Volume 11, Issue 1, Spring 1989
Charles T. Rubin
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.