1: The Promise of Community-based Environmental Protection

“The last decade has been a period of major re-evaluation of U.S. environmental policy.  Academic scholarship, blue-ribbon commissions, and politicians alike have recommended that the command-and-control regulation central to the existing environmental protection system be supplemented with (if not replaced by) more flexible, non-regulatory approaches.

"In addition to the broader application of market-based mechanisms and voluntary approaches to pollution control and natural resource management, reform advocates have called for decentralization and the more widespread use of Community-based Environmental Protection efforts (CBEP).”

"Many issues associated with global environmental change occur as the result of control over natural resources being taken out of the hands of local stakeholders and given over to central governments or agencies many times removed from resources and/or problems.

“CBEP represents activities in which communities take the lead in creating and implementing environmental protection.  Efforts share a set of unifying principles:

  1. "First, they are place-based, informed by local knowledge and sensitive to the preferences and values of local actors. 
  2. Second, CBEP efforts are participatory.  Decision-making is meant to be collaborative and nonhierarchical, enabling stakeholders to participate equally.
  3. Third, CBEP efforts often focus on problems extending beyond the reach of the existing environmental regulatory system.

“The broad appeal of CBEP comes from its promise of delivering both procedural and environmental quality outcome benefits over traditional regulation.”

“CBEP activities are increasingly common within U.S. environmental protection efforts.  Continued pressure to devolve authority from the federal government to state and local governments, coupled with increasing emphasis on citizen involvement in decision-making suggests CBEP efforts are likely to become more ubiquitous.”

The Origins of Community-based environmental protection, Stephen M. Meyer & David M. Konisky, Department of Political Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  (http://web.mit.edu/polisci/faculty/S.Meyer.html).

“Local action precedes national action by one or more years and that local activities sensitize the public, national environmental organizations to emerging issues.  The combined activities of these groups makes it possible for the [environmental] movement to affect change in the local, national and international arenas.”

  • Local environmentalism plays an important role in shaping national movement priorities
  • National organizations are responsive to grassroots trends

Voluntary Associations, Professional Organizations, and the Environmental Movement in the United States, JoAnn Carmin, Environmental Politics: 8 (1): 101-121: 1999. http://web.mit.edu/dusp/idg/faculty/carmin.html

Next: Barriers to Realizing the Promise of Community-based Environmental Protection

3: Community-based Environmental Initiatives In Connecticut