From Theory to Practice: A Challenge in Application of Environmental Policy

Publication Year



Environmental Policy, Philosophy, Ethics, National Environmental Policy Act


Environmental Law | Environmental Policy | Ethics and Political Philosophy


Combining the disciplines of the environmental studies program, philosophy and ethics, and law and government, this thesis addresses issues surrounding effective environmental policy. Specifically focusing on the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the paper lays a historical background of environmental consciousness, an explanatory framework for the NEPA process, and critiques of the effectiveness of that process. The thesis argues that environmental policy has become overly detailed in its effort to be "self-executing" and is consequently ineffective in reaching the broader goals. NEPA strays from this trend in policy making by allowing the opportunity for conscientious management of the natural environment, and yet it continues to fall short of its potential. Its process relies heavily upon individual ethics and , until those ethics include serious consideration of the environment, NEPA will remain inadequate in providing protection and sustainable management of our natural resources. the paper continues with a brief introduction to the importance of ethics on the whole and then leads the reader through the development of an environmental ethic that encompasses the attitudes of Aldo Leopold and Deep Ecologists. In conclusion, the thesis argues, consideration of the environment in this manner will allow for far more effective environmental policy, particularly in the case of NEPA.

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