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Environmental Ethics

Volume 11, Issue 1, Spring 1989

Charles T. Rubin
Pages 27-51
DOI: 10.5840/enviroethics198911121

Environmental Policy and Environmental Thought
Commoner and Ruckelshaus

A close examination of the major works of Barry Commoner provides insight into some of the assumptions that characterize current environmental debate, particularly over the risk/benefit approach brought to the EPA by William Ruckelshaus . Commoner’s analysis of environmental problems depends much more on what Ruckelshaus would call his own “vision of how we want the world to be” than on scientific findings. I trace this vision through Commoner’s commitment to socialist political change to a profound belief in the ability of technology to rationalize man' s relationship to nature. I argue that this widely shared but utopian perspective hampers the serious consideration of environmental issues, even by those who, like Ruckelshaus, believe that they are presenting an alternative to it.

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