The public in 1992 supported at consensus levels an approach to
resolving a tough environmental problem which still arises frequently
and leaders usually ignore. One of the most impressive examples from
among all of ATIís data of the importance of seeking a wider range of
policy choices came with the following question:
As you may know, some
of the products and waste materials of various industries can pollute
air, water, and soil, and are dangerous to our health. Decision makers
need to know how the public wants them to impose standards on the
discharge of these toxic wastes in various situations.
Let me read you one
that comes up fairly often: Suppose that an industry that is important
to the economy says it would be put out of business by foreign
competitors if it had to pay the cost of eliminating toxic waste
by-products and so, to stay in business, would move to a foreign country
where health and environmental laws are less strict. Which of these
options comes closest to what you would like to see happen?
requires the clean-up at the taxpayerís expense so that the industry
does not move out of the country.
compromises and requires only as much clean-up as it determines the
industry can afford.
requires the clean-up and takes the risk that our economy will suffer if
the industry moves out of the country.
In the pretest we found that a plurality went for option B.
Fortunately, we decided that another option was important to add before
conducting the survey. It was:
The US or the
United Nations takes the lead in negotiating an agreement that would
require all countries to enforce the same toxic waste standards for this
Since 1991 it has become commonly accepted that companies will move
their polluting plants to countries that will accept them in exchange
for economic benefit promises. Neither the US nor the UN takes the lead
in negotiating such agreements. Such agreements are frowned on by the
World Trade Organization, which now has the authority, not to negotiate
such agreements, but to prevent them if they interfere with free trade.
But no ideological hang-ups prevented the public from going outside
the envelope of traditional choices for the one choice that could solve
the problem instead of poking it around the edges. Two thirds of the
respondents switched over to the new choice to yield these results:
A. 5%; B.
17%; C. 9%; D. 66%.
Clearly here was an example of the public being ahead of both the leaders and the news media both at the time and to this day. In 1992, these results had the makings of a consensus position on how to handle recalcitrant polluting industries.
In the ensuing years this issue so far has been decided completely
contrary to the publicís wishes.
>>> 2.2.5 The Roles of the UN and the US