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Just a quick note on a program in the States to provide monitoring dataon environmental conditions (read pollution) in 86 cities. It could be aninteresting instance of the facilitation of citizen involvement in decisionmaking through provision of information. It may also reflect a gutting ofthe government potential to effect decisions at the municipal and statelevel.
"The EPA is seeking applications for assistance to establish EMPACTpilot projects that demonstrate innovative and effective ways to monitor,deliver, and communicate time-relevant, scientifically sound, environmentalinformation to citizens. Proposed projects may address one or several time-relevantenvironmental parameters related to air quality, water quality, ecosystemquality, or other important environmental conditions at places where citizenslive, work, learn and recreate. Time-relevant environmental data are thosecollected and communicated to the public in a time frame that is relevantto the
temporal variability of the parameter measured. For example, the amountof UV radiation reaching the earth varies daily, while water quality ina small lake may change significantly on only a weekly or monthly basis.
As part of a new Presidential initiative, EPA is charged, along withits partners (National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)and United States Geologic Survey (USGS)) with developing a program to improvethe measurement, access, understanding and dissemination of key environmentalinformation in 86 of the larger U.S. metropolitan areas (see AttachmentA for definition of metropolitan area and list of the 86). This is to beaccomplished by:
(1) application of innovative technologies that support time-relevantenvironmental monitoring, and
(2) providing effective tools for managing and communicating the resultingenvironmental information.
The goals of EMPACT are to:
*Incorporate improved and updated technologies for time-relevant environmentalmeasurement and monitoring;
*Facilitate public access to comprehensive environmental informationthat is easily understood;
*Provide effective tools for communicating, interpreting, and applyingenvironmental data and information;
*Establish partnerships with states and communities to ensure that theinformation is useful and timely for families and communities;
*Develop a framework within which communities can work, but that willalso provide the ability to aggregate information on a local, regional,and national scale.
John Felleman, Deep Information: The Role of Information Policy in EnvironmentalSustainability, Ablex, 1997.
I came across the above reference last week and, spurred on by Shealagh'smessage on the Democratization of Information, I thought I would pass italong. I have not seen the book and cannot vouch for what it says, but thetitle intrigued me. I can't say that I often (ever?) seen the two subjectsof information policy and environmental sustainability put together. AndAnn keeps challenging us on information failures that seem to doom us tomaking and repeating unsustainable decisions.
If I can get a hold of the book, I'll pass on a review. Unless anyoneelse is equally intrigued....?
Just a few off the cuff comments before I disappear into my class preparation.Daniel Pauly, of the UBC Fisheries Centre, gave a talk here last Fridayfocussing on some recent work he has published with respect to world fishstocks. Needless to say, what he said was quite fascinating, but at thesame time quite troubling - basically we are fishing down marine food websand we are in trouble if we do not do something about it. The two articleshe referred to are:
Pauly, D., et al. (1998) Fishing Down Marine Food Webs, Science 279:860-863,Feb. 6. (see also comment by Nigel WIlliams on p.809.
Pauly, D. (1996) One Hundred Million Tonnes of Fish, and Fisheries Research,Fisheries Research 25:25-38.
There have been several newspapers articles written referring to theformer article, which can be seen by going to
On an unrelated note, but referring back to an earlier comment - if wedo not have a good understanding of history, not only may we be doomed torepeat it, we may also waste a lot of time reinventing the wheel. This mayhave been most clearly stated once when I was a grad student and after hearinga talk on low-input sustainable agriculture, one of the profs said 'Hey,that sounds like what my grandpa was doing 50 years ago!'.