the Democrates and the Republicans shall guarantee a ballanced power due to the principle of checks and balances and the divided government. Nevertheless the two Parties are ideologically very simmilar and environmental issues and demands play a marginal role most of the time.[1] So the question here is how the American political scene is profoundly vested and if there are parties with high demands on environmental policy, whats about its influence?

Despite the historical widespread dominance of the two-party system and its representatives – the Democrates and the Republicans – the presence of third parties could not be denied. These parties admittedly have never been represented in the congress and have never set a president but nevertheless they have still a not inconsiderable influence. So some of them were able to steer the presidential election, but mostly to their own disadvantage.[2] Especially in individual federal states and districts third parties are represented increasingly. They are often able to exist over several parliamentary terms, so that in some cases even multi-party systems had arised.[3] All these third parties are reflecting the widespread, partly fundamental attitudes predominating in the multi-layered United States.

Especially the Green Party of the United States, the GPUSA, should be mentioned as a successful third party with environmental attitudes. The GPUSA mainly points out measures for environmental protection due to the interests of consumers and consumer protection. The Green Party was founded in the 1980ies and has about 335.000 members. The greatest success was the participation of John Eder as member of the parliament from 2002 to 2006 in the federal state of Maine. Beyond this the Green Party is mainly successful in local government elections. With the Libetarian Party it is one of the two largest third parties in the United States. The GPUSA has affiliate parties in nearly all 50 federal states. During the election in 2000 the GPUSA gained, with its candidate for the presidency and figurehead Ralph Nader, with 2.7 percent the third strongest result. But in the end this was for its own disadvantage, because the green party voters are maybe responsible for the defeat of Al Gore, the then candidate for the presidency of the Democrates and a very committed person in the fight against global warming. The election in 2004 was not nearly as successful as in 2000. But nevertheless during the election campaign the number of members increased significant.

Beyond the GPUSA there are existing some other parties with “green attitudes” for example the G/GPUSA, The Revolution, the Light Party and even such as the Libertarian Nacional Socialist Green Party.

If there is a third party very successful, the major parties are consequently forced to include these political contents in to their own party platform. But basically it should be said that the two-party system never became seriously distressed by third parties.[4]

In addition it should be mentioned that it is expected that in the following election most of the political parties will adopt environmental policy guidelines into their election campaigns because there are increased needs and demands for environmental issues in the American population.

Beside politcal parties there are nongovernmental organisations. These NGOs became, also in the international political scene, more significant, just as in the United States. NGOs committed in environmental demands have a very important function in the sense of, e.g., sensitizing the population for environmental problems, communicate right behavior connected with changing long-established polluting habits. Parties and government are often not able to fulfil these requests because of pressure in terms of conformity and acceptance in view of potential constituents.

Apart from political parties and NGOs there are so-called public interest groups and other associations. They resulted from the anti-Vietnam activism and the civil rights movement. These associations have a high tradition and also a very important function in the USA. They try to be a lobby for different interests of citizens and so they also participate enlargely in the political level. A very traditional association and public interest group is the Sierra Club with more than 750.000 members and it is “America’s oldest, largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization”[5]. In this context persons in associations like, e.g. the Sierra Club, try to influence the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the federal environmental authority, directly or over municipalities, districts or federal states.

All these associations and organisations increased considerably during the last 50 years.

3. ENVIRONMENTAL MOVEMENTS, PARTICIPATION, BASIC ADMOSPHERE AND MENTALITY

The United States of America have a very bad reputation for environmental issues. And in fact they have made and do a lot of failures:

The refusal to join the Kyoto Protocol, the noncommittal reaction refering climate goals at the G8 meeting and the facts that the per head consumption of water and oil is nowhere in the world higher than in the USA. Further every third household has three cars or more and with just three percent of the world population the Americans produce 25 percent of all CO2 emissions. The traffic increased the last 20 years approximately over 80 percent and air conditioning seems to be standard.[6] Superficially considered, the American way of life and its high values on liberal-capialistic attitudes, seem to be incompatible with international environmental demands and needs. But these suppositions disguise other facts about the United States of America and its people. The USA is a state with one of the highest rates of participation in voluntary associations. So three of five people say that they perform in such ones. These honorary positions are mostly in religious communities but nevertheless these communities also begin to attach greater value on environmental interests. “Creation care”[7] is here the new motto that many evangelicals already have. The participation in charitable or non-profit institutions in the United States is upon 68 percent. 14 percent of the American population are a member of environmental or animal protection organisations. In Germany it is just ten percent of the population that owns a membership in a similar organisation. Beyond this, five percent of the Americans fulfil honorary positions in the same sphere, compared to just three percent in Germany.[8]

[...]


[1] Cf. Peter Lösche/Hans Dietrich von Loeffelholz (2004), p. 321.

[2] Cf. l.c., p. 323.

[3] Cf. l.c., p. 321.

[4] Cf. Hartmut Wasser (1997), p. 27.

[5] http.//blog.green.tv/links/. Stand 03.08.2007.

[6] Cf. Hubertus Breuer. Im Internet: http://sueddeutsche.de/wissen/artikel/202/86116/article.html.

Stand: 01.08.07.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Cf. Peter Lösche/Hans Dietrich von Loeffelholz (2004), p. 682.

Details

Pages
15
Year
2007
ISBN (eBook)
9783640352081
ISBN (Book)
9783640351978
File size
397 KB
Language
English
Catalog Number
v128090
Institution / College
University of Siegen
Grade
1,3
Tags
Environmental consciousness USA Umweltbewusstsein Umweltbewegung environmentalism

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Title: Environmental consciousness in USA